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26 January 2012
Even as the country gears up for the next General Election, some parents are reluctant to send their children to schools in perceived election hotspots.
Education was one of the sectors affected by ethnic violence that rocked the country after the 2007 election.
In Rift Valley, for instance, several learners had to be transfered to other schools after they were displaced by the violence.
And while there have been no reports of ethnic animosity in the Rift Valley currently, some parents are not taking the safety of their children for granted.
This year's Form One selection has reignited the mistrust among communities in the province as some parents shun some schools.
"My boy has secured a place in Form One at Kagumo High School in Nyeri but since the political situation is still shaky and unstable I would rather look for another school in Kericho," said a parent.
Another parent refused to take his son to Litein High School in Kericho fearing he may be caught up in another post-election crisis.
"My child cannot go to school within that area because what I witnessed during the violence is still fresh in my mind," said the parent.
However, Rift Valley provincial director of education Beatrice Adu said her office was yet to receive complaints from parents, who want to transfer their children to other schools.
"Parents are registering with school principals and if there will be any changes I should be able to let you know by February 16 when the school principals return the lists," said Ms Adu.
Education secretary George Godia has asked parents to either take their children to the schools they had been admitted to or lose the slots.
"To enhance national cohesion students are expected to report to any school in any region. This is the only way we can deal with ethnicity," said Mr Godia
Thousands of students were displaced from their homes and schools in the Rift Valley and could only complete their studies in transitional schools.
Some schools have launched programmes to ensure ethnic harmony among students to change parents' attitude.
Nakuru Boys High School, for instance, has launched a national cohesion and integration club to prepare the students for any eventuality as the country prepares for elections.
"As a national school at the heart of the Rift Valley where we witnessed some of the ugliest scenes of violence, we feel obliged to take an early lead in preventing such a scenario from happening again," said the school principal John arap Kirui.
He went on: "Previously we never prepared our students for the outcome of elections and related challenges and that is why as a leading national school in the province we have decided to take early measures."
Mr Kirui, who is also the chairman of the Rift Valley Secondary School Heads Association, said they would spread the idea to all the schools in the province.
He said 12 schools in the region had registered to participate in specilised games on cohesion.
The games will be played under three themes -- If not me , who will propagate violence; if not now, when?; If not here, where in the province?
The finals will be held at Nakuru Boys on February 11.
Mr Kirui said students should be taught to appreciate unity in diversity.
"At Nakuru Boys we witnessed pupils who were friendly to one another suddenly start seeing their colleagues on tribal lines after the violence and as a national school we would not like that to happen again," said Mr Kirui.
Values of love
He added: "The best way to end such feelings is to inculcate the values of love and understanding to our children and this should start with us teachers by loving and appreciating each other."
The school has also strengthened its guidance and counselling programme to ensure traumatised students get help.
"We turned Nakuru Boys into a haven of peace for the displaced students but it was not easy as the trauma that some students had undergone was enormous," said Mr Kirui.
The violence impacted negatively on the school performance as they were forced to accommodate many students displaced by the elections violence.
The cohesion club has also introduced weekly lessons on elections and leadership.
"The students elect their leaders and even have their own independent electoral commission, which picks commissioners from varied communities, race and religious backgrounds to serve as members," said Mr Kirui
Form Four student Collins Mandela, 17, is a member of the committee.
"We had a tough experience in 2007 and as young people we need to take the first intiative," said Mandela.
Japeth Isaboke, 17, said he would spread the cohession message to his community.
"I decided to join the cohesion and integration club so that when I go back to my community once I finish school I can teach them the value of living together irrespective of our tribal backgrounds," said Form Four student Enock Okwatch said the club was meat to help them stop ethnic prejudices.
"I want to view fellow Kenyans as brother and sisters and not as a Luo or Kikuyu or any other tribe," said Okwatch, who wants to study law at university.
Nakuru Boys students council chairman Mohammed Mwinyi said what happened in 2007 was an eye opener for the youths.