If a bust of energy was personified, it would take the form of Mbuki Mburu. At 5,2” and with a youthful face and a ready smile, she cuts a faux diminutive figure at first glance. Many things distinguish Mbuki from the run of the mill young Kenyan living and making strides in Nairobi. Among the many, the passion and skill with which she undertook her duties towards protecting public schools from land grabbing at the Shule Yangu Alliance secretariat provided the inspiration to think through some things people in their individual capacities can do to help protect public school land.
A case in point is when United States International University – Africa (USIU-A) got involved in a land contestation case in 2016. When they university chose to conduct a demo to protest the illegal dispossession, Mburu not only joined the school community in the protest but through Shule Yangu, the school got support to meet officials from Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning over the case.
It is sad that in 2018 Public schools in Kenya still face the risk of being dispossessed of land through grabbing, encroachment and court battles. The process of titling of public-school land is picking pace with 1,883 schools titled over 2017 and 600 more being processed. A National Working Group on titling of public schools comprising National Lands Commission, Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Education, Institute of Surveyors of Kenya and Civil Society represented by the Shule Yangu Alliance has set a target to title 10,000 public schools by the end of 2018. This initiative will however go to waste if the public is not actively involved.
Here are the 5 things you could do to support the initiative;
- Take an Interest
Take an interest in finding out whether the public school you interact with or the one close to your home or work has a title deed. Other than walking into a school and speaking to school administration on whether they have title deed, you can write directly to request the status of titling for any specific school in Kenya. Article 35 of the constitution and the access to information act of 2016 empowers you to file such a request. You can file such a request to the National Lands Commission, Ministries of Land and Education at both national and county levels.
In its East Africa Bribery Index of 2017, Transparency International – Kenya found that only 10% of Kenyans reported incidences of bribery. In other words, only 1 in 10 people reports an incidence of corruption. The successful incidences where schools have been protected from grabbing have come from timely reports made that have led to corrective action. One can choose to report to the police, National Lands Commission, the Ministries of Lands and Education, County government offices, media and to the public. Civil society organisations also offer channels for reporting. Transparency International – Kenya for instance provides a toll free line through which corruption cases can be reported. Through social media and use of mobile apps such as Action for Transparency (A4T), one can make such reports anonymously where there is concern for safety.
- Organised Formations
School alumni associations, resident associations, religious groups, professional associations are some ways through which one can be part of an organised formation. Support from such associations have been known to be invaluable in supporting schools get title deeds and protect school teachers and pupils targeted for reprisals as they protect school land. Through such organisations, one can participate in efforts to support with fundraising to build fences, accompanying school officials to official meetings and following up with duty bearers.
There are several ways through which one can volunteer from time, access to networks, expertise and skills to a school in need. Physical planners, lawyers, journalists have volunteered their time and skills to support schools protect their land. Offering pro-bono services to survey for instance can go a long way in offsetting the costs related to school titling process. More of us should consider sparing some time to use our skills to get schools titled.
- Support Demonstrations, picketing and Relevant Petitions
Did you know as a Kenya citizen you can petition any arm of government on a matter of public interest? Article 37 of Constitution giver you this right. As such, you can petition the National Assembly, the Senate, County Assemblies and Executive offices. Demonstrations and picketing are a tried and tested means of raising the alarm on a school that is about to be disposed of its land. Online petitions that can be shared far and wide over emails and instant messaging apps are useful in getting petitions signed. Social media has proved able to mobilise citizens to demonstrate and picket against grabbing of public school land.
This list is in no way exhaustive. To wit, we are open to more ideas on what each of us can do to support the effort to have all public schools in Kenya titled in the least time possible. The goal here is to have all public schools titled, fenced and secured. Additionally, we need to free teachers and pupils to focus on the task of learning and not engaging in battles over school land. You can help win this fight.