In 2017, there have been several reported and unreported cases of suicide in Kenyan campuses
The reasons for these cases are sometimes unknown, most being attributed to love triangles, drugs and alcohol
On September 14, Kenyatta University students woke up to the shocking news that one of their own — Stella Karanja — had taken her own life. The fifth-year Medical student had walked to the servants’ quarters, scribbled down a note detailing the people she would want to carry her body — including her ex — before hanging herself from a rope.
This is not the first time a university student has taken their own life.
In 2012, 21-year-old Brian Bii — a USIU student — took his own life in unclear circumstances. In October 2014, George Maragu Mugo, a 23-year-old University of Nairobi Tourism student locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note saying, “I am tired of taking drugs all the time, death is the best option to avoid undergoing stress and depression,” made a noose using his bedsheets then hang himself.
In January 2015, Kevin Kipkirui, a JKUAT Fourth year law student, and Collins Koech Kiplagat, would also hang themselves. In July 2016, another Kenyatta University student would hang himself behind his mother’s house after losing his school fee equivalent to Sh80,000 in a football bet; it was said that he had placed the money on the high-stakes UEFA Euro 2016 match between Germany and Italy, putting Sh40,000 on a Germany win and a similar amount on an Italy victory – both in normal time – but the match ended in a draw in that time. In December the same year, Simon Njung’e, a fourth year Kenyatta University IT student, hung himself inside his house.
Yet, sadly, these are just a few of the ‘officially’ reported cases. A top official in the USIU Management confirmed to a local daily in 2015 that there were at least 6 ‘unofficial’ cases of suicide at the institution every year. When asked about it by the same paper in that year, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs Rita Asunda said, “There is one case that I have heard but it is an unofficial report and I normally don’t take things that have been given to me unofficially as something to put on record.”
In July 2015, a report by Kenyatta National Hospital showed over 100 cases of attempted suicide among the youth aged between 18 and 25 (mostly campus students) within a span of two months.
On the other hand, a public research by WHO in 2003 showed more cases of suicide among males than in females. This, Psychologist Dan Mwendwa attributes mostly to alcohol and drug abuse
“Most girls are into fancy things like shopping and fancy foods. The average boy in a Kenyan campus these days is more endangered because of the desire to fit in with their peers. And this is when everything starts to fall apart,” he says.
A student counsellor at JKUAT, who declined to be named, says, “Suicide among campus students is mostly as a result of failed relationships, financial instability, and exposure to diseases such as HIV/AIDS.”