Imagine starting your academic year by swimming across a river to school?
This has become the norm for some school children in Mumias East, Kakamega county.
A makeshift bridge they were using was washed away in December by floods, forcing them to swim across River Lusumu to get to school.
The journey to school for pupils of Petros Primary School requires them to have swimming skills.
30% of these pupils literally swim to and from school everyday, a task that is slowly affecting their performance.
“Hawafiki shuleni wakati unaofaa kwa sababu ya kukosa daraja… wanaanza masomo karibu saa tatu, saa tatu na nusu,” said Wilberforce Wabuti, the school principal.
One of the students spoke to Citizen TV and narrated how they have to swim across without their uniform, holding their school books above the head so that they don’t get wet.
“Tunatoa uniform tunavukisha, alafu tunarudia vitabu, tunarudi tunavukisha wale wadogo ndio twende shule,” Tekla Lumbas said.
Her schoolmate Dorcas Awinja added: “Saa zingine asubuhi tunapata kama maji iko mingi tunangoja kidogo ndio tupite.”
The local community foresaw the challenge in December last year when floods washed away the makeshift bridge.
Other routes have proved challenging not only for pupils of Petros Primary but also other schools in the area.
“The only bridge is almost 7km from here,” said Ernest Wasike, a parent.
George Opondo, another parent, lamented saying: “Mwanafunzi anavuka saa tisa ya usiku akisindikizwa na mzazi ni jukumu kubwa kwa wanafunzi wanaosoma na wazazi.”
However, the inconvenience is just a tip of the iceberg.
“The waves could wash away the small kids and teenage pregnancies may occur because the bigger boys help the younger girls to cross naked,” said Wilberforce Wabuti, the Petros Primary School principal.
Pupils from at least six schools in the area have been affected: last year, two pupils from neighboring Bumini Primary School died while crossing this river.
Others have been forced to transfer to far off schools to escape the daily swim to school.
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