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Northeastern leaders condemn withdrawal of non-local teachers amid Al-Shabaab raids

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online
Mandera Governor Ali Roba on February 14, 2020. Three County ministers and a chief officer have filed a petition after he sacked them last week. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NAIROBI, Kenya - The unprecedented withdrawal of non-local teachers from northeastern Kenya has elicited a sharp reaction from regional leaders, even as the country struggles to contain Al-Shabaab menace.

At least 2,000 non-local teachers have deserted duty in Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties, following escalating Al-Shabaab attacks in the region.

The northeastern region is among the areas that have suffered marginalization since independence and is characterized by inadequate human resources in all aspects.

Teachers Service Commission [TSC], the employer of the tutors, authorized the transfers, leading to a mass exodus of non-local teachers after weeks of protests.

Al-Shabaab militants often target security forces and non-locals, leading to fear and anxiety. Dozens of teachers have been slaughtered since 2014, officials said.

Security, a national catastrophe

But a meeting held on Sunday in Garissa to pave way for Building Bridges Initiative, a peace process by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was eclipsed by security and teachers crisis in the region.

Dozens of leaders from NFDs demanded immediate action to reinstate teachers, whose absence has led to an education crisis in the region.

Cap. Ali Roba, the Mandera Governor, said "the crisis has completely paralyzed learning. We need urgent measures to mitigate them."

The second term governor said many children were being denied their basic constitutional right of "basic access" to education in Kenya.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, the Wajir governor, said "the president should act urgently. This is a tragedy. We have no excuse, our children are suffering".

Similar sentiments were highlighted by dozens of leaders, who attended the fully parked meeting at Garissa primary grounds, that was graced by opposition leader Raila Odinga.

President Uhuru aware of teachers crisis

But Mr. Odinga, a former foe cum ally to Uhuru, said the president was aware of the matter, a statement that quelled temperatures at the moment.

He said: “I talked to Uhuru before I came here and next week you will have an answer."

The former Prime Minister did not, however, disclose the immediate measure that the government will take to mitigate the predicament.

Most teachers have since been transferred to secure regions, although dozens are yet to be deployed by the commission, a source said.

“It is painful for pupils to go to school only to find teachers missing in classrooms,” added Mr. Odinga, who also doubles as AU envoy for infrastructural development.

While addressing the multiple, thousands of residents were heard chanting "we want teachers" in a move that could throw the government into limbo.

What next after the Garissa rally?

Although the region may still be understaffed, the government could force teachers trained to mitigate such challenges to report back to work.

Wilson Sossion, the Secretary-General for Kenya National Union of Teachers [KNUT], blamed TSC for the impasse, arguing that it failed to consult.

"Children who were trained under affirmative action must be re-deployed to solve education problems in the region,” Sossion said, cursing TSC for "engineering" the crisis.

But Mr. Odinga said the government might be forced to have students from marginalized regions joining teachers training colleges at a lower grade.

Such proposals were rebuffed by the ministry of education, which scrapped the affirmative action in entry grades for teachers colleges.

“When I go back in Nairobi I will also push to have more locals trained as teachers,” added Mr. Odinga, who sympathized with locals.

The Al-Shabaab militants have intensified their attacks in the region, changing tactics by targeting National Police Reservists [NPR], mostly who come from the region.

Last week, the militants raided Ijara constituency in Garissa, where they set ablaze a house for an NPR besides slaughtering goats, officials said.