Candidates for the forthcoming Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations at Kapedo trading centre are a worried lot. Recent attacks and constant fear of the return of bandits has disrupted learning at five schools, leading to growing worry that the pupils will register poor performance in this year's national examinations slated for March.
To make matters worse, non-native teachers could not get out fast enough - most have fled to safety amid growing fears over insecurity. They were recently evacuated along with Turkana South Sub-County professionals, who were together with three MPs -- James Lomenen (Turkana South), John Lodepe (Turkana Central) and Mohammed Lokiru (Turkana East) -- and journalists.
One of the teachers, who comes from Western Kenya, told the Nation he didn't think twice when he realised "visitors" were about to leave Kapedo at 3am last Thursday.
"We were eight non-natives hanging on vehicles that were to be escorted by Armoured Personnel Carriers. I was among the lucky four to get space and it was least of my concerns whether I had closed my house or not. I left wearing slippers and shorts," the teacher, who did not want his name revealed, said.
He added that although he is aware of the plight of candidates and the need to revise for the forthcoming national examinations, the daily sounds of gunshots, increasing ambushes and the recent killing of innocent motorists, along with lack of food, was enough psychological torture. He said that fleeing was inevitable.
Due to this disruption, MP Lokiru reckons that it is only fair that local candidates are not subjected to the same examination as other students across the country.
"I appeal to the Cabinet Secretary for Education Prof George Magoha to assure more than 100 Class Eight and 25 Form Four candidates, who are yet to report to school due to insecurity, of special national examinations that will consider the syllabus covered," Mr Lokiru said.
As it stands, Kapedo Mixed Primary, Lomelo Primary, Kapedo Girls' Primary, Kapedo Mixed Secondary and Lopalal Junior Academy are still closed and children do not know when it will be safe to return to school.
"The attacks are well executed meaning that the terrorist group is well trained. I, therefore, ask the State to audit all security officers coming from Tiaty and are on leave or have retired because they must be part of this terrorist network," the MP said.
He claimed that the manner in which attackers targeted and lay ambushes to kill "specific security officers" was enough evidence that they are trained.
"They are trained and well-funded to own sophisticated weapons and that is why they are sustaining war with police officers, even those in Armoured Personnel Carriers."
Mr Lokiru said that Kapedo bridge, where they killed a Chief Inspector of the Rapid Deployment Unit based at Kapedo who was just returning from burying his mother, is a hotspot for highway attacks. He described the area as hilly and bushy and urged the State to allocate resources to flatten the hills and repair the bridge.
Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok singled out resources, including geothermal power, as the reason for sustained attacks on Kapedo.
Mr Nanok said that due to the nature of attacks on police and civilians, the Kenya government and the international community should declare armed groups in Tiaty as terror organisations.
"The declaration will ensure every effort is put in place to eliminate that terror group because it has been terrorising Laikipia West, Baringo South, Baringo North, Marakwet East, Turkana East and Turkana South Sub-Counties. I am pleased with the ongoing security operations and there must be no relenting just because a few interested leaders are making noise," he said.
He described the attackers as organised, as well as having a leadership structure and an agenda.
The leaders said that they are supporting the ongoing security operation because the Turkana community is not fighting with the Pokot community.
"The seriousness of government must be seen now by dealing with the terror group with a sense of finality just like it dealt with terror in Mt Elgon," Mr Nanok said.