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Learning paralysed as 800 teachers leave Mandera over Al-Shabaab raids

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Learning activities in northeastern Kenya could be grounded following a mass exodus of non-local teachers, officials have warned.

Early this week, the Teachers Service Commission [TSC], which is responsible for the recruitment of teachers, confirmed the transfer of teachers from Garissa County.

In a statement, the commission, however, said transfers affecting Wajir and Mandera at a later date, despite protests waged by the teachers.

The three counties have been devastatingly affected by the Al-Shabaab raids, which have left dozens dead or injured, reports indicate.

The mass exodus of teachers from Mandera

Mr. Issak Giro, chairman of the Mandera County Education Board, admitted the unprecedented challenge, adding that TSC had transferred teachers for safety.

“So far, 550 non-local teachers have left primary schools while 254 have left secondary schools,” he said, adding the few remaining ones were on their way out.

Records show that the county, which neighbors Somalia, had 1,009 non-local teachers, who have been giving much-needed manpower in the county.

However, the teachers' stay is now untenable, given the upsurge of terror attacks, targeting non-locals and security forces.

But he also said, “We are hearing that the TSC has transferred these teachers but we are yet to receive any formal communication to that effect."

What next after the mass exodus?

Mandera is one of the marginalised regions that have been excluded from national plan for decades, although fortunes have been boosted with the adoption of devolved governments.

Despite the massive exodus, the official said, schools would continue running and children should report to their stations as expected.

One of the most available options will be recruitment untrained teachers, some of them who are still in the process of joining college, he added.

Already, some areas like Garissa, have been treated to a scenario where civil servants like chiefs are teaching students.

“We are putting in place measures including hiring untrained teachers to ensure schools continue running," he said, urging boards to affect the plan.

Security drastically improved

Onesmus Kyatha, the Mandera County Commissioner, insisted that security has drastically improved, faulting the TSC transfers as "unnecessary".

Unlike in the neighboring Wajir and Garissa, Mandera only recorded one terror incident last month with no casualties, he added.

“We have a stable security situation in Mandera today. It is surprising that teachers are leaving citing insecurity,” Kyatha said.

A report released this week shows that over 83 people succumbed to terror attacks in Kenya last year with most victims being security forces.

Elyas Abdi, a director-general in charge of the technical wing at the Education Ministry, said the national government was keen on ensuring continued learning.

“We are fully aware of the situation in the region and are determined to ensure no single school closes since it will result in a rise in vices in the society,” he said.

What's the grand plan to eliminate Al-Shabaab?

Despite the deployment of security forces in the region, Al-Shabaab militants have often executed sporadic attacks killing hundreds in the process.

For instance, three pupils and a teacher were killed in Kamuthe primary school last month in Garissa by the militants, officials said.

But the government has strategically asked officials to work closely with residents to identify and crush Al-Shabaab militants.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, on Wednesday, reiterated Kenya's commitment in the fight against Al-Shabaab during his trip to the US.

Uhuru said: "To further deal them a blow, we have embarked on closing their revenue channels by imposing sanctions on financiers".

Local leaders from the region convened a series of meetings in the region where they also urged locals to cooperate in the fight against the extremists.

With high illiteracy levels in the region, the mass exodus of the teachers could significantly affect the performance of children in national exams, experts have warned.