Ruthless developers are literally undermining a Kenyan school in an attempt to capture the rights to valuable land, alleges a priest with wide experience of the country.
Most new development in Kenya is informal. Land piracy has long been a significant factor in urban development. Schools have become especially vulnerable, so much so that in January 2015 a presidential directive was issued to grant title to all public schools. However, to date the first title to a school has still to be issued.
Father Gabriel Dolan, an Irish missionary based in Mombasa, writes in the Kenyan national newspaper Daily Nation reports on the threats faced by the Lang’ata Primary School, in Nairobi. The school’s location is close to the line planned for a new railway linking the capital with Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa. There is also a new bypass road project in the vicinity. Suddenly the 8 acre school site is valuable land. Dolan records that “A nearby company called Colfax Holdings Limited has produced a title deed claiming that the school property is theirs.”
He adds “They offered to relocate the school but when the ‘kind’ offer was declined by the school committee, the company proceeded to excavate the land underneath and to demolish adjacent parents’ homes. Now, the school lies precariously on top of a hill, with the children climbing cliffs to access their classrooms.” There are 1200 pupils and the school has operated since 1966.
Sadly, this appears to be no isolated incident. Dolan describes it as part of a “larger scam to gain titles to public land and seek billions in compensation from taxpayers.” In a separate article he highlights the threat of eviction facing Mwamdudu Primary School, and again names Colfax Holdings Limited. This school is in Kwale County, near Mombasa, but the same approach appears to be being used – excavation of land and demolitions to put pressure on the school to move.
Evictions such as these have triggered the formation of a nationwide campaign within Kenya. The ShuleYangu Alliance highlights the scale of the problem. It says that 24,000 public schools in Kenya do not have title deeds or lease certificates for their land, and over 4,000 of them have reported problems with land contestation, encroachment or land grabbing.
These sorry stories again illustrate the need for effective urban planning if the Sustainable Development Goals 2016-30 (in this case most notably Goal 5 about ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education”) are to be realised.