Teacher’s Mind: When civil strife disrupts studies

There is a time when I wrote in this column that it is always good for students and teachers to report to school in time.

There is a time when I wrote in this column that it is always good for students and teachers to report to school in time.

Reporting in time makes things move according to plan. On the other hand, delays mean further delays or missing out on topics that were taught while a student was absent.

It therefore sounds rather ironical that this term I missed the whole of the first week. You can say that I failed to practice what I preached. But just before you pass judgement, here is my story. 

On 23rd December 2007 I boarded a bus from Kampala to Moshi (Tanzania) via Nairobi (Kenya) for an 11-day Christmas holiday.

The short holiday to Tanzania then became indefinite when Kenyans started killing each other over a highly disputed presidential election. I found myself stranded in Tanzania because Kenya was impassable and the alternatives were not so forthcoming.

I either had to take a plane flight or use the route from Moshi to Uganda through Mwanza which was to cost me four days of road travel before even entering Uganda.

On top of being stranded, the Kenyan crisis led to a fuel shortage in Uganda and Rwanda. The resultant high prices for the scarce fuel meant that Rwanda-bound buses had to park because they could not get enough passengers to pay the high transport fares.

Eventually a reasonable degree of calm made it possible for me to travel from Nairobi on 9th January with many other passengers that had been trapped in Tanzania and Kenya. The buses had to be escorted by military personnel because Western Kenya was and still is quite unstable.

The civil strife in Kenya has made life difficult in all the neighbouring countries. Many teachers who come from Uganda could not travel to Rwanda due to the high transport costs.

There are also many Kenyan teachers who have not yet managed to report because the tensions in Kenya are still high. We pray that none of them was a victim to the violence that has claimed more than 600 lives.

Meanwhile, in Kenya the schools that were supposed to open on 7th January were forced to have the date pushed to 14th January. The problem is further compounded by the fact that most of the over 300,000 displaced people have been temporarily settled in schools.

There are many parents who have lost all their property and are no longer able to even pay tuition fees for their children. Some have even perished in the bloodshed that ensued in various parts of Kenya soon after the announcement of the election results.

Others that have been greatly affected by the violence in Kenya are university students in Kenya and those in Uganda. Those in Kenya have been directly affected, while in Uganda and Rwanda it is indirect.

Uganda has a big population of Kenyans in its universities. Now that the situation in Kenya is tense, many of these students are not able to return to their schools and colleges.

For universities like Kampala International University (KIU) which has more Kenyans than Ugandans it simply means that the university will not be able to operate maximally without these students.

Consequently, several private universities have pushed the dates of opening to accommodate the turbulence in neighbouring Kenya.

The Rwandans and Ugandans studying in these same universities will also be affected because they also have to wait for things to normalize in Kenya before they can return to these universities.

What is happening in Kenya has been equated by some to the events of 1994 when Rwanda experienced Genocide. During this period many people had their studies interrupted and are still struggling to catch up.

Therefore as educationists and peace loving people, we should always pray very much that civil strife or wars do not come around to destabilise life and education in particular.

God help Kenya.

E-mail: ssenyonga@gmail.com