From the 17th to the 21st February 2019, the Council of Governors convened partners in the Children Sector to organize the 2nd Children’s Devolution Conference. The conference was hosted at Nairobi Primary School and the Mpesa Foundation Academy in Thika. It successfully brought together at least 400 children from all ages of learning from ECDE to Secondary school including children living with disabilities, children in juvenile and correctional centers and children from all 47 counties.

The aim of the conference was to sharing children experiences and their take and perspective on the implementation of the Big Four Agenda within devolved functions. Among the key issues that children expressed themselves on was the issue of safety and protection from abuse. In a debate on the motion “The Society and Media has failed to Protect Children from Violence and Abuse” it came out with clear examples where children felt the community had not done enough to ensure their safety at home and at school.

Children are among the strongest protectors of public-school land in Kenya. It is because of the brave actions of the children of Lang’ata Road Primary School in Nairobi that the issue of grabbing of public school land became known as a national issue affecting 70% of the 32,000 public schools in Kenya. Their actions bore fruit when President Kenyatta gave a presidential directive in 2015 that all public schools be titled. Today, at least 9,000 public primary and secondary schools have been titled.

Children have time and again acted to protect public school land. We have witnessed this in Naka Primary School Nakuru County, Mwamdudu Primary School in Kwale County, Victoria Primary School in Kisumu and Garissa High School in Garissa County. These protests by children provide a countrywide snapshot of how dire the situation is and show the children’s commitment to protect their learning spaces at all costs. It also shows the extent to which duty bearers have failed to act to protect public schools from land grabbing.

Research conducted by the Shule Yangu Campaign in 2016 showed that 65% of those culpable of grabbing public school land are local communities, 18% public institutions, 10% religious institutions, 5% politicians and 1% Parent-Teachers Associations and NGOs. These statistics confirm the critique from the debate that indeed the society is not only not doing enough to ensure Children’s learning spaces are secure but are actively engaged in stripping public land meant for schools.

The Ministries of Education and Lands initiative in November 2018 in gazetting the task force of 15 members to accelerate titling of public schools could not have come at a better time. The Shule Yangu Alliance Campaign with its partners is in the process of organizing alumni, corporates and citizens in a fencing campaign for public schools. The Inter-Ministerial Legal Working Group convened by the National Lands Commission also set up in 2018 to lead in dealing with legal issues, court cases and disputes that keep public schools from being titled and fenced.

We should all support these efforts to ensure their success. At the 2019 Children’s Devolution Conference the Children have already passed a verdict on government and society although they are appreciative of the efforts in ensuring their futures are bright, there is also room for improvement.

A version of this blog was published on the People Daily 25 February 2019  http://www.mediamaxnetwork.co.ke/507531/support-childrens-efforts-to-protect-school-land/

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