Kenyans should assertively protect public schools from further land grabbing

Leonard Wanyama | Despite huge public outcry against grabbing of land at the Lang’ata Road Primary School exactly one year ago, a company called Kensom Holdings Ltd. tried acquiring two acres of land belonging to Lavington Primary School as the year drew to a close on 19 December, 2015.

Barely 365 days after reclamation of Lang’ata Road Primary School off the hands of land grabbers, another somewhat shadowy entity was at it again. This issue is examined by Irũngũ Houghton, Associated Director of the Society for International Development (SID). Under the ShuleYangu Alliance Policy Brief titled One Year on From Lang’ata: Why Public Schools are Still at Risk the report is an eye opener to an aspect of Kenya’s collective guilt on the land question.

The report explains the context in which a desire to irregularly acquire public school land for personal gainshas fuelled a sharp rise in pricing. Yet the investment and risk taking to acquire such assets is seen as a worthy prospect due to the expected high returns. Meanwhile demand for land is extremely high as more people migrate into the city. This puts serious pressure on amenities such as schools to provide what little services they have to offer.

Public schooling especially for lower income groups then becomes a double tragedy as the problem of working with little resources is compounded when land for their use is taken away through unscrupulous means. A poor policy framework stretching from colonial times puts schools in this vulnerable position.

Using a survey of 3,475 head teachers of primary schools from all 47 counties and 285 sub-counties; the report findings have the strength of having consulted most of the highly populated counties namely Kakamega, Makueni, Bungoma, Bomet, Kisumu, Migori, Kericho and Trans-Nzoia.

It chronicles the current status of titling public schools as the topic emerged over the past year following the attempted land grab of Lang’ata Road Primary School. Here we find out that 83% of Kenyan public schools do not have title deeds or lease certificates. 41% have no allotment letter and 55% of schools are yet to be surveyed.

Therefore, this puts a large number of schools at risk. However, a glimmer of hope rests with the 35% that have been surveyed. This represents rapid gains for the government titling program. This should have further support on the basis of a Presidential declaration to provide schools with title deeds.

More specifically the collective guilt of Kenyans is clearly articulated as to who are the main culprits. To find this out one only has to look in the mirror. Nonetheless to see who actually takes part in the encroachment, land-grabbing or ceding of primary school land one has to read the report in order to understand why we are all really quite equally guilty.

This is because an individual is possibly a member of the local community, a public institution, religious grouping, political entity, parent teacher association (PTA) or non-governmental organization (NGO) for which schools a have placed 4,100 complaints against in the theft of their land.

What is especially good about this study is that it reinforces government efforts at the county level such as the 2014 County of Nairobi Education Force Report by Dr. Mark Mutunga. Prior to the Lang’ata Primary land grab there was little evidence of any attempts to rectify the situation but with consistent updates on progress of this subject the urgency to focus on solutions will continue.

A movement of champions and civil society actors developed around the issue giving it the moral high ground to pursue opportunities for change further. This group has painstakingly held course in this campaign and grown is partnership with key stakeholders on the matter thereforeenabling positive responses from officials at different levels.

While it is intended as a policy document this report also serves as a minor archive of citizen struggles currently taking place in contemporary Kenya.Recommendations emerge urgingthat: the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development should have lease certificates issued to schools that have already been surveyed and the Cabinet should fast track the waiving of survey fees plus all other costs for schools seeking assistance.

Also: application of title deeds by schools should be encouraged; county governments should complete their audits of public schools and utilities for issue of lease certificates; and an all inclusive rapid titling task force be established to push the matter forward towards stronger protection of schools. Iam sure once the cynics get to know more beyond what went on the morning of 18 January 2015 they will think again.


Photo: School childern from Lang’ata Road Primary School, on January 19, 2015, in Nairobi, face police as they protest. Source: