Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has set up a team to develop a policy to address sexual and other abuses in schools a week after an alleged defilement incident hit Moi Girls’ School Nairobi and other institutions across the country.
The advisory team comprises sexual and gender based violence experts, forensic, pathology and safety in education practitioners and will advise on the foundational process of putting in place a learner protection policy that will ensure that schools become safe zones for children across the country.
On Saturday, Ms Mohamed held a daylong meeting with top officials at the Ministry to decide on the terms of reference for the team, among others, ahead of re-opening of Moi Girls’ School Nairobi which closed last week after the incident.
The school will also re-open Sunday under a new board of management and parents/teachers association after the previous one was dissolved following the incident.
The team of experts that has been assembled has vast experience in county and countrywide statistics on sexual violence broadly and defilement of schoolgoing children in particular.
They will offer the Ministry of Education immediate and long-term solutions.
“These solutions will be broad and ultimately concentrate on outcomes set for teachers, students and even the home setting to facilitate a good conducive environment for the child to learn,” said a brief from the Ministry of Education.
It said the Cabinet Secretary is keen to establish a standardised protocol instructive to teachers, matrons and school staff on emergency response to sexual violence in schools; neutral, safe spaces in schools to allow children to report violations either perpetrated by teachers or in home settings; continuous professional development training for teachers on trends in sexual violence.
“The Ministry will also map out hotlines and hospital contacts for emergency post-rape care and facilitate trauma counselling for any child survivor in school settings.
Ultimately, the Ministry will develop a learners’ protection policy that will enable the creation of a conducive non-stigmatising environment for students,” it adds. Cases of sexual harassment of students have been on the rise in the country.
Since January this year, a total of 111 male teachers have been sacked by their employer – the Teachers Service Commission – for having sexual relations with their students.
The sexual harassment report has been supported by another study by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) which raised a red flag of sexual harassment of learners aged 13 to 17 by teachers in schools in the country.
In its 2016 report, the agency said teachers were reported to be perpetrators of sexual harassment with an average of 39 per cent of school principals stating that teacher-pupil harassment had occurred in their schools.
“Sexual violence, a highly destructive form of violence in schools, is a global concern, yet knowledge of its extent is limited. It manifests as verbal and psychological harassment, sexual assault, rape, coercion, exploitation and discrimination in and around schools,” reads the report.
On Friday, TSC gazetted the names of 71 teachers that it has kicked out of the teaching service while 40 male teachers were sacked in January for having sexual relation with their students.
In 2016, 22 teachers who had sexual relations with their students were banned from ever teaching in Kenya while in 2015, another 126 teachers were deregistered.
And as Ms Mohamed set up another team to advise the Ministry of safety of learners in school recommendations of former provincial administrator Claire Omollo team that probed school unrest and which was released last year is yet to be implement.
Some of the radical recommendations were to address some of the challenges that were witnessed at Moi Girls School and were to be implemented within a year but they are yet to be implemented.
Ms Omollo in her report observed that most schools did not have secure perimeter fences, some had incomplete fences, and others had fenced various isolated areas within the school and left others out.
“Most schools had employed security guards particularly to keep watch over students at night. However, in some schools there were no specific job descriptions for support staff as in one school, ground men doubled as watchmen at night thus compromising the security of the schools,” stated the report.
It added that guards were not vetted during recruitment and some were ignorant and incompetent in matters of safety and security while some schools retained guards beyond the mandatory retirement age.
It also emerged that some schools did not keep proper records of visitors coming into the schools as registers were either not available at the gate or updated at the time of the investigations.
“Further , there was no effective supervision of the school personnel, for instance in some schools with up to six watchmen or security guards, the administration could not account for the whereabouts of guards during the time of incidents,” stated the report.
In some schools watchmen confessed to not having been assigned specific areas to man in the course of their duties and in some instances, some were holed up in one place during the time of incidents.
Some of the recommendations included adoption of appropriate security measures including perimeter fencing and 24hours manning, CCTV surveillance, fire extinguishers, sniffer dogs check, metal detector, random dog security patrols, adequate security lighting, engage vetted security guards and create awareness on security matters.
It also proposed that school registration guidelines should be reviewed to include initial application and submission for a proposal for approval by the county education board for conversion of a school from day to boarding status.
It also recommended fire drills for students and staff which were to be conducted at least twice a year.
“An inter-agency security survey team comprising Ministry of Education, the Teachers Service Commission and Ministry of Interior should carry out annual security surveys and quarterly security spot checks in schools,” recommended the report.
A preliminary report at Moi Girls School and which was released by Ms Mohamed last week revealed that there were various security gaps and lapses that existed at the school by the time of the reported defilement incident.
To address the challenge, the Ministry ordered an overhaul of the entire security system, including the replacement of all existing security guards and deployed a 24-hour police security at the school until all reforms at the school are concluded.
Already five armed police officers have been provided to guard the school while all non-teaching staff at the school, including cooks, librarians, cleaners and office messengers will be subjected to fresh vetting by the Board of Management.