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Coronavirus in Kenya: How it turned classrooms into chicken coops



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Joseph Maina has transformed the classrooms in his school

Kenya’s decision to close all schools until next January because of coronavirus has left many of its private schools struggling to survive, as Basillioh Mutahi and Mercy Juma report.

The classrooms at Mwea Brethren School, which once resonated to the sound of children learning, are now filled with a cacophony of clucking chickens.

On the chalkboard, maths equations have been replaced by a vaccination schedule.

Joseph Maina, who owns the central Kenyan school, has had to turn to nurturing animals to earn some money as he is no longer getting an income from providing an education.

‘Vital for survival’

Things were especially tough in March, when all the schools were told to close, as he was still repaying a loan and had to renegotiate with the bank.

At first, it seemed that everything was lost, but “we decided that we must do something [with the school] for survival”, Mr Maina tells the BBC.

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Desks have been pushed to one side at Mwea Brethren to make way for farm supplies

As private schools, which educate around a fifth of Kenyan children, rely on fees for their income, their enforced closure has meant that they cannot pay the staff and many are in serious financial trouble.

A small number of schools have managed to continue teaching through online learning, but the fees they are getting barely cover teachers’ basic living expenses, according to the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA).

About 95% of the more than 300,000 private-school staff members have been sent on unpaid leave, KPSA chief executive Peter Ndoro says.

In addition, 133 schools have been forced to close permanently.

‘Never this bad’

In order to avoid taking this drastic measure, Roka Preparatory, another school in central Kenya, has also converted its premises into a farm.

“Things have never been this bad,” James Kung’u, who founded the school 23 years ago, tells the BBC.

Outside, vegetables are now growing in what was the playground.

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The playground of Roka Preparatory School has been turned into a vegetable farm

He is also rearing chickens.

“My situation is similar to other schools. I struggle to fuel the car. The teachers and the students are no longer here. Psychologically, we are very much affected,” Mr Kung’u says.

Both Mwea Brethren and Roka have retained only two employees, who are helping with the farm work.

“It is not for riches. We are comfortable… at least you are not bored, you are busy and it’s like therapy,” says Mr Kung’u.

No role for teachers

While the two schools have found an alternative source of income, the owners worry about the fate of their teachers, who have had to go without pay for five months.

This is in contrast to staff at state-run schools, who have been receiving their salaries.

Mr Maina says some teachers in his school have called him to ask if there is anything they can do. “But unfortunately we don’t even have enough to feed ourselves,” he says.

Macrine Otieno


I have been trying to hustle a bit to find something for my child, but it has not been easy”

As a consequence, many have turned to alternative professions.

Macrine Otieno, who taught for six years at a private school in the capital, Nairobi, was evicted from her house after she was unable to pay her rent.

She took a job as a live-in nanny to be able to get shelter and food.

“Since we had our first case of coronavirus in Kenya, and the schools were closed, there has been nothing for me to do.

“I have been trying to hustle a bit to find something for my child, but it has not been easy,” she tells the BBC.

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Gloria Mutuku, a teacher in eastern Kenya, decided to become an entrepreneur and took a loan to start a business selling groceries when the schools closed.

She hopes her business will do well and does not plan to go back to teach even when the schools reopen.

Her idea is not uncommon and furthermore there is a question mark over whether the private schools will be able to reopen, as adapting to coronavirus could impose extra costs.

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Media captionCoronavirus in Kenya: What it’s like learning under lockdown

KPSA wants the government to help resolve the financial problem through grants totalling $65m (£50m). It is also hoping that the teachers stay in the profession.

“There is need for the government to support private schools because they contribute so significantly to the economy and actually reduce the expenditure of the government on education,” Mr Ndoro says.

If the money is not forthcoming “some of the schools may not be able to survive”, he warns.

The ministry has offered help through a concessionary loan that will be available to those establishments that qualify but Mr Ndoro fears it won’t be enough to save all the country’s schools.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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