Learning in Mangai Primary School deep in the heart of Boni area has always been characterised by a lack of desks and chairs.
To get a shot at a better life by way of education, most pupils have had to endure sitting on hard cement floors biting food shortages, inadequate medical care and clean water.
Just four years ago, learning was non-existent no thanks to the Al-Shabaab threat which caused teachers to run away from the school due to biting insecurity that threatened to destroy any semblance of learning within the Boni area.
However, key gestures and overtures by the Kenya Defence Forces through its Operation Amani Boni Initiative who yesterday donated 100 desks and chairs to the frontier primary school is aiding in restoring learning, and as such creating a better learning environment for pupils in Mangai.
“The relationship that the Mangai locals have with security agents has greatly improved due to improved community-military relations, leading to better security that has provided a better learning environment for pupils in the area primary school,” Mangai area Chief Farah Khalif told KNA during the handover ceremony of the desks and chairs to the school.
He further stated that the regular and increased patrols within the Boni area, have served locals with the confidence that the national government is indeed serious in its efforts to not only improve security within the region but also improve the quality of lives for most Boni area locals who until the recent past were mostly a hunter and gatherer community.
“The National Police Reservists under the government’s employ in Mangai are also actively engaged in ensuring improved security enables a better learning environment for children within Mangai,” he added.
He further stated that the improved security situation has further led to TSC teachers now agreeing to be ferried and stay and teach in Boni which only five years ago had been declared a no go zone by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) for teachers due to fear of Al-Shabaab attacks.
Sentiments echoed by Mangai Primary School teacher Hamisi Mwacheso who intimated that it is the improved security situation in Mangai and the wider Boni area that led him into agreeing to be posted in the school.
“Since my posting last year in Mangai, there have indeed been hardship yet the experience of having to work in a far flung area is always alleviated by the KDF efforts such as the donation of desks and chairs that will ensure all pupils both in primary and Early Child Development (ECDE) have desks,” Mwacheso said, adding that the desks go a long way in aiding the school adhere to the COVID-19 mitigating measures given by the Ministry of Health.
Operation Amani Boni in Charge Colonel David Chesire stated that the gesture to donate the desks is one of the few ways the security agencies are working on winning public trust in the national government’s pursuit of ensuring that the Boni area is no longer marginalized.
He said that the national government through the Operation Amani Boni initiative is keen to ensure that key sectors such as education, health and security improve with the view of growing the Boni area, which he noted had agricultural and trade potential that is still untapped.
He also noted that the improved security will further lead to Mangai Primary School adding more classes with the current being from Class 1 to Class 5 and older pupils having to opt for Mokowe Arid Boarding school, which hosts a large number of Boni students, whose schools so far lack Class 1 to Class 8 streams.
“Besides the donations local security agencies have gone as far as identifying three Border Patrol Unit personnel who are trained teachers to aid in teaching classes,” Commissioner of Police Michael Kaitha Head of RDU and Border Patrol Unit in Lamu said.
“We are also carrying out bi-weekly medical camps around Mangai area to ensure that locals have access to better healthcare due to lack of accessible healthcare facilities in the area,” Major Abraham Katome, the KDF officer incharge within Mangai and the nearby Baure KDF camp area revealed, stating that the medical camps have aided in ensuring no children miss school due to inaccessibility to healthcare.
The local county dispensary has been shut down since Al-shabaab raided the facility for medical supplies in 2016 and has not be rehabilitated since then, with locals having to rely on KDF medical camps to gain access to medical services or travel more than 80 kilometres to Mokowe sub county hospital.
Captain Dr. Roka Kinyajui one of KDF personnel who aid in managing medical camps within the larger Boni area, also spoke to KNA stated that atleast 80 percent of children who visit the medical camps have bilharzia infections a situation he notes can be remedied with regular supply of clean drinking and bathing water.
Mangai locals bathe and fetch water at nearby swamp pools that they also use to bathe risking bilharzia outbreaks.
“The national and county government already have a pre-existing working relationship within the Boni area, with the county health department providing personnel that aid KDF health personnel during the medical camps,” Colonel David Chesire adds.
He further stated that the KDF will continue sponsoring projects and initiatives within villages in the Boni area with the view of improving community- security agency relations with the aim of creating public trust in the national government.
by Amenya Ochieng