KAKAMEGA COUNTY, Kenya — The Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls Secondary School in Kakamega County welcomed its students back on May 8, following a month-long closure due to a deadly outbreak of illness attributed to food and water contamination. The tragic incident resulted in the deaths of three students and a teacher, with over 240 students hospitalized.
On Monday, the first group of returning students, consisting of 400 Form Four learners, arrived at the school accompanied by their parents. Western Region Director of Education Jared Obiero, alongside a delegation of government officials, inspected the institution’s facilities, focusing primarily on the school’s water supply, which was suspected to be a significant factor in the outbreak.
Parents who accompanied their children to the school were informed of the changes implemented to ensure student safety. Obiero expressed confidence in the new measures, stating they would “restore confidence in our parents to bring back all the learners to school.”
The school has also employed a nurse to handle emergencies and instituted new food suppliers with rigorous prequalification criteria. A parents’ meeting held on April 29 devolved into chaos as protesters demanded the destruction of potentially contaminated maize at the institution. The Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu later ordered the maize’s disposal to prevent further tragedy.
The Ministry of Water, through the Lake Victoria North Water Works and Development Agency (LVNWWDA), has been supplying water to the school from the Tindinyo water treatment works. Ibrahim Oluoch, the manager in charge of Planning and Strategy at LVNWWDA, stated that water supply from the school’s two boreholes had been halted and would require flushing and chlorination before being deemed safe for use.
A new borehole, costing Sh6 million, is under construction at the school, with the capacity to produce 16 cubic liters per hour. Technical teams from LVNWWDA are currently working on revamping the school’s water supply infrastructure to prevent potential contamination.
As students returned to the school, counseling sessions were provided to help them readjust after the traumatic incident. Sr. Aqminatta Lumili, diocesan Health Coordinator of Kakamega Catholic Diocese, highlighted the importance of understanding any pre-existing health conditions among students to ensure proper care in case of emergencies.
Renovations and improvements have been made to the school’s dining hall, kitchen, and store to enhance hygienic conditions and further safeguard the well-being of its students.