Last Friday (5th of May) a gang of armed men attacked the school. No one was killed. Everybody who was there that day managed to escape and there were only minor injuries. However, the school was badly damaged.
Thankfully this was a holiday week for the primary children, so the school was not full of young kids. It was still open though, every weekday during the holiday the school has been open for adult learners and the library and classrooms are used by secondary school students who need a place to do their homework.
When the armed men attacked, they opened fire indiscriminately, luckily our buildings are well spread out and most of the people were able to run away quickly into the surrounding bush. People from the nearby homes also fled.
It was not until late on Saturday morning, when the police finally arrived at the school, that we knew for sure that nobody had been hurt.
On Sunday the police provided security for staff and parents to visit the school. The damage is extensive. The Leopard and Cheetah classrooms have been burned, with just walls left standing. The Lion classroom also housed the TV, laptops and our wonderful library of fiction and reference books, all of which are now lost. The nursery class was badly vandalized. The one bit of good news is that the Rhino classroom only has broken windowpanes.
Six of the eight staff rooms were burned. Three that had wooden walls have been reduced to the concrete foundations, those with stone walls are still standing but need new roofs. The two other staff rooms were looted and vandalized. All the staff have lost everything they had there. The bullet holes in the still standing stone walls shows their deadly intent.
The kitchen was looted but not burned. They vandalized the biogas digester; they tore the plastic from the greenhouse. The solar power system is destroyed, and the water pumps were stolen or burned. They also burned the school car; that for the last 10 years has brought all the food and materials into the school and taken anybody who needed it, at any hour of the day or night, to hospital.
I know this recounting is deeply distressing to read, but knowing what we have lost is the first stage in rebuilding.
Because of course we will be rebuilding.
Anybody who targets women and children through acts of terror such as this, for any end, must be opposed in every way possible. Whatever their intended aims by taking food and education away from children, and from the women hoping to improve their own lives alongside them, we must not let this stand. We cannot let these criminals achieve their aims and we must not let the women and children of this community down.
However great the loss, ‘things’ or buildings, even a vehicle or a library, can be replaced. What is much more difficult to repair is the damage this has done to the fragile belief in a better life, that the women and children in this community were nurturing. If we let this destruction stand, if we walk away now in frustration or because the constant struggle to achieve something decent here has worn us down, what lesson will these most vulnerable of people learn? The women will now know for certain that they can never stand up to a man in their society because nobody will stand with them. The children will put away forever the dreams they had of a safer and better life. We can’t let that happen.
The motives for this attack, against the education and well-being of children, are still not fully understood. I fear we will never get a better explanation for what they have done than simple selfish greed, enabled by lawlessness. It is heartening that people in senior positions in the police and local government are taking this case very seriously.
It is important to push hard for legal justice and recognition (alongside the clearing up and rebuilding) because we want the children of this community to grow up believing that a fair and democratic future is possible, and worth fighting for.