Three years ago, the country watched in shock as the police tear-gassed children protesting the grabbing of their school land in Nairobi.  That action and the ensuing uproar from civil society organizations brought to the fore, the risks faced daily by public schools in the country.

It is this action that catalysed the rise of movement for the titling of all public schools- the Shule Yangu Alliance. The Alliance, which brings together civil society organizations, children’s rights organizations, governance and human rights actors and government agencies dealing with land and education, seeks to ensure that public schools are protected, titled and owned by the school communities.  The action also led to a directive by the President to ensure that all public schools are titled.

While these in are themselves great strides in the protection of public schools, it is disheartening that the titling pace has been very slow.  Of the 29,404 public schools, only 1,300 have been issued with titles since 2015. Even though an additional 1,500 titles are also ready for issuance at the time of writing this, cumulatively, this translates to just about 10% progress in three years.  This is an unacceptable for a country that seeks to achieve industrialization 2030 and whose social, economic and political pillars for this Vision are anchored on high quality of education.

To these schools, the title is not just a piece of paper. Without titles, infrastructural development is jeopardized.  Time and costs that would otherwise be spent on the students is instead spent fighting off grabbers in the streets, courtroom or media houses.  This has a direct impact on the quality of education as teachers and school management boards spend time on non-core issues.   Protection of public schools also comes at an expensive cost to their defenders.  A case in point is the Naka 5, who for protecting the school, have spent the last two years fighting a court case.  This is a major deterrent to active citizens willing to go the extra mile to protect public schools from grabbers.

Pupils from Roysambu Primary mark a Tree Planting Day in their school.  Public schools also serve as green spaces and recreational facilities for many communities.

As citizens, we must to do more to support all actors engaged in the protection of public schools.  School alumni can and should ensure that the schools that gave them foundations for life are safe and secure for the next generation.  They must support their school communities in cash and kind to accelerate the titling processes for their old schools.  As a country, we must also demand more from the institutions concerned if the acceleration of the titling process is going to be achieved. The Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning and the National Land Commission must also do more to secure the remaining 26,000 schools that still don’t have titles. The President’s Delivery Unit should ensure that his directive of 2015 is fast tracked, as part of his legacy.  This would be the best gift for current and future generation of students in public schools.

Safe and secure public schools is something we must all demand. It means safe and, protected spaces for our children, green spaces that can be reclaimed and education sustainability for future generations.  It also means play grounds and recreational facilities for our children, in line with the new education curriculum.

Let us therefore support institutions like the Shule Yangu Alliance to achieve the vision of universal titling of public schools. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, “inspite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, we still have to dream, hope and push forward.” The future of our public education depends on it.

 

Caroline Gaita is a Communications and Governance Specialist.  carole.wanjiku@gmail.com

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