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Kenya's schools in Boni Forest reopen five years after deadly Al-Shabaab raids


LAMU - A number of institutions shut down five years ago over frequent Al-Shabaab attacks along Kenya-Somalia border have reopened, VOA has established, in the latest progress against the militants.

Schools within the dangerous Boni Forest in Lamu have shut down five years ago, following a mass exodus of non-local teachers, reports indicated.

The Kenyan government had earmarked Boni as a terror hotbed, deploying KDF troops in 2017 under the Operation Linda Boni, officials said.

Kiangwe primary, one of the affected institutions, opened doors for students early this year but only those up to Grade Four can access learning due to shortage of teachers.

Farid Sadik is one of few teachers who have returned to the school to impart knowledge to learners, although the security situation remains uncertain.

“We feel there is something that needs to be done for the community because we are trained as teachers, and we are trained to work anywhere in the republic,” said Sadik.

Irungu Macharia, the area county commissioner, told reporters that the government is taking extra measures to return normalcy in the porous border.

Lamu, which borders Somalia at South East of Kenya, has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab raids, forcing locals to desert some of the villages, police had said.

"We have greatly improved security. We have also deployed teachers, we have a headteacher," Macharia, a critical security operative, told reporters

He added: "So, the schools are running normally. We have also provided resources, books and everything."

Tensions still high in Lamu

But despite the opening of schools, authorities said that due to fear of more attacks, only a few teachers will be willing to resume their duties.

Mohamed Abuli is on the school committee, said that most teachers are yet to heed to calls to resume work, despite enhanced security.

"There were issues of insecurity in our school. We enhanced security but we don't have enough teachers. There is only one teacher per so many students," Abuli said.

Zeinab Bakari says her teenage son has nowhere to go to advance his education, adding that the situation may persist to unforeseen future.

“Here we’ve got school only up to 4th grade. I don’t have the fare to send him out. It’s my loss. I am at a loss,” she said.

For the past one month, Al-Shabaab militants have raided Lamu, leaving over ten civilians dead, despite a heavy presence of security officers.

Learning paralysed in northeastern

Last month, the militants flagged down a passenger bus, killing four people instantly. Days later, they raided a US Naval Base where they killed three Americans.

Early this week, the militants also exploded two construction vehicles, although drivers managed to escape unhurt by taking refuge in thickets, police said.

In most cases, the militants often take cover in Boni Forest, which has proved difficult for security forces to navigate and flush them out.

The opening of Lamu schools may not solve the dire need of education in the marginalised regions which continues to experience sporadic attacks.

Already, hundreds of teachers have been transferred from northeastern Kenya, further manifesting the security crisis in Kenya, one of the most affected nations in Al-Shabaab war due to proximity to Somalia.

Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties are drastically affected, with non-local teachers accusing residents of failing to protect them from the attacks.

The government has responded by tracking suspected Al-Shabaab financiers before imposing sanctions on them, President Uhuru Kenyatta had said.