Students and staff beat college head to death;International news;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
KENYA

POLICE have arrested 19 students, three lecturers and a local politician for the murder of the head of a vocational college in Bungoma, 400 miles from Nairobi.

Polycarp Wanyela was battered to death by an angry mob of students who had just returned to the Sang'alo institute following a two-month suspension for holding a strike and destroying property.

Police spokesman Jonathan Chelule confirmed that 100 students burst into the teachers' compound on November 9, dragged Mr Wanyela out, then beat him to death.

Mr Chelule said most of the attackers had taken drugs and an illicit local brew.

Among the three lecturers held by police was the deputy head, Jason Wekesa, and a local politician, Nicholas Khisa. Police said they could face incitement charges.

This is the second time students have attacked Mr Wanyela. Trouble started two months ago when students rioted and destroyed property that included the institute's two vehicles and furniture. Several cows were slashed and sheds destroyed. Education officials and police closed the college.

Before re-opening it, the commissioner for Bungoma district held a reconciliation meeting. But the students accused the head of mismanaging the institute and called for his replacement. They also complained of poor food and lack of learning materials and accused Mr Wanyela of allowing the prison department to grow crops on the institute's land.

Sang'alo offers vocational training in trades such as agriculture, electrical engineering and woodwork.

In order to be re-admitted, each student had to pay a penalty of 1,000 shillings (pound;9) for causing damage to the college. But, when the students returned last week, they argued that the fine was excessive.

Police sources said that, on the day before the murder, several villagers and students had accosted Wanyela in his office protesting against the fine. "The group warned the headmaster to pack and go or face dire consequences," said Mr Chelule.

It is also alleged that the killing of Mr Wanyela was politically motivated, as local people had wanted the government to appoint as head someone from Bungoma. Those arrested were expected to appear in court this week.

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