At 4 am, on November 22, 17 teachers boarded a Nairobi bound bus itching to spend this Christmas with their families whom they hadn’t seen in months. Only they had no idea that they would never see them again, because 4 hours later, they were murdered in cold blood.
I have been to some of the remotest parts of Kenya, and shared the distress that soldiers, medical professionals and teachers go through in serving communities in far flung areas. My pains at having no access to mobile phone signal; at being hungry, thirsty, and suffering xenophobia last only a few minutes long – theirs, the full 365.
I had a conversation with a teacher in a far flung village in Lamu. His story below:
It could be said that Peter Mawele* (not his real name), a teacher at a Primary school in Lamu, has lived inside a classroom for 3 years. While daytimes were spent in classes teaching, his nights would be on a stiff mattress on a cold classroom floor. Each morning he would tuck it away and freshen up before the first student showed up at school.
Mawele made his way to Lamu shortly after receiving an appointment letter to start his teaching career. Although he was overjoyed, his elder brother, who was overseas at the time, checked the precise location on Google Earth, and warned the younger Mawele not to celebrate.
Reality dawned as when he realized that he had to rely on army, police and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vehicles to reach his area of posting.
Had Mawele not thought of purchasing basic items like cooking flour, a mattress, basin and jerricans, it would have been difficult to survive. The area is so remote that it would take days or weeks to have these items transported from the local town.
“After 3 years of sleeping inside classrooms, we decided to construct our own houses,” he said, speaking about his two colleagues also.
By then an extra classroom had been constructed, using Constituency Development Funds (CDF), yet a shortage of classroom remains to date. “The school’s senior most class is standard five, we have no idea where to take them when they get to standard six,” the local area Chairman said. Currently, Nursery school class pupils study under a tree.
Through it all though, Mawele has learnt to survive.
During his spare time, he repairs radios for villagers together with their pangas (machetes) and knives, onto which he fits rubber handles cut from used vehicle tyres. “What else can you do here? People are happy . . . and the rubber handles last forever,” he said.
Just like the Mandera based teachers, Mawele is lucky to see his family 3 times a year, and Christmas time is a big deal!
As a nation, we owe a lot more to teachers like Mawele than just security. May God help us.