Church leaders in Kenya have expressed sadness at deaths and the destruction of property in escalating secondary schools riots, as the government seeks urgent measures to solve the problem.
“It is a very sad situation. I think there are some difficulties between the students and teachers,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa.
In recent weeks, students have gone on the rampage at 300 schools, prompting a crisis meeting in the Ministry of Education and a call from the Anglican church for students to end the riots. On 22 July Kenya’s education minister, Sam Ongeri, warned that students who incite their peers will evoke the full force of the law.
“The Church urges all students to seriously consider other ways of expressing their grievances and stop these violent school strikes,” said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi in a statement on 21 July.
School buildings have been burned in the riots, which have also led to the deaths of students. On 17 July a student died in a fire at Nairobi’s Upper Hill Secondary School.
“We are particularly saddened by the loss of life and the destruction of valuable property. These acts cannot be justified by any means,” said Nzimbi, who offered church expertise to help end the crisis.
The archbishop said proper guidance and leadership from teachers and parents was necessary and he challenged parents to question themselves as to whether they had abandoned parenting to house-helps and were tolerating violent movies.
“This destruction means there is disconnect between the teachers, the parent, the students and the board of governors,” Professor Jesse Mugambi, a theologian and ecologist who works with Starehe Boys’ Centre told Ecumenical News International. “The students do not see the schools as their own. They are destroying what has been built with their own fees.”
Starehe Boys’ Centre is viewed as model of discipline in Kenya. At the school, students are an integral part of the school management, through a students’ Cabinet. There are also open students’ gatherings called “barazas”, which tackle all kinds of grievances.
“Our corner stone is to develop future leaders. We believe every student who comes to the secondary schools is a future leader,” said Mugambe. “Discipline can be managed from within when the students keep the discipline themselves.”
Commentators have attributed unrest in Kenyan schools to lack of discipline, drug abuse and idleness.