Firing Teachers Carelessly Halts Learning For One Week Affecting 1500 Students.
Some 1,500 students at Swaminarayan Academy in Embakasi South, Nairobi, have been absent for a week due to a disagreement over the school’s management.
There are 900 students in the primary section and 600 in the secondary section. Parents complained that the disagreement was caused by teachers being fired arbitrarily, which hampered learning.
On January 20, students staged a protest, forcing the school to close indefinitely. However, parents claim that even before the school’s closure, their children had complained about missing lessons because the teachers who were in charge of them were no longer attending class.
During the protest, students demanded to know why some of their teachers were not entering the classroom. They’d heard rumors that the school’s principal had been fired and a vacancy had been posted for her position.
“Their deputy principal had also stopped coming to work, and rumors had it that she had been told to attend school or be fired, yet she had just had a surgery,” said Ms. Rose Agutu, a parent and community health volunteer.
It is alleged that before the students took to the streets, the school’s administration tried in vain to persuade them to attend class.
Instead of reassuring them, a Toyota Probox drove into the school’s compound, carrying the Kware Police Station commander, who tried to persuade the students to go home and let him handle the situation himself.
Instead, the students decided to go to the school’s main office in the neighbourhood, but they were ambushed by other police officers who pelted them with tear gas canisters.
They were forced to run back to school, carrying their bags and running home for safety. Students were instructed to return the following day with their parents.
The following day, officials from the county commissioner’s office, the OCS, and sub-county education officers from Kayole arrived at the school for a meeting, locked themselves in a meeting with the school’s administration, leaving the parents outside.
According to Ms. Agutu, the OCS however told parents that the school is a private business and, if they were not pleased with how it was being run, they were free to enroll their children in other schools.
Parents protested, claiming that the school belonged to the community, and one was arrested and taken to Kware Police Station.
Milicent Akinyi, the 34-year-old guardian of a student at the school, complained that students have been going home frequently since September and that teachers have been fired.
Some parents claimed that the school is a public utility, having been given to the community as a public surrender by Mr. Bhimji Ramji in 2000.
In the early 1950s, Mr. Ramji owned a large plot of land in Kware Embakasi South, where he ran a quarry.
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Some say the school, which started in 2011, was intended to be a public school, but local leaders were persuaded by the Hindu community to make it private.
There have been attempts by Kware residents to revert it to public use according to parents, but they have been thwarted due to a lack of cooperation from elected leaders who have been bribed.