Professionals from northeastern Kenya discuss education crisis in the regionThe education crisis in the semi-arid northeastern region of Kenya took centre stage Saturday during the inaugural North Eastern Counties University Students Association conference held in Nairobi.
The convention, “Ideas of today realities of tomorrow,” enticed students, professionals and politicians who hail from the three counties, which have often complained of massive marginalization from successive governments over the past. And here, as anyone would guess, education crisis facing the area was on everyone’s lips.
“Education disaster started escalating because of insecurity in our regions. This led to mass exodus of non-local academic instructors from our counties,” said Abdikadir Ore, the Wajir West member of parliament.
He said both local residents and the national government have a part to play in making sure that young northeastern students get sufficient education. This, he added, would boost development in the region that has faced constant underdevelopment since the attainment of independence half a century ago.
“Let us not alienate these teachers sent to our schools. We should be glorifying them as we used to in the past. Our attitudes towards them should shift in order to attract more,” Ore said.
Northeastern region in Kenya comprises the three counties of Wajir, Mandera and Garissa. The counties share porous border with Somalia where attackers mainly from the outlawed al-Shabaab militia hails from.
Attacks from the gunmen have left the residents of these regions to suffer socio-economic exclusion immediately attacks happen. Residents here not only lose lives but also suffer from economic backlash post-attacks.
In April 2015, four gunmen invaded the pioneer university in the region, Garissa University College – and went ahead butchering 147 undergraduates and leaving others injured.
This led to the closure of the institution, which has changed the education narrative in Garissa. Local students were hugely benefiting from the college.
Other colleges followed suit including the Kenya Medical Training College just days after the attack citing “overwhelming transfer applications” as the main reason for calling it a day in Garissa.
Former National Assembly Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim called the government’s reluctant approach as “cowardice.”
“They sent troops to Somalia to stop al-Shabaab,” he said while giving a press conference at the event. “They should face them when they are attacked. We are not begging for security or education, we have rights to enjoy them.”
The Kenyan government was highly criticized in the way it responded to the insecurity menace in the county. Locals have been complaining of harassment from authorities when such attacks occur.
There is a feeling that not much attention is paid to northeastern in terms of rebuilding affected areas after attacks.
“Lamu is functioning and so is Mpeketoni which faced similar attacks from al-Shabaab. Westgate too was reopened. We’re wondering why Garissa University is being left out?” Maalim said.
Maalim’s sentiments were shared by Ibrahim Hussein, former Teachers Service Commission Chair, who wondered by the government is playing the “blanket condemnation card” when dealing with these issues.
“Its a two way traffic, the government has to handle guns and face these terrorists. We and our fellow teachers will do our jobs of handling chalks,” he said.
He told the government to secure the region.
Hussein also emphasized the importance of selecting education as a course by the northeastern students. This, he maintained, will boost the regions work force in terms of equipping the young ones with education skills.
“I urge you students to pick education as a noble profession. This is the only way to bail out the education menace in our region,” he said.
Lobby groups led by Northern Advocacy Organization, a nongovernmental organization, demanded for the reopening of the sole university in the region which housed close to 1,000 students both local and non-locals. Two residents are suing the government for its reluctance in opening the higher institution.
The speakers called for non-locals teachers sent to teach in the region to be welcomed and encouraged.
Osman is a Kenyan journalist and a contributing writer for Sahan Journal.
Follow him on Twitter: @OsmanMOsman_