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Kakamega stampede: Prayers held, classes cleansed after 14 killed

Monday February 10 2020
Skul1

Religious leaders, pupils and parents of Kakamega primary School are pictured during an interdenominational cleansing ceremony, following the deaths of 14 learners in a stampede, on February 10, 2020. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BENSON AMADALA  
By KEN WAMASEBU

An interdenominational prayer service and a cleansing ceremony took place at Kakamega Primary School on Monday, following the deaths of 14 pupils after a stampede.

Parents, their children and teachers converged in tents erected next to the building in which the Standard Four and Five pupils died.

In his address, Catholic priest Fr Martin Chibole described the deaths as unfortunate but said God would provide healing and a new beginning for parents who lost their children, whom he termed saints and angels.

"In life we are supposed to confront the problems that come our way because we are not alone. We will rise above what happened because of the love God has for us. If Satan wanted to use the tragic death of our beloved children to tempt our faith, he has failed miserably,” said Fr Chibole.

He said the incident should serve as a lesson for parents and teachers in schools.

“The big lesson we have learnt from this tragedy is that we must always accompany our children and protect them from harm,” said Fr Chibole.

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CLEANSING

After the prayers, church leaders cleansed the classrooms using holy water.

Counsellors set up tents at the school and offered psychosocial support to parents and pupils.

The learners will report back to school after the weeklong half-term break that begins on Friday.

BURIALS

The prayers came after five of the pupils who died were buried on Monday.

In Shikambi estate in Kakamega town, June Nakhumicha was buried at her mother’s home.

Nakhumicha’s mother Juliet Wishenga described her as cheerful and hardworking. She said her daughter had shown promise in her studies and dreamt big.

Teachers eulogised June as a hardworking and lively girl.

“She was an active girl who stood out in everything she did,” said Ms Racheal Mwanika.

June was admitted to Grade Four three weeks before her death, having transferred from Blessed Nalik, a private school in the county.

FATHER'S PLEA

Mr Ibrahim Keverenge, a parent who lost his daughter, Naila, said the school management should ensure pupils are protected against similar disasters in future.

“We are worried about the large number of pupils compared to the small number of teachers deployed by the government,” Mr Keverenge said.

Other pupils laid to rest were Antonnet Iramwenya from Senebde in Vihiga County, Simon Waweru from Molo in Nakuru County, Prudence Eliza from Navakholo sub-county and Venessa Adesa from Eshisiru in Kakamega Central sub-county.

Three others — Bertha Munywele, Catherine Aloo and Lavendar Akasa — will be buried on Saturday.

Iramwenya's mother Matildah Khayumbi said the family has two other children at the school, which she said should not be subjected to too much pressure.

“I can’t say I am strong. May God lead the school and restore normalcy. Even if we keep fighting over what happened, our children will not be brought back to life,” she told mourners during the burial at Senende village in Hamisi, Vihiga County.

She noted that her two other children, one of whom is in Standard Seven, feared returning to the school.

Mrs Khayumbi prayed for God to strength them so they can continue learning with ease.

GOODYBE

On the fateful day, Mrs Khayumbi spent time at the school attending a Standard Seven meeting and then left for home after the session with teachers.

She however started feeling weak and took pain killers only to learn later about the incident at her children’s school.

“I am among parents who was at the school for a parents’ meeting. After the meeting, my daughter (the deceased) took me to her class teacher and we shared much,” she said.

"She then bid me bye and I left. I am pained as a parent. My child was not sick. May be God had planned that I should go to school and bid my daughter goodbye.”

She eulogised her daughter as God-fearing, polite and who loved singing.

“We leave it all to God. The children were very jovial on Sunday."

COMMISSION VISIT

Meanwhile, the Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) planned to visit the school on Monday to investigate the incident.

Chairperson Florence Kajuju said they will establish whether any government official was negligent.

Ms Kajuju told the Nation that they will also check whether the three-storey building was fit for use and if the National Construction Authority examined and approved it.

“We have a feeling that someone failed .... the school management, the principal, teachers or the county director. We will check if plans were followed and if there were rails and if the plan and structural building met standards."

The Ombudsman said they had received reports that the school was crowded.

She said that for any official found culpable, the commission would recommend dismissal, payment of damages and a bar from holding public office.

“The deaths cannot just be swept under the carpet. We will take remedial action. We need to know what exactly happened," she said.

She added that the inspection would establish whether the school was capable of responding adequately to crises.

Western region police Commander Peris Kimani said investigations into the incident were almost complete.

Additional reporting by Charles Wanyoro

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