‘This used to be a battlefield’: The story of West Pokot’s peace schools - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

‘This used to be a battlefield’: The story of West Pokot’s peace schools

 

For 40 years, West Pokot has been the Wild Wild West of Kenya, a haven for banditry and cattle rustling between local and Ugandan communities. But peace is starting to take root thanks to efforts to unite the next generation through integrated education.

The county is setting up six peace schools along the borders. Katikomor, Akulo and Kanyerus peace schools are under construction, and students have already enrolled. Other border schools will be built at Sabulmoi, Kamelei and Nasal and Chuwuwai.

Governor John Lonyangapuo said classrooms, dormitories and administration blocks at the three initial schools are almost complete.

“The schools will inculcate the virtue of peaceful coexistence among pupils, who will be drawn from various communities that in the past were hostile to one another,” he said.

“It’s only through education that our people can stay in peace and harmony.  Education will help open the minds of the people." 

For peace to be sustained at the borders, he said, a multi-faceted approach is needed.

“Insecurity and cattle rustling are equivalent to death. We don’t want our people to continue living in fear in this era,” he said, adding that the schools are the pillars of peace.

Katikomor peace school is on the Kenya-Uganda border and will accommodate pupils from the Pokot, Luhya and Sebei communities.

Kanyerus peace border school is also on that border and will accommodate pupils from Kenya and Bukwo district in Uganda. Akulo school will host children from the county and the neighbouring Turkana county.

Sarmach Primary School has also been enjoined as one of the peace schools.

“We have already bought a 52-seater bus for the school to help pick pupils drawn from far-flung areas,” he said.

The national government and well-wishers should join efforts to build the schools since they will help cement peace in the region, Lonyangapuo said.

This place where the school has been set up was a battlefield for cattle rustlers. We are seeing the importance of the school since communities have already begun to integrate
Joseph Ruto

FRUITS OF PEACE

Residents of Katikomor have welcomed the project, saying it has enabled them to live in harmony with their neighbours.

Joseph Ruto thanked the governor for the initiative, saying the schools have helped unite children from warring communities.

“This place where the school has been set up was a battlefield for cattle rustlers. We are seeing the importance of the school since communities have already begun to integrate,” he said.

Kanyerus chief Samuel Kamsee said the schools will help instil good manners in the pupils.

“When our children grow up, they will know the importance of staying together,” he said.

He said the schools will help shape the minds of the children to understand that they need each other, and that for development to occur, there must be peace.

Another resident from Kanyerus, Francis Tukol, said currently, they can walk along the border without fear.

“I'm happy the governor decided to set up the schools and allow children from warring regions to school together. This has barred those who may still be rooted to the culture to abandon it for the sake of their children,” he said.

The county has received Sh31 million from donors to help in the implementation of the project. It is also setting up teachers' houses in the schools. 

Lonyangapuo said the county has good relations with donors from outside the country who have agreed to help in setting up the houses.

“We want to rewrite the history of this county. We have moved from cattle rustling to book rustling. Soon we are going to be on the Kenyan map among schools that post good results,” he said.

We want to rewrite the history of this county. We have moved from cattle rustling to book rustling. Soon we are going to be on the Kenyan map among schools that post good results
John Lonyangapuo

SAFE SPACE FOR GROWTH

Kacheliba constituency in Pokot North, which is now implementing various multimillion-shilling projects that had stalled over the years due to the escalation of insecurity.

Kacheliba CDF manager Wilson Koringura said they are impressed by the restoration of calm along the common border as most projects had stalled due to attacks.

He said ongoing projects include construction of schools and dispensaries.

The CDF manager said the region has huge potential but many children had been locked out of school due to the frequent attacks that forced them to migrate to safer places.

“Residents have now moved back to their homes and there is a high demand for education. Many children are thirsty for education,” he said.

The manager said he is happy they can now complete projects within the stipulated time due to peaceful coexistence.

“Initially we could not tell when a project would be complete due to cases of insecurity. Right now the security of our contractors and workers is guaranteed, and this has enabled us carry out the projects in a peaceful environment,” he said.

KNCCI West Pokot chairman Mark Lotee has asked investors to come and invest in the county since it’s secure.

Lotee said past cases of cattle rustling should not scare investors from investing in the region since leaders have joined efforts to end conflicts among neighbouring communities.

“We have experienced relative peace along our borders with our neighbours, and that’s why we are calling on investors to invest in this county that is rich with resources,” he said.

Lotee said the Kenyan and Ugandan governments signed an agreement to carry out cross-border projects, which is a clear indication that the regions have embraced peace and are in dire need of development.

“Our regions are now safe and residents are thirsty for development that will help open the region and offer employment opportunities to youths,” he said.

The chairman asked traders to take advantage of the Kitale-Lodwar-Southern Sudan highway to do business.

“The highway is safe and we encourage our communities to engage in various businesses to help them earn a living,” he said.

Peace ambassador Joseph Akaule asked the county and national governments to take advantage of the peace to initiate projects.

Akaule said they have registered more than 60 groups of reformed warriors, and he asked the county to support the groups.

“Many youths have decided to abandon cattle rustling and form groups that will enable them to engage in income-generating activities,” he said.

The peace ambassador called on the authorities to invest in agricultural activities along the borders. He said the county is endowed with many permanent rivers, and the government should set up irrigation schemes along them.

“When we have enough food, the relative peace we have for now will last forever,” he said.

HELPING THE TRANSITION

The West Pokot government has started supporting youths who have abandoned cattle rustling and banditry to invest in business.

The county has unveiled Sh40.5 million Co-operative Development Fund channelled through saccos and other cooperatives. The funds are meant to help the youths acquire loans to engage in business.

Many reformed warriors have acquired motorbikes through the Wepesa sacco and are now boda boda operators.

Through the  fund, Wepesa sacco has enabled boda boda operators to purchase 100 motorbikes through loans.

Members of the sacco can acquire motorcycles for business by securing a loan at a minimal downpayment of Sh20,000.

The funding, in addition, enhances access to loans and cushions residents against exploitative money-lending institutions.

Lonyangapuo said the fund will help empower and create wealth for its members. He said a board has been constituted to help manage the funds and ensure those who qualify benefit.

He said the contribution of the boda boda industry to Kenya’s economy cannot be understated.

“We have moved to improve the lives of more than 5,000 boda boda riders who are members of the sacco by offering them quick ways of acquiring boda boda loans,” the governor said.

He added that the boda boda industry is becoming entrenched as a major part of the economy and a source of employment and livelihood to many people.

County Boda Boda Sacco chairman Moses Kasiwa said the programme has benefited many youths, who have been transformed.

“Boda boda riders pay Sh20,000 and Sh300 every day and are given a motorbike,” he said.


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