How President Kenyatta’s stubborness is breeding torture rooms rather than schools in Kenya
A 17-year-old student of Strait Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya, has accused her teachers and principal of torturing her with fire for being a pagan and to force a confession. According to the teenager, on the 17th of March last week, she was summoned to the school’s staff room by the teachers who initially asked the whereabouts of another female student named Elizabeth. When she could not provide that information, she was beaten and threatened with a worse punishment. “…The teacher told me if I did not confess about my relationship with Elizabeth [the missing student] I would not like what would follow,” she told Kenyan media Standard Digital. The young girl, whose identity remains undisclosed for security reasons, maintained she was no friend to the missing student.
What followed was unbelievable, her hands and legs were tied by two teachers who reportedly gathered plastic bags, poured kerosene on them, set them on fire, and used them as a torture device on the student, in a bid “to force demons” out of her. Demons of lies, perhaps. Her pleas for them to stop fell on deaf ears, as they continued beating her, forcing her to confess that she was a Satanist. According to the teenager, all of this happened in the presence of the principal, yet the said principal, Joyce Syokau, has denied any involvement, claiming that she was absent at the time of the happening. However, Syokau did claim that the student finally confessed to being a Satanist. “The teachers said that they even prayed and she fell down so they believed she was possessed,” she told the media.
The parents of the tortured students learnt of their child’s ordeal after she was taken to the hospital, and have since taken the school to court. “You cannot be a Christian and devil-worshipper at the same time,” lamented the girl’s father who said his daughter is Catholic. “They should have just called me to come pick up my child,” he added.
In reaction to this story, the systems audit office of Kenya has called on the government and the Kenyan police to look into the case, asking that the accused be placed behind bars. While this reaction is typical and expected, placing the accused behind bars does not seem the best solution to issues like this, especially as the lawyer in charge of the case has revealed that the school in question is not registered by the government. If the country keeps hosting substandard and unaccredited schools, stories like this will continue to make headlines. Schools are meant to be institutions of learning and discipline; while certain forms of punishments are necessary and permissible on valid grounds, schools are certainly not to be turned into torture camps.
Other than the fact that the government has failed to check the existence of unregistered schools, the Kenyan government is hugely responsible for the growing number of substandard schools due to its refusal to a 50 percent salary increase for teachers. Throughout last year, public schools in Kenya embarked on several strike actions that spanned weeks and rolled into months, keeping over 10 million pupils in public primary and secondary schools at home. The result of which is a loss of confidence in public education, forcing many parents to transfer their children to private schools, since they are immune to these strikes.
This unresolved teacher-government feud has gravely impacted the quality of education in Kenya, as the student–teacher ratio continues to fall below the standard recommendation of the United Nations. Kenyan public schools have an average of 50 students per teacher as opposed to the UN’s recommendation of 35 students to a teacher. Equal Times reports that some classes have just one teacher for a hundred students. So rather than just place the accused teachers behind bars, the Kenyan government should look into tackling issues in the education sector, like the stalemate between them and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), as well as stamping out unaccredited educational institutions like Strait Secondary School.
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