Ministry dismisses poison gas claims in KCSE exams
By Antony Gitonga, Irene Ngolo and Byrone Roche | November 12th 2019
The State has dismissed claims that some teachers and students have been hospitalised after inhaling a poisonous gas during the ongoing national examinations.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang denied that any such incidences have occurred while in Naivasha yesterday, where he was supervising the distribution of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination papers.
“We have not recorded any such incident. No teacher got sick after inhaling poisonous chemicals,” Dr Kipsang said.
He was reacting to reports that a number of Form Four candidates and invigilators were taken ill after they were exposed to a suspected deadly gas used during the Chemistry practical exams last Friday.
The reports said the gas, called xylene, is highly toxic and can cause death.
It was claimed that one of the teachers at a Rift Valley school was admitted at a hospital in Trans Nzoia County after developing complications, allegedly following the exposure.
The Education ministry, however, said the reports are mere rumours circulating on social media.
Kipsang said there are more than 10,200 examinations centres across the country, and none had recorded any incident during the Chemistry practical exams.
He said on Friday last week when students sat for the Chemistry paper, he visited various schools and the issue was not raised.
“The teachers have been using these chemicals throughout the examination period in the laboratories. No complaints have come up. We wonder who is spreading these rumours,” Kipsang said.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Kisumu County Chapter yesterday sought an explanation from the Ministry of Education with regards to the use of xylene in this year’s Chemistry exams.
While addressing the press in Kisumu, the union's county executive secretary, Zablon Awange, claimed that a student was rushed to a local hospital where she was treated after she allegedly got burnt when the gas exploded in her face.
“The supervisors, invigilators and other students who were in that Chemistry lab inhaled the gas for three hours. I would recommend that they go for a medical check-up because the gas is harmful to the lungs,” Mr Awange said.
He added that the union had received reports from a number of schools where the xylene gas had allegedly affected students and invigilators.
“We are demanding that ministry officials look for a way of compensating the affected candidates. Also, all those who were involved in the administering of the Chemistry practical exams should be compensated,” he said.
Awange said in their next Collective Bargaining Agreement, teachers would press for a risk allowance.
“If doctors and other medical practitioners are being given a risk allowance, why are we being denied?” he asked.
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