Why some of Kenya’s Muslim pupils are switching schools

Earlier this summer Kenya’s state secondary schools experienced a wave of unrest, with students setting dozens of dormitories on fire. Concerns are growing, too, about the sexual abuse of pupils: at one school, nearly 1,000 girls walked out in protest against alleged harassment by a staff member.

Given this background, it is no surprise that many parents – including many Muslims – are choosing to send their children to Catholic schools, which have a good reputation for discipline. A third of Kenya’s schools are Catholic.

Hassan Ali is one such parent. His son attends a Catholic school in Nairobi. He told the Catholic Herald that some Muslim parents had transferred their children to Catholic schools because of the reports of disruption in state-run schools. These parents, he said, sought a school with a “well-grounded element of discipline”.

Jaffer Juma Kere, a Muslim also based in Nairobi, said his granddaughter had just transferred to a Catholic school for a similar reason. The goal, he explained, was a place where effective discipline as well as good teaching and management were the norm. Discipline, he said, was central to children’s growth.

Catholic higher education institutions appear to have a similar attraction. A professor at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa said the number of Muslim students there was “fast increasing”. (The professor asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivities of the issue.)

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