Families in Kibera slum, Nairobi, were given two weeks before their houses, shops and schools were demolished by bulldozers at the end of July to make way for a $20 million new dual-carriageway. The demolition plan included the following schools, with the following numbers of pupils, about to take their end-of-term exams.
Egesa Children Centre – 180 children – Demolished
I love Africa Somi School – 530 children
Makina Self Help School – 150 Children – Demolished
Mashimoni Primary School – 200 children – Demolished
Mashimoni Squatters School – 576 children
New Adventure Pride Centre – 200 children – Demolished
PEFA Church School – 120 children – Demolished
The forced eviction, condemned strongly by Amnesty International, has left about 10,000 of the city’s urban poor homeless, although the government has said only 2,000 households were affected and a resettlement plan for those evicted had been completed. According to the Kenya Urban Roads Authority: “You cannot compensate someone for land that they do not own because they do not have title deeds. We will however give out something ‘small’ to help the residents relocate.”
This is indicative of the problem that most countries view slums as illegal settlements, raising issues of land ownership and the legal requirements for serving slum residents. It is the reason for the lack of free, public education for those living in slums, and the reason that the right to education of these 2,000 students was flattened in one day.
In many of the vast slums in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which are growing rapidly, the nearest public schools are on the areas’ fringes. A lack of stable, government-provided schools forces parents to choose private schools, increasing the cost of education. In Kenya, for instance, over 40% of the poorest students in slums attended private schools, which often operate in conditions so poor that they do not stand a chance of government registration, as the 2017/8 Report on accountability showed. They often employ unqualified staff and do not engage with the government for fear of closure over lack of compliance, as in Nigeria.
Perhaps, by evicting those from Kibera, the Kenyan authorities wanted to send a message to its citizens that further migration to the city is not welcome. By not improving conditions in schools in urban areas, the same message no doubt travels down the line as well.
The reasons behind the evictions are almost irrelevant, however, when governments have committed to protect their citizens’ rights to education. The distinct lack of consideration for these families calls urgently for urban planners to be educated in the needs of the marginalized slum dwellers, many of whom happen to be internal migrants, internally displaced and refugees.
The 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement will be launching in Nairobi on November 20. We look forward to presenting our policy recommendations for better managing the education of people on the move.
It is so sad when the government, whose sole responsibility is to protect the rights of its citizens violates them instead. Let’s all stand up and condemn this gross breach of human existence.