Group comes to aid of tormented pupils
As learners in other parts of the country enjoy their studies seamlessly, life has been tough for their colleagues in the banditry-prone Kerio Valley, who live in excessive fear for their safety and security.
Bandits, who roam the area, have not spared learners with three pupils from Tot Primary School in Marakwet East, Elgeyo-Marakwet countybeing their latest victims.
When People Daily toured the school, uneasy calm is returning but the events of May 29 are still fresh despite the learners’ resilience.
At Grade Three classroom where three pupils: Gibson Maiyo, Shadrack Kiplagat and Brian Kiptoo used to sit, their absence is loud. Their desks are empty. They were shot dead by bandits as they were eating mangoes during lunch hour, sparking a public outcry over runaway insecurity in the region.
The bandits also killed an adult during the raid, which also saw more than 1,000 livestock stolen.
The death brought to 170 residents killed in the past nine months, sparking fears in the region.
According to Tot Primary School deputy head teacher Johnson Barmonga, Grade Three pupils have been traumatised following the killing of their colleagues.
“We have been forced to remove their desks to help the pupils to cope with their absence. We have been liaising with other neighbouring schools in activities like sports as a way engaging the children,” Barmonga said.
He went on: “School has been prompted to seek services of counsellors to assist the children cope up with the loss of their colleagues and looming insecurity.”
An organisation, New Dawn of Hope, in conjunction with other well-wishers, is now reaching out to schools hit by runway banditry in the North Rift in a bid to counsel children who have undergone trauma and ensure they live a normal life.
Organisation founder, Joan Bwambok, said they have been giving out food donations and clothing to schools and victims of banditry.
“I was brought up in the bandit- prone region. I witnessed many of my relatives killed in cold blood,. That is why I am reaching out to the victims,” Bwambok told People Daily.
“It is sad that the government’s help and well-wishers never reach these people. They are completely forgotten,” he added.
A spot-check by People Daily also revealed that the banditry menace has completely shattered dreams of many learners with more than 20 schools in Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties remaining closed due to the incessant insecurity.
According to Moses Chesire, a psychologist, residents from the banditry region rarely speak of their problems but the impact manifests for a long time due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I have identified classmates of the the deceased learners. I have been reaching out to help them forget what happened. We have also been offering psychological therapy sessions to teachers in the affected schools on how to deal with grief,” Chesire said.
He said the initiative is also targeting more than 100 families who have lost their kin in the hands of the bandits.
Emotions ran high during the burial of the three with fears emerging that bandits were now targeting schools.
Local Kenya National Union of Teachers officials have also threatened to shut down schools until their members are assured of their safety. “We note with concern that young, innocent children are now becoming a target of the brutal bandits. What has children got to do with cattle rustling? Elgeyo-Marakwet county branch secretary John Cheberi posed.
“Banditry attacks have continued to threaten education in this region and we will not have any option but close schools for the safety of our learners and teachers,” Cheberi added.
During the burial, learners from various schools recited moving poems, urging the State to beef up security in the region.
Through an emotional poem, the learners decried the rampant insecurity that saw them lose three of their dear friends.
“Haki zetu twahitaji katika bonded la Kerio. Uhuru uko wapi tukiuawa kinyama katika bonde hili. Haki zetu twahitaji (We demand our rights in Kerio Valley. Where are you Uhuru when we are being killed brutally?)” they said.