Special School Gets Land Title after a Potential Land Grab

Parents and pupils of St. Jude special school in Malaba, Busia County are celebrating after finally getting the title deed of the school’s land. But it was not an easy ride for them.

Special School Gets Land Title after a Potential Land Grab
The two close buildings that were once used as offices

Before it was St. Jude Special School, it was integrated with Malaba Township Primary school. The then head of special education madam Cecilia (not her real name) saw it fit for the special children to be separated from the rest of the school. She went ahead and solicited funds and one sponsor bought land for the special school, sponsored the building of classes and furnished the classes together with a small dormitory.

The sponsor came to view the project he had funded and when he wasn’t satisfied with it, he went and never come back again. When he bought the land, the contract and other documents were presented to Madam Cecilia for her to follow up on the title deed.

Neglect of Duty

Having no one to oversee the project, the project stalled. Madam Cecilia was responsible for 15 children with various disabilities and they were now separate from Malaba Township Primary which was now the neighbouring school.

Cecilia became the head of the special school, even though it was not registered at the time. Having many classrooms for only 15 children seemed to be a waste; the young teacher went ahead and brought in the D.O and his staff, a chief and three sub-chiefs to rent the school’s classrooms and transformed them into offices.

All the children with their different capabilities were accommodated in only one classroom, they had no space to play especially with the many people coming to seek the DO’s and the chiefs’ services. Apparently, she knew people in high places and so, nobody bothered her with her dealings.

Being the only special needs teacher then, whenever she needed to go somewhere during the day, she would lock the children up in the classroom and then go about her business. The pupils of Malaba Primary exposed her behaviour and soon the community joined forces and demonstrated attracting the attention of the head of special education in Teso district (now, Teso North sub-county.)

The Transfer

In 2007, Mr. Ekabten, the then head of special education in the district worked closely with the community members and saw the transfer of the teacher to another school.

Madam Cecilia went with everything and left the classes and dormitories empty. She also never followed up on the title deed and neither did she hand over the land documents. When the new administration of the school followed up on the documents, Cecilia never gave the documents up.

A few years later, Madam Cecilia died and the documents were never traced.

Original Land Owner

The community members worked to see the school registered after getting a good number of children in the school with the help of chiefs. But they lived in fear convinced that one day, someone will come armed with the title deed and claim ownership of the land.

Luckily for the special school, the original landowner, Joseph was someone well known to them. But, another problem presented itself. Joseph said he was ready to sign the documents stating he indeed sold the land to the American among other documents but, only if he was given something in return.

The school administration and the board of management were not ready to agree with Joseph’s terms and neither could it afford to take the matter to court.

In 2017, some representatives of Women Challenged to Challenge from Nairobi, led by their coordinator Jane Kihungu came for a seminar they had organized in the school. When they saw the congestion in the school, they promised to help and see the DO evicted from the classrooms. The DO finally moved out late last year (2020).

In 2020, the BOM members decided to form a committee to deal with the land issue. After much convincing, which involved time and money, Joseph agreed to sign the documents and on April 13th, 2021, St. Jude Special School in Malaba got its title Deed after so many years of searching.