Sadly no one at Olng’arua School is a stranger to the sound of gunfire. Little over a year ago most were, but not now. In May 2015, after years of being the peaceful corner of Isiolo County, a low level but persistent conflict between different pastoralist groups broke out.
The school found itself positioned on the front line of this conflict. Many months of last year were extremely difficult at the school because of this. Things were made worse by the drought and severe lack of food in the community. Around 200 people fled their homes, many have yet to return. The school continued through it all however. Providing a safe place for the children to forget, for a short while at least, the troubles affecting the area and their community.
One day last week, just as the whole school was heading to the field to play football, a gunshot rang out. It was followed by another and then another. The gunshots were close to the school and became persistent.
Everyone followed the standard drill. Quickly, but calmly, the whole school moves to the large classroom and we take a head count. We then wait for the gunfire to stop. When it does we then either take the children to their homes or continue to take care of them at the school depending on the security situation. We had an elephant drawing contest while we waited.
It turns out that this days gunfire was not actually aimed at anybody. The army were training in the area and had either forgotten to tell us or had mistaken the location of the school…. it was unclear which.
It was frightening for the children (and probably rather frightening for our visitors too) but in the end it was just a drill for the army and it was also a drill for us. Things here have been quieter, less violent, for the last few months. But the reality of living in an insecure area is that you never know when something like that can happen for real. It is very important that everyone in the school is prepared and knows what to do in the event of conflict close to the school. Just like fire drills at other schools, being prepared helps to keep students and staff safe.
The army were very apologetic for scaring us and have promised to ring us with at least a weeks notice of any future training in the area.