Kenya: Parents' Pain as Student Deaths Rise

The teachers' employer has expressed concern over rising cases of deaths and disappearances in schools as learners start their first-term holiday.

This follows the death of a student at Maseno School in Kisumu County last week. Two cases of mysterious disappearance were also reported in separate secondary schools in Nyeri County last week as well as suicide cases.

SICKLE CELL

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) said it was taking the incidents seriously.

"The commission takes with utmost seriousness the safety of learners in schools," said TSC's Catherine Lenairoshi.

At Maseno School, Cyril Samuel Oyungu, 14, a Form One student who scored 422 marks at Amazing Grace International School last year, succumbed to sickle cell anaemia.

The school's management could not be reached for comment on the incident.

On March 11, Kennedy Fundi, a Form Three student at Kangaru School in Embu died while receiving treatment at Nairobi Women's Hospital.

On March 9, Ebbie Noelle Samuel, a student at St Annuarite Gatanga Girls Secondary School failed to wake up and when the school administration was called in, they found her struggling to breathe. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at Naidu Hospital in Thika.

DISAPPEARANCE

On March 3, Bethwel Agolae, a student at Bishop Atundo Boys-Kimaeti Secondary School in Bungoma County passed on while admitted to Bungoma West Hospital.

Cases of disappearance are also on the rise, with the latest being a student at Chinga Boys High School who has been missing for the past six weeks.

George Gitau Ikumi went missing on February 15 after sneaking out of the school, a day before they went home for the midterm break.

His mother, Hellen Gitau, recalls the shocking phone call she got from the school's administration informing her the boy was missing.

"I was home when the deputy principal called to say Ikumi could not be traced. He said they had looked for him within the school and even in the surroundings but they could not find him," narrated the mother of four.

A missing person report was made at Chinga police post and the matter was recorded in the Occurrence Book as OB26/1712/2019.

FUTILE

"I made fliers with his picture and a few details about him and started circulating them in Chinga. I gave it to everyone I met, trying to see if anyone would have information about his whereabouts," said Ms Gitau. However, the exercise proved futile.

At Othaya Boys School, Cornelius Macharia Wang'ombe, a Form Three student, went missing on March 30.

His father, Solomon Wang'ombe, received a phone call from the principal on March 31 alerting him that his son was not in school.

SICK

The school filed a missing person report at Othaya Police Station and the matter was recorded in the Occurrence Book as OB16/13/03/19.

The National Parents Association accused principals of neglecting their duties of taking care and attending to students' needs.

The association's chairman Nicholas Maiyo told the Nation that in case of a student falling sick, principals, as the school custodians, must ensure that they are taken to hospital and immediately inform parents.

However, he said, this had not been happening as parents only got to know about the state of their children when the sickness worsened.

"Some students even get sick and parents never get to know about it. Principals have neglected their administrative roles and duties and it is time for them to do their work as they are supposed to," said Mr Maiyo.

BOARDING SCHOOLS

He noted that most students in boarding schools learn far away from their home counties.

This means parents are unable to communicate with them and know their progress as regularly as they would wish.

"It is very painful for a parent to learn about the death of his or her child, yet nobody informed them of their sickness," he said.

Ms Lenairoshi said TSC would not hesitate to take action on any teacher found culpable for a learner's death.

"It is in this regard that the commission is working with other State agencies to establish the circumstances under which the deaths occurred," she said.

According to students who spoke to the Sunday Nation, whenever they fall sick, they are given pain killers and treated for malaria without undergoing any medical tests.

MEDICAL CARE

To enhance student medical care, the government last year introduced the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover in public secondary schools.

The Ministry of Education listed 5,314 accredited health facilities to cover all the secondary school students.

Schools were required to choose accredited health facilities near them for students' outpatient services.

The health institutions were also asked to set up emergency facilities near the schools.

However, despite the cover, things have not changed in schools.

Some are still depending on their health facilities to manage student sicknesses without referring them to the accredited NHIF hospitals.

Most of the bigger public schools have two nurses while some smaller ones have none.

DEATHS

The Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said principals should not be blamed for the deaths.

"No principal would watch as a sick student dies in school without taking them to Hospital," said Mr Indimuli.

He added that the NHIF medical scheme played a major role in healthcare as the hospitals selected treat students using their unique personal identification numbers.

Mr Indimuli said when a case happens in schools, each should be handled individually.

"Lapses in schools should not be generalised," he said. Several students have also taken their lives under mysterious circumstances.

SUICIDE

On April 2, a Form Four student at Chinga Boys High School in Nyeri committed suicide in unclear circumstances, according to the principal, Mr Kiringo M'eringo.

Last month, a Class Two boy at Ikonyero Primary School in Kakamega County reportedly took his own life in unclear circumstances.

The body of the eight-year-old pupil was found dangling from the roof of their outdoor bathroom.

In February, a Form Three student who had been admitted to Nairobi Women's Hospital committed suicide inside a toilet.

The 17-year-old student had been admitted to the facility on Friday, after complaining of stomach pains and vomiting.

FORM THREE

Also in February, a Form Three student at Yangua Secondary School in Mbooni, Makueni, allegedly committed suicide after being sent home to buy a ream of barbed wire as punishment for indiscipline.

The 19-year-old boy's lifeless body was found dangling in his house. Last year in November, a student at the prestigious Brookhouse School committed suicide.

Betty Nyakihiu Gichucha, 18, was found hanging in her bedroom in their house in Runda by her relatives.

In April last year, Haroun Kipngeno Kemboi, a student at Alliance School, died of tuberculosis at the institution.

In 2017, Fiona Wanjiru, a primary school pupil in Nairobi, died after sustaining injuries after a fire broke out in a school dormitory.

In 2015, Maseno School in Kisumu had to stop holiday tuition after the death of a Form Four student.

Reporting by Faith Nyamai, Nicholas Komu, Reginah Kinogu and Ouma Wanzala

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