By BARNABAS BII firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Thursday, February 10 2011 at 21:29
Controversy raged on Thursday between the Ministry of Education and Kenya Forestry Service over payment of millions of shillings by 22 schools built in forests.
The affected institutions have maintained that they can not raise the money.
The schools in Keiyo South District instead want the two ministries to negotiate and lower the annual charges of Sh10,000 and Sh50,000 per acre for primary and secondary schools respectively.
“The matter has now been referred to our headquarters to facilitate negotiations,” said Keiyo South District Forestry manager Dennis Kerengo.
He said social amenities such as churches and health facilities located in public forests are also required to pay annual fees to KFS following the new policy introduced last year.
“The affected learning institutions might be forced to regulate acreage of land they occupy and put the rest into optimum use to cut down on the charges,” advised Mr Kerengo.
He said although primary schools were required to own seven acres and secondary schools 10, some of them possess up to 50 acres of forest land ending up paying huge sums of money.
“The residents, including management of learning institutions, need to take environmental conservation measures seriously for their own benefit and as part of the fight against effects of climate change,” stated Mr Kerengo.
Among the affected schools in public forest is Maria Soti Girls Educational Centre whose title has been revoked by the government.
“We are waiting for eviction notice from the ministry after the institution management was notified of the cancellation of title deed to the 400 acres it occupies,” said Mr Kerengo.
The school with more than 300 students is associated with politician Nicholas Biwott, a former minister in the Kanu regime.
At the same time, the escalating demand for food, wood fuel and timber products is threatening the survival of public forests in the North Rift region.
The region, which is the country’s bread basket, risks becoming a desert unless urgent steps are taken to contain the wanton harvesting of trees.
A report by the Kenya Forest Service and environmental lobby groups in the region says some rivers are drying up due to the dwindling forest cover.
“At least eight streams flowing from Kaptagat forest have dried up in the past couple of years. Streams that feed rivers Kerio and Sosiani are on the verge of drying,” explained Mr John Chumo of Friends of Nandi environment group.
Report courtesy of Daily Nation