Arson attacks in Kenyan schools

Opposition urges Kenyan education cabinet secretary to resign over school fires.

Kenya's opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) alliance has asked the government to declare the recent spate of arson attacks on the country's schools a national disaster, after more than 100 schools were burnt across Kenya.

The opposition has urged the education cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i to resign, blaming his decision in May to ban midterm breaks, visiting days, prayer days and social activities such as prize-giving ceremonies during schools' third term.

Matiang’i said he took the measures to curb "widespread cheating" in state examinations, following the "high number of exam irregularities" uncovered last year.

He also reduced the secondary exam period from six weeks to four, as well as making major changes to the school calendar year. Term Two has been extended to finish on 12 August, rather than the previously-scheduled 5 August. The third term has been reduced from 12 weeks to nine, beginning on 29 August and ending on 28 October.

Blaming the students for the arson attacks, the education cabinet secretary was quoted as saying: "Students who have burnt their school should either learn under trees or rebuild it."

Matiang'i, who disbanded the Kenya National Examination Board in April, stated that no education ministry funding would be allocated to rebuild state schools, saying that the reconstruction should be funded by the students' parents.

He has banned the admission of pupils from burnt-down schools to other institutions unless they have clearance letters from sub-county education directors stating that they did not participate in their school's destruction.