The ongoing post-election violence has cost many lives and uprooted thousands of families who just a month ago lived happily in their homes unaware of the brutality and desperation that would displace them and make them refugees in their own country.
But the situation is probably more precarious for children who witnessed the violence as marauding arsonists attacked, destroyed property, burned down homes, churches and schools. Some children witness teachers being chased away, not necessarily by unknown persons but their former students who had joined in the skirmishes. Such cataclysmic events will affect schooling in violence-hit areas, especially in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces. Even in areas where schools are intact, some teachers do not feel safe and may request to be transferred. According to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), teachers will not be forced to work in violence-hit areas.
The problem is already pervasive in national, provincial and district boarding secondary schools, where many students have not reported, although schools have opened. Students are stuck in their home areas, as roads are barricaded and public transport made insecure by gangs split on ethnic lines, armed with machetes, arrows and other crude weapons. Many students are still in the internally displaced camps in class-hit areas with no chance of going back to school anytime soon. Some of them have become heads of families after their parents were killed, while others will just drop out of school in frustration after their families lost everything they owned in the conflict.
Unfortunately the grim reality now is that the post-election violence has overnight transformed school-age going children from benign political bystanders to converts of narrow ethnic political bigotry. In the absence of familial support and protection, such children are in danger of being recruited by fringe militia such as Mungiki and made to take part in killing, torture, rape, pillaging and looting among other unlawful activities.
According to Mrs Grace Machel, one of the emminent Africans in the Kofi Annan team trying to find a solution to the post-election violence, children from impoverished and marginalised backgrounds or separated from their families are many times likely to be forcibly recruited, coerced and induced to become combatants. Machel’s concern for children in violence hit areas is real in that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are about 300, 000 children in armed conflict in 30 countries worldwide. Many of these children are recruited before they reach the age of two and almost a third are young girls,". Say UNHCR.
This situation is not so different for children in the internally displaced camps in different parts of the country. Reports from Rift Valley indicate that several primary schools have been started to ensure that they continue with their education. However, such schools are not likely to replace the destroyed schools in the minds of the children, who are traumatized, as they faced an uncertain future.
Most of theses children, especially those who lost their parents are likely to suffer psychological damage and may be unable to cope with high demands of schooling. Evidence indicates that many children in refugee camps lack self-esteem, feel stigmatised and often stay out of school and eventually drop out altogether. Amid psychological trauma and stress, children in refugee camps and areas of armed conflict are exposed to hunger and disease. In this context girls are likely to suffer sexual exploitation and harassment. "It is not uncommon for girls in such circumstances to face a heightened risk of rape, sexual humiliation, prostitution or any other forms of gender-based violence.
But the most chilling aspect of the post- election conflict is that it is a no holds barred affair. It has made victims of non-combatants, women and children. While fierce in battle, the rules and customs of those societies (African), only a few generations ago, made it taboo to attack women and children. To avoid further dislocation of communities, there is urgent need for reconciliation and embracing a process of re-integration with the aim of helping children to establish contact with their families and return to their homes or resettled elsewhere. Unless this is done urgently, many children are at risk of being deprived many of the normal opportunities for physical, emotional and intellectual development.
Taking into account that education is a fundamental right for all children, there is need for them to resume normal schooling as quickly as possible. In addition to establishing counseling services for the children in the affected areas, teachers there must establish the learning routine, giving space to children to socialize and promote self-esteem.
It is quite evident that some children lost parents in the violence and are likely to suffer humiliation, rejection and possibly discrimination. Schools and teachers should reach out to such victims of abuse of human rights.
Call for more information +254 733453 339
Prepared By. Johnstone Sikulu Wanjala.
Sima Community Based Organization
PO BOX 1691, kitale 30200, Kenya.
SIMA COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANISATION Background SIMA CBO is a
non-governmental, non-profitable community centered organization. It
was formed in 1993 and registered in 1994 with the Government of Kenya
(Ministry of Culture and Social Services)
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