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Report: Politicians, churches top list of grabbers of schools’ land

A report commissioned by the Nairobi County government has revealed the extent of the threat posed by land grabbers.

The grabbing of a playground belonging to Lang’ata Road Primary School has highlighted the parlous state of much of city schools’ land.

A report on education, commissioned by Governor Evans Kidero in July last year, describes a ring of faceless but powerful cartels who enjoy high-level protection.

“There is indeed grabbing, widespread misappropriation by individuals, annexing, diverting and selling of public schools land. Those perceived to be following up are often intimidated and threatened by the cartels, whose roots extend to authorities within city hall,” says the report.

Ironically, the task force chaired by the county executive in charge of education Christopher Khaemba, revealed that the faceless grabbers are aided by officials in the Lands Ministry and City Hall.

More than 50 public schools in the city are said to have lost their land to grabbers. Some of them are Kabiria Primary, Ngong Forest Primary, Olympic Primary, Uhuru Gardens Primary, Our Lady Of Mercy and Kamukunji Secondary schools.

“The task force received various complaints and established that there was serious threat to school land.

It was evident the officials are losing control of the schools as we observed that out of every 10 schools we visited, one had a problem where its land had been illegally encroached on,” said the report.

Racecourse Primary School is one such institution that has been engaged in a seven-year court battle to recover land allegedly grabbed by a city politician in 2007.

ILLEGAL SETTLERS

The Judiciary has been slow to determine the dispute filed in 2008, with efforts to trace the file at the Land and Environment registry turning up no results.

Several similar cases have been referred to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation.

What is worrying, according to the report, is that it is not only the individuals, illegal settlers, private developers and cartels who have been behind the illegal and inappropriate grabbing of school lands.

“There are instances where religious institutions come under the guise of assisting schools and put up facilities like toilets but later ask to be allowed to use part of school land, which they eventually acquire in collaboration with the authorities at city hall and ministry of land,” said the report.

In other instances, the grabbing of the school land is carefully planned and executed through non-confrontational approaches where the grabbers secure court orders through forged documents and questionable circumstances to claim part of or entire school property.

According to the report, the land grabbing is further aided by confusion of who owns the school land and the total acreage.

The task force said their attempts to uncover the identities of the land grabbers were stymied by staff at City Hall’s Land department, who refused to give information due to vested interests and the fear of victimization.

The blame further extends to the Judiciary.

“There is widespread misuse of the legal process to protect the grabbers. In some cases, courts make rulings in favour of the encroachers in total disregard of the rights of the school children,” said the report.

At Uhuru Gardens Primary School, the report said, part of the school land has been grabbed and fenced off.

ORIGINAL LAND

“In Kabiria Primary School, the school had 10.3 acres but a former politician hived off 3.4 acres. Reports by surveyors show that Olympic Primary School land is diminishing yet the original land is estimated to be nine acres,” said the report.

At Kinyanjui Road Primary School, a church allegedly moved into the school and acquired part of the land where they built another school.

Another church also allegedly moved into Riruta Primary School and obtained a court order in 2006 claiming ownership of part of the land.

The task force also recommended the county government find other land to relocate the Catholic school since the Holy Family Minor Basilica had decided to expand its facilities.

Yet another church is thought to have encroached on Madaraka Primary School land through a questionable letter of authorisation from the city planning department.

The task force established that there were serious threats to the existence of some schools in the city, which is exacerbated by the inability of the county government to protect the schools from grabbers.

The report identified only four schools: Ngei Primary, Toi Primary, Kawangware Primary and Karen C Primary as being fully secure partly due to the political goodwill they enjoy and support from the community around them.

One of the recommendations of the task force is that  the county government urgently investigate the procedures and agreements surrounding acquisition of the school land.

“The county government should establish the original status of all public schools. They should immediately prosecute those involved and provide the schools with titles.”