On June 3, 2018 at Ngamia 8 crude oil storage site in Turkana County, when Kenya made its first baby steps as the newest oil producing country, Evans Loogos, 18 was among many locals who turned up to witness the historic moment.
Loogos from nearby Nakukulas village remembers vividly how four trucks each carrying 156 barrels of crude oil that were flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta to transport the commodity to Kenya Petroleum Refinery in Mombasa for storage and export.
To many locals, both young and old or literate and illiterate, the historic moment was to be a major turning point to an improved standard of living.
At that time, he was a member of a pioneer class of 98 boys and girls at Ngamia One Kochodin High School located about three kilometers from Ngamia 8.
The newly established boarding school had just three classrooms, three toilets, one permanent dormitory for girls and a congested tent that was wearing off due to strong winds and rains for boys.
With assured support, parents and local professionals lobbied for the school’s quick opening as a cost cutting strategy opposed to enrolling their children to other schools that despite high fees, they had to incur high transport costs.
Principal David Maraka said they had no option but to accept the wish of the parents to provide a solution for an ever-increasing number of Class Eight drop-outs from primary schools in the area that include Lopii, Kaaruko, Nakukulas, Lokicheda, Lokwamosing and Lokosim-Ekori.
Lady luck smiled on the school after local leaders led by Petroleum & Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes and Turkana East MP Mohammed Ali Lokiru narrated the sorry state of the institution at the heart of the oil fields during a public baraza.
Besides fulfilling the promise to give the school a 51-seater school bus, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed KPC to allocate funds for improving the school’s infrastructure to boost learning in the marginalized area.
“Through a presidential directive, we were mandated to improve the livelihood of the local Turkana community by undertaking some transformative social interventions and our first option was to improve the infrastructure at the school,” KPC Managing Director Macharia Irungu said.
Dr. Irungu said that as they kicked off their operations in 2018, they invested in the now complete furnished dormitory with beds, two classrooms with 45 desks each and two toilets all at a cost of KShs 10 million.
“The dilapidated state of what the boys used to call a dormitory coupled with poor sanitation was our major concern. We hope that the new infrastructure will improve the welfare of the learners especially when they go back to school after Covid-19 period,” he said.
The School Principal had in September last year led some of his students to the Statehouse, a move that motivated them further.
Maraka said that already the ripple effect of the changing face of the school that sits on a 50-acre piece of land is evident. Before the school closed due to Covid-19 pandemic, there were 81 students at Form Three, 131 at Form Two and 267 at Form One.
“We had to embrace a boarding to ensure retention of learners at the school. With the nomadic nature of the local pastoralists, boarding was critical to keep the boys and girls in school when their families migrate in search of pasture for their livestock,” he explained while thanking KPC for supporting the learners to realise their dreams.
The head teacher said that the school enrolment has drastically improved because since KPC put up these facilities, the school’s enrolment has improved from 222 students to 472 students.
Loogos said that he is proud to study at a school near his home and he has hopes it is there that his aspirations of becoming a medical doctor to tackle various diseases affecting his community will be moulded.
He is the only one in a family of six children who is in school after he sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams at a village Nakukulas Mixed Primary School where he scored 221 marks.
“I had been called to join AGC Lokichar Secondary School, Morulem Secondary School and my current which together with my parents we settled on because the school fees was lower compared to others that I was expected to pay KShs 35, 000. At home I am used to even sleeping outside on a mat while facing the stars and moon if it doesn’t rain so sleeping in a tent was not a major concern so long as I study,” the student said in a recent media interview.
“I am happy that we now have a big and modern dormitory with beds and mattresses. I pray that we win the fight against the coronavirus so that we go back to school,” he said.
Mr William Tarale the school watchman has his son Dennis Ekiru in Form One in Ngamia One Kochodin High School. He says that logistical challenges and high fees would have made it difficult for his son to enrol for form one in any school outside the village.
“We are now spending less money on our children and everyone is embracing education. Many of us could not have taken our children beyond class eight at Nakukulas Mixed Primary School,” Mr Tarale says.
Another parent Lowar Lochi said that he has a son at Form Three after he transferred him from Kaputir Secondary School because it will be easy to even monitor the performance of the school and easily available when the teachers need us.
“Since the establishment of the school, many families have embraced education. We could be having many dropouts who will only be swayed into banditry and cattle raids delaying development activities. KPC and the government have done a great job,” Mr Lochi said.
He said that many locals who are benefiting from jobs and tenders at the school are investing in modern permanent houses and shops near the school, a move that is boosting the economic prospects of the local residents.
KPC Foundation has also constructed and fully equipped a modern science laboratory at Lokitaung Girls High School in Turkana north sub-county at a cost of KShs 5 million.
“Before we did the laboratory, the girls used to go all the way to Lokitaung Boys High School which is around 5 kilometres away for their science lessons and were only allowed to do this twice a week,” explains Bernice Lemedeket, KPC Foundation Manager adding that before the laboratory became operational, the school enrolment was 85 girls but since the laboratory was put in use, the enrolment has drastically risen to 284 girls.
“This is a huge transformation by any standards and I am very delighted that KPC is at the centre of changing the fortunes of some of the most marginalized learners in this country,” she concluded.