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School shut as State still probing deadly stampede

By John Shilitsa and Nathan Ochunge | February 5th 2020

Deputy President William Ruto (centre), Education CS George Magoha (left) and Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali when they toured Kakamega Primary School yesterday. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Kakamega Primary School will remain closed for a week to pave way for investigations into stampede that left 14 pupils dead Monday evening.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced this after touring the school yesterday morning. He promised to make public the outcome of the investigations by Monday next week.

He said the pupils deserve a one week break to come to terms with losing their colleagues and urged residents not to interfere with the normal operations of the school when it reopens.

“In the meantime, we shall establish a counseling desk for the affected parents and pupils,” the CS told hundreds of parents who gathered at the school to hear from him and Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

The directive came as Deputy President William Ruto, who also visited the school, said the government would take care of bills of pupils admitted in hospital after the stampede and co-ordinate with the county government to foot burial expenses for the dead.

“We shall provide finances that will take care of the hospital bills and burial expenses to the affected families. A committee has been put in place consisting of both national and county government officials to plan for their decent sendoff next week,” he said.

Both Dr Ruto and Prof Magoha conveyed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s condolences to bereaved families assuring parents and the school management of the government’s support.

The deputy president said the government had dispatched a team of counselors to the school. “We have those students who had minor injuries who were treated and discharged. We have those whose friends died during the incident and are traumatised as well as parents of the 14 children who died. They will be attended to starting today (Wednesday),” said Ruto.

The CS arrived at the school at around 8.15am accompanied by Principal Secretary for Basic Education Richard Belio Kipsang and Western Regional Coordinator Anne Ng’etich. He was later joined by Governor Oparanya and a host of other local leaders.

Leaders meeting

The leaders held a closed door meeting that lasted about two hours before emerging to address the waiting parents and pupils.

Magoha cautioned against speculation on what could have caused the stampede.

“It would be hogwash to say the pupils were running downstairs when the stampede occurred,” he said.

It was established the stampede took place on the second and first floors of the five-storey block, which has two staircases used by both teachers and the learners.

Magoha said he was determined to get to the bottom of the incident.

Nine girls and five boys died in the in the tragedy. Twelve of them were Standard Five pupils while two were in Grade 4. 

The school has 51 classrooms against a population of 3,128 pupils in lower and upper classes and another 296 pupils in Early Childhood Development Education.

Governor Oparanya praised the rescue team at the scene and welcomed the national government’s support.

He was accompanied by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, Lurambi MP Titus Khamala, government spokesperson Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna and former Senator Boni Khalwale.

Dr Khalwale said the classroom block where the stampede happened requires a facelift to make it friendly to learners.

“We need to build handrails along the staircase to protect the pupils running down the staircases,” he said.

He also appealed to CS Magoha to help the school repossess part of its land said to have been grabbed by a private developer.

Some of the parents who had not established the whereabouts of their children arrived at the school early yesterday seeking for answers from the management.

Pupils also reported to school, some accompanied by their parents, before the CS directed that they go home until next week.

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