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From ruins to state-of-the-art school

In April 18, 2020, at the height of the covid 19 outbreak, the Kerio Valley witnessed another disaster. A major mudslide occurred in Kaben area in Marakwet East sub county which left three people dead, scores injured while 24 others were unaccounted for, following heavy rains.

Among other destruction caused by the mudslide was the complete destruction of Liter girls’ school. Gilbert.

Yator, an English/Literature teacher at the school recalled the events of that day and shudders to think what would have happened if the students were in school.

According to the school principal Hellen Kimutai, property worth sh.156 million in both fixed and movable assets which included classes, dining hall, administration block, staff houses, the school bus plus students’ personal belongings were all destroyed.

However, out of the ruins, a new school with state-of-the-art facilities has emerged after the community offered 15 acres at Lorok location for its construction while the government through the ministry of education provided sh.100 million for the construction of the school.

Mrs. Kimutai said the area in which the school was built initially was considered risky and was declared a flood prone area and therefore they had to seek an alternative place.

“I never thought that we could rise again after the tragedy and after the area was condemned by officers from the government,” she said.

Following the tragedy, the school population was moved to neighbouring St. Pauls Kapkondot girls’ school so the girls could continue with their education once learning resumed in September of 2020.

Mrs. Kimutai said for the last three years, they have been running two schools in one with each school running their own programmes with their classes and dormitories but they were sharing the field and the kitchen which helped the girls from the two schools to bond.

The tragedy had a silver lining because they are now in the process of registering the school as a double stream as they now have a two-storey building with each floor having 4 classrooms and toilets.

“The National CDF board is also constructing another tuition block which we hope will be complete by January next year. It will add another 8 classrooms which will take us to 4 streams,” the principal said.

The principal said their three-year sojourn ended on June 10th when they went back to their school, only this time it was beyond what they had envisioned.

“The girls were excited to come back. This was especially so for those who were in form one in the former school, they could not believe it, they were wondering if this is a secondary school or a university,” she said.

The school head girl Lydia Mayoo who was in form one when the tragedy struck said she was happy to be in the new school with a serene environment which was conducive for learning.

Benjamin Kition, a teacher in the school said teachers were happy to be back home adding that with the school being at the border, he hoped that parents from West Pokot and Baringo counties would bring their children to the school.

“We hope that parents from the different communities will bring their children so that they can interact as they learn and promote peace as education is one of the pillars that can be used to unite communities,” he said.

Mr. Yator said in contrast with the perception people have of the Kerio Valley, it is a very beautiful place while the community is very welcoming.

The Elgeyo Marakwet county commissioner John Korir said the school was in a strategic position to attract students from far flung areas and called on parents to take advantage of the prevailing situation to enroll their children to the school.

“I am happy that the situation is now stabilizing due to efforts by the government and also the construction of the road joining the three counties and which passes next to the school will give it a major boost in terms of accessibility,” he said.

The CC however said the sh.100 million was not enough to fund all the facilities required and called on the local leadership including the CDF to allocate more funds to the school.

The principal said while phase one of the school which includes the tuition block and dormitories are complete, the school still requires a kitchen, dining hall, administration block, a bus and staff houses.

She is upbeat that in future the school which is currently a sub county school will upgrade to an extra county school.

“Right now, we have 111 students because out of the 204 learners we had before the destruction of our school, 122 reported back while this year the form one intake was low as some parents were apprehensive in bringing their children to our (hosted) school,” she said.

Mrs. Kimutai however said she appreciated all the parents who still had faith in the school and brought back their children while others enrolled their children in form one despite their situation.

“I will always be grateful to our parents who stood with us even when we had no school, I don’t take your support for granted, because of you, we were able to rise again,” she said.

The principal said before the tragedy, they had a mean of 5.7 which dropped to 5.1 in 2020 following the relocation which she says affected the girls. In 2021 they posted a mean of 4.9, last year they dropped by one point to 4.8.

“This year, we are hoping to get a mean of 5.8 and above despite the fact that we have moved to our new school in the middle of the year,” she said.

By Alice Wanjiru

 

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