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Loreto Girls High School in Limuru closed after riots, six students arrested

Students at Loreto Girls' High School, Limuru prepare to go home on Thursday November 7, 2013 following the school's closure after the girls engaged in running battles with police Wednesday nigh

Students at Loreto Girls’ High School, Limuru prepare to go home on Thursday November 7, 2013 following the school’s closure after the girls engaged in running battles with police Wednesday nigh

Six girls from Loreto Girls High School in Limuru were on Thursday morning arrested following night riots on Wednesday.

The school was also closed after the students engaged in running battles with regular and anti-riot police.

All students in Forms One to Three classes were sent home by the school administration through a directive from the county director’s office.

This comes only 13 days before the official school closing date of November 20.

A text message sent to parents at 11pm, Wednesday night read: ‘The county director has closed the school today. Pick your daughter together with all her luggage tomorrow Thursday November 7 by 7.00am.’

Students who come from far flung areas like Mombasa, Lamu and Bungoma complained that their parents were in no position to report on short notice to the school to pick them.

However, guards at the gate said they had received strict instructions that all Forms 1-3 students must leave the school in the company of a parent or guardian.

“How will I carry my mattress, metal box and other personal belongings from Limuru to Mombasa?” wondered one student.

FEES INCREASE

Area police boss Michael Mbaluku said the students complained of an increase in school fees from Sh75,000 to Sh90,000 while they were not served chicken and snacks twice a week as promised.

They also complained that they did not go for a half-term break and that their parents were being mistreated, searched and abused on visiting days.

Mr Mbaluku added that police were forced to shoot in the air when the girls became unruly in the night destroying the locks of a police van.

They also broke the windscreen and car lights of the Administration Police (AP) commander’s vehicle and broke windows at the principal’s office.

“We have arrested six form three students who will be arraigned in court. We will also arrest more students since we have identified them and are waiting for them here at the gate as they leave,” said Mr Mbaluku.

By noon Thursday, many students were still within the school compound, not knowing where they would spend the night.

They also demanded for an audit of the school’s books of accounts and transfer of the principal.

The principal Ms Margaret Ruinge was spotted in her office speaking to the police but declined to speak to the press.

LEADERSHIP PROBLEMS

A parent to a Form Three student who was among hundreds of parents who arrived at the school alleged there was a big problem in the leadership of the school.

School fees was being raised arbitrarily almost every end of the term and parents who complained were victimised, he said.

“In Loreto, when a parent speaks out, they are victimised and branded as a bad parent while the school administration continues to increase school fees every end of the year,” the parent said.

She added that it was unreasonable for parents living far from Limuru to receive a message in the middle of the night asking them to come and pick their daughters early in the morning.

“We don’t know what happened because all parents and guardians received only a text message asking them to pick their daughters with no explanation over what happened prior to the early closure of the school,” said Arnold Magina who arrived in the school to pick up his sister.

Form Four students were worried that the chaos in the school would affect their performance in the on-going KCSE exams.

They said the night running battles with the police which started Wednesday from 6pm, had affected their revision for the Chemistry Paper 2 scheduled for Thursday morning.

There was however no disruption of the Form Four national exam.

NOT EATEN

Students leaving the school claimed they had not eaten supper or breakfast, and that the last meal they had was lunch on Wednesday afternoon.

There were also claims that one of the teachers suspected to have been sympathetic with the students’ complaints was also arrested and later released.

OCPD Mbaluku said that problems in the school started on Sunday, a visiting day, when the school administration insisted that parents must undergo thorough searches before they could see their daughters, an act that angered the students.

Later, after the parents and guardians left, the students were also searched to ensure they had no illegal substances on them like drugs, added OCPD Mbaluku.

“The searches were normal routine to ensure the school remained secure especially during this time in our country when there are security concerns,” said Mr Mbaluku.

Officials from Kiambu County education office and the sub-county security committee arrived in the school in an attempt to calm the situation.

But the students reportedly attacked them.

Anti-riot police with sniffer dogs were seen standing guard in the school as students left.

“We had a peaceful demonstration and it was wrong for the police to use force on us and beat us,” one of the students said.

-Nation

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