Numerous presidential directives have been issued since President Uhuru Kenyatta first assumed office. One of these includes a 2015 directive that all public schools in the country be titled. This came as a response to the now famous demonstration by the Langata Primary School community on 19th January 2015, where innocent but brave pupils were teargassed for defending their school land.
Today, some of these pupils are in University, while others are at different stages of their academic journeys. And while their brevity will remain in our national psyche for many years to come, the fruits of their courage have not fully paid off, as the school remains untitled more than six years later.
Admittedly, there has been notable progress towards securing school land since 2015. Key among the milestones include the gazettement of a Multi-Agency Working Group on school titling in 2018, which brought together the Ministries of Education, Lands, the National Lands Commission, and other key state agencies tasked with the mandate to accelerate the titling of public schools. As of 2015, only 4,999 schools had been titled since independence. Today, over 12,000 schools have been titled as a result of the multi-agency efforts, out of a total 32,354 public schools in the country.
While this progress is encouraging, many other schools have continued to report encroachment and alleged grabbing of their spaces, threatening their potential to uphold the fundamental right to education. For instance, Vikutsa Primary in Kakamega County, remains embroiled in a feud which threatens the loss of 11 acres of its land. Equally, Mweza Primary and Secondary Schools in Mombasa county have had a 4-year tussle involving the Kenya Navy, whom despite numerous outreach efforts, have failed to yield their grip on part of the school land. These institutions are a fragment of thousands of public schools across the country, continuously struggling to support their growing student populations under the weight of diminishing land resources as a result of grabbing or encroachment.
About 40 percent of public schools in Kenya are now titled. However, six in every ten schools remains at an active risk of losing their playgrounds, or other land related spaces. If we are unable to secure these critical public spaces as a nation, then the assurance of the right to education for every Kenyan child will sadly remain an illusion.
With just about 18 months to the end of his term, President Uhuru Kenyatta can easily influence the titling of all the remaining public schools, by drawing on the attendant goodwill from the private and civil society sectors, and in coordination with religious institutions which are sponsors to a large number of these schools. If it took just six years to title more schools than had been titled since Kenya’s independence, then securing public schools in my view, remains one of the few low-hanging fruits with a potential of securing a solid legacy for the President. This could easily be achieved through the provision of adequate budgetary allocations to the relevant ministries and agencies, which are tasked with the mandate to accelerate titling of schools. Similarly, by leveraging on the recently unveiled National Titling Programme by the Ministry of Lands, the financial hurdles relating to school land titling would easily be conquered. Additionally, the establishment of a robust accountability framework between the Presidency and all the key stakeholders involved in the school titling exercise, would go a long way in expediting the efforts to title the remaining public schools, especially those without legal tussles that could delay their titling process.
There are many ways we can address inequality in this country. Some of the solutions available are complex than others. Yet Education remains one of the most effective equalizers, and it starts with among others, securing the spaces upon which our sacred institutions stand. The titling of public schools is therefore one of the most effective efforts towards realizing a more equal Kenyan society. And as the end draws nigh for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term, here is an opportunity for him not just to fulfil a campaign promise, but to leave behind a more equitable country, and secure the future of generations coming after us.
(This article was first written on the ShuleYangu Alliance Campaign website by the author)