DCI profiles data of ring-leaders in school unrest, fires
The future of 210 students, some as young as ten years old, hangs precariously after they were arrested and charged over school fires and unrest in the last two and half months.
The government has disclosed that it has profiled and archived their personal data for future reference, particularly for employment purposes once they were charged in court.
A report by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on the unrest from October this year, shows 200 learning institutions, mostly secondary schools, have been affected over the same period with Central region leading with 63 cases so far.
The DCI boss yesterday told the People Daily that the students’ criminal records would be indicated in their Certificates of Good Conduct whenever they apply for one. The move, according to Kinoti, will enable employers to know the criminal background of students involved in the arson attacks on learning institutions.
“This will be a permanent criminal mark that will bar many students from achieving their goals as no employer of worth will dare employ such characters. In other words, their future is as good as destroyed,” Kinoti said.
Cases of arson attacks in learning institutions have also been reported in at least three primary schools and a university college. Coast and Rift Valley have 38 cases each followed by Eastern (20), Western (17), Nyanza (10), Nairobi (9) and North Eastern (4).
The report has identified several reasons for the unrest including transfer of teachers, poor diet, being kept in classroom for long hours without time to rest and mistreatment by school administration.
Some of the reasons given by the students to detectives range from very flimsy like being compelled to keep short hair. Though they did not burn the school, students of Kapkenda Girls High school demonstrated after they were directed to keep short hair. They also demanded some teachers be transferred.
In the case of Aquinas High School Nairobi, the students were protesting the suspension of one of the school prefects who had been suspended over unruly behaviour.
Experts say most young people who come into conflict with the law could be struggling with multiple social and economic issues in their homes and communities.
According to criminologist Munene Mugambi, they include peer pressure, poverty, family dysfunction, quality of parenting, inadequate supervision, rejection by the parents or siblings, and even rebellion against parental authority.
“We must establish the root causes of such criminal behaviour to come up with holistic interventions that can achieve maximum sustainable impacts,” he said.
According to the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef), such services may include support for basic education and skill training, employment, drug rehabilitation and family counselling.
According to the DCI, some of the schools where the largest number of student suspects have been arrested include Baringo High School (20), Kapweria school (15) over the November 5 unrest, and Onsonkori (14) over the November 3 fire.
The latest fire incident was on December 8 at Mama Ngina Girls in Mombasa. The fire started at 5am when the students were preparing for morning studies. About 1000 students were sent home and education officials said there was no extensive damage as the fire was detected early enough.
In the case of Maranda High School in Siaya County, the top leadership of the school including two deputies recorded statements with the police after three students were arrested and grilled.
In the case of Londiani Boys, a 14-year-old confessed to have planned and executed the incident. He said he had earlier warned his parents never to take him to the school as he did hot like it.
In Kiriani, seven students aged between 15 and 17 were on November 30 charged with arson. Under section 332(a) of the Penal Code, any person who wilfully and unlawfully sets fire to any building or structure is guilty of a felony (of arson) and is liable to imprisonment for life.
“Any person who attempts to commit arson is however liable for imprisonment for 14 years,” the section warns.
On November 8, for example, five other students of Kangema School were charged with preparation to commit a felony contrary to section 308(1) of the penal code.
When one is found with any dangerous or offensive weapon in circumstances that indicate they are there with an intention to commit a crime, they can be charged with preparation to commit a felony.
A senior government official said in the cases where the arrests were made, the mens rea, commonly referred to as the evil intention, could be proved.
“The students attempted to burn the dormitory and by an overt act of buying petrol, had begun to put their intention into execution. The intention is even more clearer especially when they were not supposed to be there, and have taken precautions to conceal their presence,” he said.
Three children of Grade 5, all aged 10, were also implicated in the burning of a school in Central region. Since they were all under the age of 12, the DCI incorporated the prosecutor and the Children’s officer.
Investigations revealed that the pupils requested one of the day scholars to bring them a match box. The pupil, oblivious of what his classmates had planned to do, brought the match box to the school.
In Kenya, a child, whom the law defines s anyone under the age of 18, can stand trial while as young as 8.
At that age, they are considered to have the mental capacity to commit a crime and are consequently criminally responsible, and can be prosecuted and found guilty.
“Sadly, even though they are very young, the law considers them to be of the age where they have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, and even appreciate the legal consequences of their actions,” a senior police officer told People Daily.
The report by the DCI has also revealed that in some cases, the students deliberately planned for the burning of the schools.
In the case of Thumaita Mixed Day secondary school in Ndia, Kirinyaga County, some of the students planned and even contributed cash for the purchase of petrol. The students wanted to boycott exams and staged a demonstration. Nine of them –aged between 17 and 20 -were arrested and one of them was found in possession of Sh1,080 which had been collected from other students to buy petrol.
In other cases, the students protested but never caused any damage and instead just left the school in what many see as a mature decision.
One such case was at Chemogoch Day secondary school on December 6, where the students protested over mismanagement and insufficient food. They were addressed by the school administrators and board of management.
They just collected their belongings and matched out of the school. According to a report by the DCI, no person was injured nor any property destroyed
The unrest was also reported at the Garissa University where on November 7, Ewaso Ngiro hostel at the college caught fire at around 4.30am. The DCI said the fire was as a result of arson by students due to academic unrest and the elections, which had been held the previous day before the incident.
The following day, there was also a fire incident at the Garissa High School’s Marsabit dormitory.
According to the DCI, not all cases were deliberate acts of arson. Preliminary investigations have however exonerated students from the fires and attributed such to other issues including electric faults.
In the case of Timbila High school in Taita Taveta county where South Africa dormitory for 119 students was reduced to ashes, detectives attributed the fire to electric fault. The same was also in the case of Gigiri Girls secondary school, and St. Mary’s secondary Mambani, among others.
The damages are estimated to cost hundreds of millions of shillings. Some injuries were also reported during such fires and unrests. Some students have sustained injuries during such incidents including Gideon Njambit 16 of Kilgoris Boys on November 16.
The incidents are a major concern to the security and education officials, especially due to the fact that minors are involved.
The DCI has attributed the juvenile delinquency to a number of factors, including parents who leave parenting matters to teachers only. The teachers’ hands are also tied as they cannot punish the students since corporal punishment was banned.
The police said parents must also take responsibility over their children.
Though families serve as one of the strongest socialising factors in a child’s life, they can also teach children violent, aggressive and anti-social behaviour.
“Family life may directly contribute to the development of delinquent and criminal tendencies,” a senior officer said.
Kinoti has warned students that the impact of a conviction doesn’t end with jail time and fines, adding that when a person is charged and convicted of a crime, it becomes a permanent criminal record.
According to Kinoti, some of the drawbacks of criminal records may include difficulty in finding employment, where employers may not trust them to maintain safe work environment even if the arson happened several years ago.
“Even as they seek pleasure they should understand the full scope of their actions. Apart from the short term consequences such as fines or jail terms, there are also long term ramifications,” the DCI said.
Apart from the government keeping criminal records, the courts have also tightened bail and bond terms upon which those implicated are released.
For example, eight students from Ntulele Secondary School who were charged with attempted arson were each released on Sh30,000 cash bail.