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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On the chalkboard, maths equations have been replaced by a vaccination schedule.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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FDC activists win Bank of Uganda pig case by simply keeping quiet




FDC activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja

Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has acquitted two opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja of common nuisance charges.

FDC deputy chief administrative officer Ojobile and Mayanja have been acquitted by the grade one magistrate Fidelis Otwao on charges stemming from their protest held in November 2018 when they carried pig heads to the central police station (CPS) in Kampala protesting the rot in the Bank of Uganda that had reportedly resulted into the closure of a number of commercial banks in the country for many years.

According to them, corruption at the Central bank had been the sole ingredient for the closure of commercial banks in Uganda over the years because it reportedly mismanaged them and made erroneous decisions that led to their closure.

With fresh pig heads tied around their necks and stinking blood oozing across their white T-shirts, Mayanja and Ojobile walked through the streets of Kampala to the police in a protest that was spearheaded by their pressure group known as the Jobless Youth.

One pig head had a placard bearing the name of the former and late BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and the other of his former deputy Louis Kasekende.

The protest at CPS came a few days after another that was staged at the Central bank where two piglets were dumped bearing the name of Juma Kisaame (a Muslim), the former managing director of DFCU bank. 

As a result, the duo was arrested and taken to Buganda Road court on charges of common nuisance and the prosecution adduced evidence from five witnesses who included police officers and Muslims who were reportedly angered by the protest.

According to the witnesses, the actions of Mayanja and Ojobile were annoying to the people whose names were mentioned and tagged on pig heads, and the smell that was coming out of the fresh pig heads was most likely to result in injury to a considerable number of the public by affecting their health, and the protest affected businesses since some shops allegedly had to close to see what was happening outside due to their commotion.

But when Mayanja and Ojobile were asked to defend themselves over the allegations, the duo that didn’t have legal representation chose to keep quiet as their defense and let the court make its decision based on what the prosecution witnesses had testified to.

In a judgement read today Friday by Otwao, he indicated that the evidence from the prosecution witnesses is wanting because none of the people alleged to have been annoyed by the actions of the activists testified in the case or recorded a statement with police.

According to Otwao, the testimonies were based on what the witnesses were feeling as individuals and that there were no abusive statements on the pig heads that the prosecution had indicated which would cause annoyance, save for putting the names of people only. 

As such, the court has ruled that such testimonies cannot be relied on to convict a person because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was common injury, danger to the public or destruction of property.

Consequently, the magistrate has acquitted the duo and directed that each of them starts the process to seek a refund of the Shs 500,000 that each had paid to be released on bail.

The activists have welcomed the ruling saying that the court has recognized that the citizens have a right to protest peacefully.

The pig protests have been commonly used by activists who subscribe to this group known as the Jobless Brotherhood which has since rebranded to the “Alternative”.

In 2016, their members including Luta Ferdinand who is now facing trial in the court-martial on different charges, and Joseph Lukwago were arrested for dumping piglets at parliament protesting the Shs 200 million given to each MP for buying personal cars.

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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in a single day | Death Penalty News




The death penalty applied for a range of charges in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom’s modern history.

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 men over the past 24 hours, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, on charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”, state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” SPA said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

Some travelled to conflict zones to join “terrorist organisations”, according to the SPA.

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” it said.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution was in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shia leader who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shia, in a mass execution across the country for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights records have been under increasing scrutiny from rights groups and Western allies since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

It has faced strong criticism of its restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and the implementation of the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security according to its laws.

SPA said the accused were provided with the right to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.

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Nigerian student in Ukraine: 'Mummy we keep hearing bombs'




Hauwa’s son Suleiman is a Nigerian student in Sumy – she says the family are fearful and anxious.

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