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Probe at Cardinal Otunga after Form One girl commits suicide

Thursday October 24 2019

suicide

Bungoma South OCPD Johnstone Lyambila said the girl said reports indicated that the incident may have resulted from "an issue of Mathematics or Geography marks". PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DENNIS LUBANGA
By DENNIS LUBANGA
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Police in Bungoma County have launched investigations into the circumstances under which a Form One student died by suicide at Cardinal Otunga Girls' High School in Kanduyi.

The body of 13-year-old Sarah Sifuna was found hanging from the ceiling of a dormitory. She used a bed sheet in the act.

Johnstone Lyambila, Bungoma South's acting divisional police commander (OCPD), said his officers and those from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) were investigating the matter.

“Concerning a student who committed suicide at Cardinal Otunga Girls' High School, the DCI officers and others visited the school on Wednesday to ascertain what had happened," the police boss told journalists in his office on Thursday morning.

"They found that indeed a Form One girl had committed suicide. We are trying to find out what happened before the [incident].”

MARKS

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Mr Lyambila said reports indicated that the incident may have resulted from "an issue of Mathematics or Geography marks".

"... but there might be some underlying issues ... [these issues] are being investigated for appropriate action," he said.

The OCPD said they found a note at the scene.

“We are checking the note to establish if it was from the student or from other sources. We cannot tell whether it came from the student. That is why we are not going to disclose its contents."

STUDENTS' CLAIMS

The school's principal was not immediately available for comment on the matter.

However, students who requested anonymity said trouble started when the teenager from Nakhwana Village of Kimaeti Ward was paraded before the school and ridiculed for allegedly forging her end term marks.

“Our friend filled in a fresh Geography exam paper and awarded herself a score of 93 percent. She sneaked into the staff room and placed it inside the subject teacher's desk, where other exam sheets had been kept,” one said.

Unfortunately, the source said, her actions were discovered so she was summoned to the school parade.

“After they realised she had faked her marks, students were quickly paraded. She was called out and chided in front of her fellow students. Immediately after the parade was dismissed, she walked to the dormitory, where she used her bed sheet to hang herself," another said.

PRESSURE

The girl's family has piled pressure on the school administration for the truth about her death.

“We cannot reverse what has happened but we would like to understand what took place and the privacy to bury our sister in peace,” said Naomi's sister, Anne Sifuna.

Addressing the press outside Bungoma Police station, Anne accused the school administration of failing to inform the family about the mistake the girl made.

“The institution, at no point, called and informed us that Sarah was under punishment," she said.

"The only time we were called was to be given the news that Sarah was dead. We need to find out what happened to our dear sister and last born. She performed so well in her KCPE exams and had been the leading student in her class."

Anne blamed the school, saying the girl should not have been embarrassed.

"Had they called and asked us to talk to her, we could have avoided this. She was a very disciplined girl who was always committed to her academics."

THE NOTE

Ms Sifuna said the family recorded statements with police and were told about the note that was found at the school.

“We have seen the note. It only talks about Sarah saying an educational disk should be given to another student in Form Two. It also says she did not want to be the topic of examination cheating because she did not cheat in the Geography paper."

She said police told them they would analyse the paper and the handwriting in the note as part of the probe.

The father was on Wednesday asked to go to the school but was delayed by the rains. The family claimed the school administration took him round in circles but that a student told him what had happened.

“He then went to the staff room and made an inquiry from a teacher. Two teachers escorted him to Bungoma County Referral Hospital mortuary where he found his daughter's body," Anne said.

The family said Sarah felt humiliated after she was summoned to the parade and then to the deputy principal's office for a punishment.

“Our assumption is that this is what led to the suicide. We have not received any formal communication from the school," Anne said.