A number of parents from across the country are reportedly stranded at home with their secondary school going children suspected of indiscipline and other wayward behaviors.
The Lake Region Bulletin has established that a cross section of parents with children in both boarding and day schools still have them at home, three weeks into the third term following expulsions or indefinite suspensions after they were found culpable of various criminal activities that rocked most schools last term, just before the Christmas festivities.
Perhaps to underscore the intricacies of this agonizing situation, no parent or student would accept to speak on record on the matter. Not even school heads of the affected institutions would openly speak on the issue, most only citing two proclamations made by Education CS Prof George Magoha as grounds for keeping such students away from their schools.
In November last year, CS Magoha decreed that students who took part in the burning of schools would be blacklisted from the education system in Kenya and barred from attending any school in the country upon expulsion. Early this year, Magoha again stirred controversy by suggesting that students who are practicing same sex relationships in boarding schools be expelled and re admitted into day schools near their homes.
Both proclamations by the man charged with overseeing the sensitive docket of education are haunting not just the parents and their children, but also heads of institutions who are torn between maintaining a level of discipline and morality and observing the right to education of every child devoid of any discrimination.
Consequently, parents have found themselves at home with children who should be in school, most not knowing where to turn to for help. One of the parents with a Form three son in one of the extra county schools in Homa Bay County spoke about his frustrations after his son was just told to leave the school compound until further notice. “This boy was suspected to be among the group that burnt down a dormitory at their school last year. He was not given any letter so we are not sure if he was expelled or suspended” He said.
Another parent with a son at a national school in Trans Nzoia is lost for words and has no idea how to proceed after the son was asked to stay away from school for allegedly engaging in homosexuality. She said that she was advised to find a day school near their home and transfer the boy. “I was just told my son was a misfit and could not be allowed in the school anymore. I was given a transfer document that was signed and stamped by the school, giving the reason for transfer as parent’s request” She said.
Recent changes introduced by the Ministry of Education have made the inter school transfers of students a rigorous affair that involves physically visiting county and national government education offices for the move to be ratified. But, before then, a parent must find a school that accepts to take in such a student, and that is where the woes begin. If a student is transferring from one school to another for a reason such as suspected arson, it is almost impossible to get a school that would be willing to take in such a student.
Experts are divided as of the way forward in handling such cases, whether it is a moral societal issue or a legal matter that should be dispensed with through the criminal justice system.
Kisumu based lawyer Joshua Nyamori dismissed the Magoha directives and termed him as either ignorant of the law, or just being malicious. He said that the right to education is protected by the constitution under the bill of rights and none other than the CS has the leading mandate to ensure that right is upheld for every Kenyan school going child. “Any disciplinary procedures instituted against child by the school or state must be aligned to Article 47 of the law on fair administration of justice. Otherwise they risk being declared null and void by the courts” He said.
Nyamori opines that any action taken against students caught up in criminal activities must seek to rehabilitate rather than to destroy, with that constitutional right to education put into consideration. “It is not right to expel a student from one school and make it hard for a transfer to another” He added.
Speaking to LRB, the affected parents said they would be willing to support disciplinary action against any form of delinquency on the part of their children but pleaded that the children be given a chance to enjoy their right to education. While some of the cases are already in court, a majority of the students have not had their day with the judicial system, and also not in school raising fears about their future as they continue to miss out on the academic calender.
Last week, 10 students from a school in Molo moved to the High Court in Nakuru to protest their suspension following a strike at the school last year. The students asked the court to bar the school from suspending them until their criminal case is heard and determined.