The sorry state of public schools across the country can be revealed today.
A survey conducted by the Saturday Nation presents a picture of decay, disuse and neglect in the schools.
Pupils learn under difficult conditions while teachers struggle to create order where chaos reigns.
From Busia in the west to Kilifi at the Coast and Mandera in the North, the picture of infrastructure in public schools is shocking.
In a week long survey, we established a pervading sense of decay.
In many areas it is a case of absence of infrastructure as children sit on the floor, or stones and logs.
Open sewers, dumpsites in schools, crumbling ceilings, cracked walls and potholed floors, characterise the conditions under which many children in public schools learn.
In one case at Muthurwa Primary School in Nairobi, used nylon bags, diapers and other refuse litter a section of the playground while at Roysambu Primary School in Nairobi, street children are self-styled guards.
Puddles of a mixture of urine and water are what welcome one to a neighbouring school further down the road.
In Witu Division of Lamu County, pupils in five public primary schools learn while sitting on the floor and some on rocks.
NO ACTION TAKEN
For Kakathe, Maisha Masha, Maleli, Katsaka Kairu and Moa primary schools, pupils sit on the floor and place books on their laps when they are writing. They have no desks.
Kakathe Primary School Headteacher Juma Bakari said: “Our pupils learn in mud-walled classrooms. There are no desks and stationery; the pupils sit on the floor.”
He added: “The classrooms are few and many pupils learn under trees. At times teachers combine two or more classes and teach them in one classroom. That’s confusing and also draining for the teachers.”
At the Roysambu School in Nairobi, a stinky canal drains sewage into the school compound.
An official at the school said the waste water is discharged from several neighbouring buildings.
The Nation team saw a series of pipes directed into the canal leading into the school compound.
It was lunch time and pupils sat on smelly mounds of soil under the trees as they ate their lunch in the horrifying sight.
Discarded medicines, broken glass, razors and other dangerous elements are strewn all over the compound.
“When it is raining, the sewage covers almost half of the playground,” explained an official who refused to give his name for fear of reprisal from bosses at the Nairobi County Government.
She said many officials including those from National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and an engineer from the county government had visited the school and pledged action, but nothing had been done.
At Mathare North Primary School, a mixture of pungent smell assails the nostrils.
The school is surrounded by a dumpsite on one side, while it is fenced in by a major drainage tunnel, where the pupils stop over to play after classes.
At the school, in a detached toilet, girls elbow each other to drink from a tap.
This particular toilet is cleaner than the blocks we visited, but they are an eyesore.
There is no water to flush the toilets in most of the schools.
And though some of the schools have made effort to put water tanks, such cases are few and far apart.
At Muthurwa Primary School, the foul mixture oozes out into the compound below where pupils play happily.
In these public schools children are trying to learn while breathing in dusty crowded classroom.
The water in the swimming pools at two schools we visited that have the facility is green.
It is blooming with algae and is unsafe to swim in and may be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.
Although vacated, a pupil at Muthaiga Primary confessed that though they had not gone swimming this week, the bigger boys especially in Standard Seven and Eight sneak in through the fence and swim in the water.
At Kimathi Primary School, a pool attendant told us mischievously the pool water is green “because of the rain from the other day”.
Security in some of the schools like Muthurwa and Mathare North has been left to chance.
The schools do not have proper fences so they are unsecure and pose serious threats to children’s safety.
When we visited Muthurwa Primary School, the compound was flooded due to poor drainage.
Getting to the classrooms and headteacher’s office was a nightmare.
Sometimes, we were told, the flooding is worse, destroying books, desks and the classroom floors.
In a school where five pupils share one book, losing them to floods amounts to adding salt to injury.
The school is situated between the busy Jogoo Road, Gikomba market and Majengo slums.
Lack of a perimeter wall has led to thugs breaking in and stealing books and school items. Students also sell books to hawkers right at the gate.
At night, street families move in. They sleep in the school compound and during school holidays, they live there permanently.
“We need a perimeter wall, those hawkers outside the gate should be removed and that place cleared. And since the school is located at a somewhat low level, when it rains all the water from Muthurwa come here. They should work on the drainage,” said Mrs Jane Mwaura, the headteacher.
She added that when something is happening in the market, they can hear all of it.
During campaign periods like now, the distractions are too much.
In the other side of the city, Kibera slums, we visited Kibera Junior School, which has no field for games.
The neighbouring Olympic Primary School has 4,035 pupils with almost all classrooms catering for 100 pupils each.
Mrs Nyakundi Josephine, the deputy headteacher, said the school is congested. It needs more classes, more furniture and a computer lab.
“We also need more teachers to handle the large numbers; currently, we have only 42. We also need more toilets,” she said.
Confronted with this picture on Friday, Education PS, Dr Belio Kipsang, said the government has a continuous fund for improvement of primary and secondary schools.
Last year, he said, the ministry allocated Sh700 million for school infrastructure and expected that should have helped schools to put up decent classrooms and ablution blocks.
The sorry situation of schools in Nairobi was aptly captured in a report of a taskforce on the improvement of performance of public primary schools in the city, which had been set by Governor Evans Kidero.
SCARCITY OF MONEY
It was presented to Dr Kidero in July 2014, but when a Saturday Nation team visited the schools this week, the situation was more or less the same.
It means, the recommendations of the taskforce have not been implemented.
The taskforce report attributes this sorry state of affairs to the cancellation of capital funding to schools that started in late 1980s.
Also, the report faults the then City Council for failing to allocate resources to schools despite collective revenues from residents.
“The schools were designed according to required standards.
"However, things went wrong from the late 1980s when not only did development of new schools stall, but maintaining of existing ones also stopped.
"The schools quickly degenerated into a state of disrepair and decrepitude that continues to this today,” reads part of the report.
Education experts decried the meagre allocations for school repairs, maintenance and improvements under the Free Primary Education programme, currently set at Sh127 per child, which they say is inadequate to maintain school infrastructure.
It also not lost that part of the billions of shillings channelled to the grassroots through constituency fund that should have been used to rehabilitate and expand schools has not been used for that purpose.
Mr Wesaya Maina, the country director at Discovery Alliance, an education NGO, said the sorry state of the public school infrastructure is also an indictment of the Ministry of Education Quality Assurance and Standards Division, which he said had all but collapsed.
“While we can argue over the availability or otherwise of infrastructure funds, there is clearly no reason why schools are not inspected regularly,” said Mr Maina.