NAIROBI, Jan. 25, 01 (CWNews.com) -- An impasse between the Catholic
Church and the Kenyan government, over five parochial schools that have
been closed down, is now in its second week.
The Kenyan government insists that the schools must be opened
immediately. The Church-- which runs the schools-- has told parents and
students that they will remain closed. More than 2,000 students have been
affected by the school closings.
The key issue in the dispute is whether the government will be able to
dictate the terms of instruction in Catholic schools.
At the end of the December holidays, the Catholic Church in a western
province of Kenya told students not attend the scheduled re-opening of the
five Church-sponsored schools. The schools would be closed, the Church
officials said, citing problems of mismanagement.
The Catholic Church in Kenya sponsors about 3,700 primary and secondary
schools, and numerous technical schools. In fact the Church has been
responsible for founding all the major schools in the country. The Church has
maintained a strong tradition of running those schools professionally.
The controversy surrounding the schools is a major indication that people in
Kenya are becoming more assertive, demanding to know the way their
institutions are being run. Citizens have begun telling the government that
their wishes must be respected, and acted upon. They want assurances that
institutions will hear their voices. And they also want assurances that these
institutions will be run by leaders who display a high level of prudence in
The Catholic Church of Kenya has complained that the government's Ministry
of Education has been frustrating Catholic efforts to run Church-related
schools efficiently. According to the Father Muturi Njuguna, the government
ministry has tried to sideline Church officials, giving them no say in the
management of the schools the Church has sponsored. Catholic officials have
replied by saying that the government is violating the terms of the country's
Education Act, and letting the public know that the government does not
involve them in most of the decision-making on problems affecting the
schools. These complaints came to a head in the western district where the
Church officials finally decided that the schools were mismanaged, and
should be closed down.
The Kenyan government, in the person of the education minister, Kalonzo
Musyoka, has responded to these complaints by saying that the Catholic
institutions should stick to their educational mandate and stop causing
confusion. The minister said that his ministry was empowered by the law to
order the re-opening of the schools in the western district. Musyoka charged
that the instructions issued by authorities of the Catholic Church, telling
students to stay home, were unlawful, and that the Church directives were
causing confusion among the members of the public.
The Kenyan Church's Justice and Peace Commission supports the Church
officials' decision to close the schools. Seliva Waitutu, who chairs the
commission, said the Church should be able to investigate the schools'
management without political interference. "Our joy is the ensure that the
schools we sponsor are well run," she said. "But efforts to correct anomalies
in those schools have not borne any fruit."
The Church's role in the development and provision of education in Kenya
remains undisputable. Since the coming of the missionaries, who established
schools on the Kenyan coast in the 19th century, the story of educational
development in Kenya has been synonymous with the Catholic Church.
(preceding article written by Fredrick Nzwili)