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Students in Kenya Block Streets With Desks to Protest Their School’s Demolition

They're not letting class be dismissed without a fight.

By Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
school crop

A school in Kenya was demolished over the weekend following a land dispute. But the young students there wanted the world to know school’s not out for them yet.

Dozens of youngsters who attended the Kenyatta Golf Course Academy in Nairobi on Monday dragged their desks and chairs into a major roadway to protest the school’s demolition.

Parents and teachers joined the students, who donned their school uniforms and backpacks to protest. They blocked traffic during rush hour, corralling commuters into an impromptu class. “We want our school, we need to study in school!” the students chanted.

To make matters worse, it appears the school was destroyed without any prior warning to parents — who had already paid their children’s tuition for the year. The school was on land that belonged to a church, and the school was destroyed without warning on Saturday over a land dispute, though exact details of the dispute weren’t made immediately clear.

Doreen Musungu, the school’s headmistress, said the school was first given the land in 2010. Authorities later told them to leave but didn’t offer them any warning of destroying the school, she said.

“Yes the land is theirs but we want that they at least give us time and even notices because parents have started paying their school fees,” she said in an interview with Kenyan news outlet Capital FM Kenya. “Now we are in a fix because we didn’t have any notices,” she said.  

Here’s how one despondent student reacted:

It’s not the first time a Kenyan school was destroyed over property issues. Several schools in Kenya were demolished in recent years after disputes over land deeds, most of which stemmed from corruption. Corrupt officials made it a habit of handing out multiple title deeds for the same property to line their pockets with extra cash.

In 2015, Kenyan police sparked international outcry after they fired tear gas into crowds of school children. The children were protesting the sale of their playground to a private developer, despite the playground being on public land.

Photo credit: MOSES MUOKI/CAPITAL FM Kenya

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer