It’s Monday morning and everyone is in a rush here in Mukuru Kwa Njenga. Lucy and her younger sister Liza join in the rush heading to school.
Once in a while, Lucy goes back to try and drag her sister to catch up with her pace. Getting late for school means punishment for both and being in class eight that is time wasting.
Just before getting to school, Lucy and Liza have to cross a rickety man-made bridge. It is the only shortcut to school, and it stinks.
A river of open sewage passes under the bridge. Dumps of garbage are everywhere. Mosquitoes and flies use the garbage as breeding grounds.
“During the rainy season, the water rises above the bridge. One time, as I was crossing the bridge I slipped and fell in the sewage. Luckily, I had left my sister at home because of the heavy rain” says Lucy.
“A sharp object in the sewage cut my hand so deep that I had to get stitches.”
PERILS OF LIFE
Such perils are the daily life of more than 1,000 pupils of Mukuru Kwa Njenga Primary School. With no perimeter wall around the school playground, there is no barrier between the children and the sewage. The place too is unsafe.
At one corner of the play ground near the washrooms, some five men sat, smoking bhang fearlessly in full glare of police officers walking by. Furthermore, the classrooms are crammed. The colours on the doors are all faded and a few window panes broken. Never mind it cost taxpayers around Sh7 million to renovate the school.
That’s not all. Former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra bought a bus for the school. But three years down the line it has never been delivered.
Despite the school having more pressing issues like lack of tap water, inadequate classroom space, and no perimeter wall, the CDF Committee of Embakasi South bought the school bus in 2015.
According to the Auditor General’s report, of Sh5,500,000 allocated in the financial year 2014-15, Kshs. 5,382,790 was spent to purchase the bus.
BUS IS NOWHERE
Three years later, the bus is still based at the CDF headquarters at Parliament Buildings, according to former area MP Irshad Sumra. However, Nairobi News made a trip to the offices and did not find the bus.
The school principal Cyprine Aboye also says she has never seen the bus within the school premises.
She says she was never been involved in the CDF project at the school. “When the CDF office sends people here, they just come to do whatever they are supposed to do and leave. They don’t come to my office, they don’t involve me at all”, Aboye says.
“Before the purchase of the bus, Sumra called for the school management committee but when we got there, he was not there and it’s later on we heard the bus was bought and already branded Njenga Primary,’’ claims Dominic Ndung’u, the former Chairman of the school board.
“Two buses were bought, one for Njenga primary and the other one for St. Steven Secondary, which is a private school. The two buses were branded with political colors of ODM and Wiper party.”
A source who works at the CDF offices at the constituency told Nairobi News the St. Steven Secondary School Bus was acquired illegally since CDF was meant for the public projects. St. Steven Secondary School is a private institution.
Sumra takes some responsibility, saying it was a mistake.
“We made a mistake in purchasing a bus for St. Steven Secondary school, which we realized later, so we decided to allocate it to Embakasi Girls but unfortunately the bus was involved in an accident that killed people. The bus is at the garage and immediately its good we will take it to Embakasi girls” he says.
The Njenga Primary school bus was particularly active during the campaign period of last year’s general elections ferrying political supporters in plain sight of befuddled school officials.
According to 2015/16 budget allocation, Embakasi South Constituency received Sh7,680,000 for the construction of six classes, a staffroom and the headmaster’s office at Mukuru Kwa Njenga primary school. By September 2016, no work had started.
Being the only public primary school in Embakasi South, additional classes meant more children from Mukuru slums and its environs could access free education.
The last time there was hope for the construction of the classroom to continue was in September 2016 when Mukuru Vumilia Self Help Group, a community-based organization wrote a petition questioning the management of the funds.
“After they heard about the petition, that’s the time they brought back the construction equipment to the school which they took away a while ago. That was in 2016 but since then the project has stopped again,” says Nelson Ochieng, the group’s chairperson.
Construction of the six classes has stalled since then. During a visit at Mukuru Kwa Njenga primary school with Mr Ndung’u, the former school chairman, the classes stood halfway complete. The incomplete walls already had cracks.
“The reason the classes are cracked is that of poor workmanship because the whole project was done in a hurry after the community group wrote a petition to the CDF committee”, said Ndungu.
The group wrote a petition to Parliament, the office of Director Public Prosecutions, Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission and NGO’s like Kituo Cha Sheria. Three years down the line, nothing has been done.
It was under Sumra’s watch that both the bus project and the classroom development kicked off and later stalled.
“Because of lack of public participation, a bus was bought for a school that has no perimeter wall and a title deed,” said Mr Ndungu.
We spoke to Sumra about this and he took responsibility. “As an area member of parliament, we know what is to be (pro)cured.”
He was, however, unwilling to take responsibility for the alleged misuse of the bus and the accusations of lack of public participation raised by the petition. He instead directed the blame at the school.
“The bus belongs to Njenga primary school but it has been at the CDF headquarters Parliament Buildings because the school doesn’t have a registration from the ministry of education and a perimeter wall around the school”, said Sumra.
Every financial year 2.5 percent of the total revenue raised nationally is set aside according to the NG-CDF Act to be shared among the constituencies towards implementation of community projects. That is Sh30.9 billion for the year 2017/2018 National Budget.
The funds go into schools and security-related projects such as police stations, as well as bursaries. Previously, the funds were also used in health, water and road projects which are now managed by National Government following new rules for CDF.
Every year in the Auditor General’s report, one can pick out uncompleted projects that have been funded 100 per cent. On the ground, these projects are in their initial stages.
This sense of helplessness among community and school administration in the face of such brazen misuse of resources was part of the motivation that drove Mukuru Vumilia Self Help Group to write their petition against the now-defunct CDF committee.
One of the main issues the group wanted to be addressed in the petition was lack of public participation in identification and prioritization of the projects.
Every year, millions of taxpayer’s Shillings are lost in ghost projects funded through the Constituency Development Fund. School going children like Lucy and Liza will continue to suffer for as long as resources continue to be plundered.