Maranda High School students will have to undergo a drug and substance test before they are readmitted to the institution beginning Tuesday next week.

Further, each student will also be required to pay Sh5,125 for the reconstruction of the burnt down dormitory. All fees including the charge for reconstruction must be cleared before readmission.

A message sent to parents a week ago by the school’s Chief Principal Edwin Namachanja said all the students will have to undergo drug and substance tests while at home.

“This must be done at a public health facility or NACADA. The certificates of the same are to be presented on the re-opening day. Subsequently, there shall be random testing conducted by the school.”

A source at the Government Chemist told The Standard that already some parents have had their children tested at Sh1,500. “They will be issued with certificates.”

However, many parents said they were not able to access the right laboratories to have their sons tested as ordered by the school.

Milka Wanja said she took her son to Mathari Hospital in Nairobi for the toxicology test and was charged Sh2,500.

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“We had to do it to reduce the anxiety. Parents have been left between a rock and a hard place. It is expensive for parents, but we have to make the sacrifice.”

James Kibet, a parent at the school said the management should have advised the parents on the specific hospital or certified laboratories where they can have their sons tested.

“I stay in Bomet and I have no clue on where I can take my son for such a test. Subjecting students at this stage will be costly to the majority of parents.”

Another parent, Mary Kwamboka, from Nyamira County, said her son was unwilling to undergo the test. “The school should have done the test on the reopening day. Let them get a certified laboratory to carry out the tests within the school.”

In January 2021, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had observed that the government was to start conducting drug tests on students to eradicate abuse in schools.

Magoha had pointed out that his ministry will work in collaboration with that of health to visit schools at random and collect blood samples from students for tests.

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The CS said that learners whose results will turn positive with traces of drugs will have a case to answer.

“This is one of the strategies the ministry and security officials have come up with to control increased cases of arson attacks and indiscipline in schools,” the CS had overserved.

Yesterday, Siaya County Education Director Nelson Sifuna said the test was to help parents know their children. “We are helping parents and they should support us to achieve our target.”

Earlier, Sifuna had claimed that the students who were suspected to have burnt the second hostel were high on drugs.

“They had smoked bhang. They said that they got motivated to set the building ablaze after taking the drug.”

However, those in the legal fraternity argue that this could be illegality and an infringement of the children’s rights.

Advocates Gideon Nyambati and Philemon Ochwangi argue that there was no basis to subject all students to drug and substance tests.

Ochwangi stated the burning of schools did not prove enough that the students were abusing drugs and other substances. “The school must have records that indeed some of the students have been arrested and charged for using such drugs. Otherwise, the entire process will be illegal.

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Nyambati says the Rights of children must be protected. “Consent of parents must be given whenever any child is undergoing such tests.”

However, a doctor at the Government Chemist in Kisumu said all children being tested are accompanied by their parents. “We are only carrying out urine tests. The requests are from the parents, not the school,” said the doctor who requested to remain anonymous.

According to him, the test does not undermine the right of the children.

Between November 22 and 25 each of the 2,469 students at Maranda School paid Sh2,500 as cost for the reconstruction of the first burnt down dormitory.

Each student had also reported back to school accompanied by a parent or guardian. The decision had been made following a board meeting held on November 11.

A week ago, a stakeholders’ meeting at the institution resolved to deploy a permanent chaplain at the institution.

Students will report back to school in a staggered manner beginning January 4, 2022.

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