As I waited for a bank agent to deposit some school fees for my child in primary school today, a number of schoolgirls were hanging by struggling to reach their parents to send them bus fare to reach their homes.

Listening to their conversation in monotones, it was clear that they had been sent home because of school fees. It just struck my mind why it is important to ensure that parents leave some money with the school for their children in case they are sent home without prior notice.

Not that the school the boy is attending has any history of sending the children away without informing the parents but a recent case of school girls disappearing after being sent home for whatever reason validates the imagination.

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This week, the nation was gripped in fear on learning of the disappearance of two form one students of Chief Mbogori Girls’ High School in Tharaka Nithi County who went missing since the schools reopened this term. A similar incident had been reported at Gikumene Girls’ High School in the neighbouring Meru County.

In the Tharaka Nithi case, the missing students are Michelle Wanjiru, from Kasarani in Nairobi County, and Caroline Muteti Munou, from Mwala in Machakos County, were sent back home after they reported to school late on September 4.

The School Principal Ms. Ruth Mutua said that the two were part of a group of girls who were sent back home for reporting to school late on September 4.

“We sent the girls home and notified their parents through short text messages that their daughters had been sent home for reporting late only to learn that the two form one girls did not arrive home,” said Ms. Mutua.

The matter was reported at Chogoria Police Station but to date, their whereabouts is yet to be established. Maara Sub County Police Commander Johnstone Kabusia said the matter was reported to them and they are going on with the investigations. He accused the school management of lack of cooperation to aid in searching for the duo.

“We got the report of the missing students but we asked for their photos from school so that the photos can help in identifying them but we got none,” complained Kabusia. But interestingly, the school provided the photos to journalists when they visited the school.

Ms. Felista Mwende, mother to Wanjiru told reporters that on Friday September 6, 2019, a woman who declined to identify herself called and informed her rudely that her daughter had been injured and taken to a hospital.

“I was called by a stranger who told me that Wanjiru was hospitalized but she didn’t tell me where she is or who she was” said Ms. Mwende via phone call.

Ms. Loise Mumbi, Caroline’s auntie noted that the two students did not have enough fare to get back home and wondered how the Principal could send them back without any fare.

“The two didn’t have bus fare to come back home. How could the teacher send them back?” she wondered.

The case of Gikumene Girls’ Secondary School in Meru is a bit conflicting with no credible sources supporting the media reports. Sections of the media reported that 19 students sneaked out of school under unknown circumstances prompting some parents to report at Meru police station.

It is unclear whether the girls were sent home for fees or they sneaked out of school. Reports say the 19 girls sneaked out together with others who were sent home for school fees.

North Imenti DCIO James Githinji said that the area chief merely reported that 19 girls from the school were missing. Githinji, however, said the report was contradictory as it indicated the students were sent home for fees while at the same time implying that they sneaked out.

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Further media reports said the school principal declined to comment on the matter and that a guardian who spoke on the phone while bringing back his daughter to school said the girl went missing on a Friday but traced her on Sunday night in Meru town. He did not reveal where she was or the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The Gikumene School case notwithstanding, it is certain that girls are disappearing in between the school and their homes. The case of a bunch of girls hovering near an M-pesa agent trying to reach their guardians for bus fare today further supports the assumption that the school girls could have fallen into the wrong hands because they did not have bus fare.

The Principal of Chief Mbogori Girls High School did not indicate having made any efforts to establish whether the girls had bus fare before sending them back home to bring their parents. But we cannot solely lay blame on the teacher. Whereas, in these hard economic times there is a possibility of a parent being unable to complete the fees responsibility for their children, it still remains a fundamental obligation to give them bus fare to and from school.

Which school can afford to give bus fare to students from its confers for playing truant? What would be the narration on the petty cashbook? As we continue to ponder on who is to blame for the disappearance of the girls praying hard that they will be found safe, many parents hope the school administrations with the blessings of the parents should maintain sufficient pocket money that could take each student to their homes in case they have to go home on any emergency.

KNA by David Mutwiri