Almost 100 schools in Kenya were forced to close after numerous teachers said they would not work as long as attacks from Islamist militant group al-Shabaab were occurring.
The most recent attack happened in April when 148 students were killed at Garissa University College. According to reports, the group separated the Christian students from the Muslim students before killing the Christians. The attack lasted for 10 hours before authorities finally responded to the scene, well after the first responders were able to shoot and kill four of the terrorists.
The attack is the most deadly to date. Al-Shabaab has carried out a host of such attacks in recent years.
“Teachers left and did not report back, so some schools have since closed down,” Joseph Alessandro, Coadjutor Bishop of the Garissa Diocese told Religion News Service.
One teacher felt that the terror group carried out the attack in an effort to scare teachers in the region, causing them to leave their positions. In February, 700 teachers in the region went on strike and asked to be relocated to safer sections of the country, writes Lucinda Borkett-Jones for Christian Today. While the area is predominantly Muslim, many of the teachers are Christian.
“They want to make sure they terrify the teachers so they go to their homes – so the kids in this area don’t get what they deserve,” said James Ndonye, head of Ibnu-Siina school, just down the road from Garissa University.
A number of the attacks carried out by the group do appear to be targeting teachers. In November, over 20 teachers were killed while traveling home for Christmas and the Somali Ministry of Education was also hit in April, killing at least 6 people.
Others feel the attacks on educational establishments are in accordance with the practices of Islamist group Boko Haram, who view schools as an unwelcome Western influence.
According to Jacob Kaimenyi, cabinet secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Education, 95 public schools have closed in the region, with the Ministry saying that they would be closed indefinitely. He added that an additional 500 schools could find themselves in the same situation as over 2,000 teachers in the area have refused to return to work.
While public schools in the area are closing, Alessandro said church schools are doing their best to continue to operate despite a decreasing number of students and teachers in attendance.
“We are trying our best not to shut down. Parents had asked for security in schools and the government has provided some,” he said.