A union has faulted Public Health authorities over poor sanitation standards at Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls School following the tragic deaths of four students and a teacher.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) also protested at the transfer of the school’s former principal, Ms Fridah Ndolo, and faulted the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) for the move over "a mistake that was beyond her".
Secretary General Akelo Misori said the incident that left over 600 other students and workers hospitalised was as a result of negligence by the authorities.
“Punishing the principal only undermines efforts to find lasting solutions to the problem over which she had no control,” said Mr Misori.
He added; “Her removal fits in a pattern where our hard-working principals are used as sacrificial lambs to mitigate public anger at any malfunction in the school system regardless of the enormity of the situation.”
Mr Misori said the union dispatched a team of health experts to the school to unearth the cause of the deaths and it found that there was water contamination due to the close proximity of the water and sewer systems.
He said this was an issue that reflected the failure by the country's public health authorities.
The official report from the Ministry of Health indicated that the incident was caused by Enterotoxigenic E Coli and Salmonella Typhi, an indication that the water was contaminated.
“Our team observed that the water used at the school is stored in an underground tank, close to where a sewer line runs. The possibility of sewer contaminating water in the tank due to seepage is very high,” said Mr Misori.
The union said the school had 2,028 students against its capacity of about 400, overstretching the limited resources.
Mr Misori attributed this overload to the government’s policy of 100 per cent transition from primary school to secondary school
“The school is clearly overpopulated and the learning resources and other facilities are strained. Uncontrolled sharing of resources due to the scarcity plays a critical role in disease transmission in the event of an outbreak,” said Mr Misori.
Mr Misori called out the Directorate of Public Health for negligence in public health surveillance, noting that a similar outbreak had been reported at Buture Boys High in Kakamega and Khasoko Boys High School in Bungoma.
“There clearly is a systemic lapse in public health surveillance as opposed to failure by the school administration in adhering to public health guidelines. Madam Ndolo had no power whatsoever over sewer systems developed by the county government,” said Mr Misori.
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Kuppet is now threatening to sue the Ministry of Education over the "knee-jerk" removal of the principal, which was announced by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu.