780 bags of contaminated cereals burnt ahead of Mukumu Girls' reopening

780 bags of contaminated cereals burnt ahead of Mukumu Girls' reopening

About 800 bags of contaminated cereals from Mukumu Girls’ High School in Kakamega County have been destroyed at the Bamburi Cement kiln in Mombasa County.

The school, which suffered a disease outbreak that killed three students and a teacher, has also cancelled all food supplier tenders ahead of its reopening on Monday.

Mukumu Girls’ was closed on April 16, following the outbreak, and the Education ministry later transferred principal Fridah Ndolo, replaced her with  Shikoti Girls’ Secondary School principal, Sr Jane Mmbone, and disbanded its board of management.

On April 29, a meeting atthe school ended in disarray after police officers were called to disperse a protest by parents.

Chaos erupted after parents discussing the school’s reopening demanded the destruction of maize at the institution, which is suspected to be contaminated.

The cereals that have been destroyed - 444 bags of maize, 253 bags of beans and 83 bags of rice - were ferried to Mombasa for incineration in compliance with procedures of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

This came after the government failed to find a kiln that was big enough in Western and Nairobi regions.

mukumu girls cereal destruction

Officials watch the destruction of contaminated cereals from Mukumu Girls’ High School in Kakamega County at the Bamburi Cement kiln in Mombasa County on May 6, 2023.

Photo credit: Anthony Kitimo | Nation Media Group

Nema’s Kakamega environment director John Maniafu said the cereals which were transported for incineration were found unfit for consumption and seized by the public health department.

Mr Maniafu said stakeholders in Kakamega wanted the condemned food burnt in Kakamega but that could not happen as stated in the waste management regulations of 2006, under the Environment and Coordination Act that guides disposal of hazardous materials including condemned food.

“We first checked our two incinerators [and found] they had a  low capacity. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) incinerator in Kisumu has a capacity of 100kgs per hour while the one at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret (Uasin Gishu County) has a capacity of 150kgs per hour” he said, adding they then resolved to use the one in Mombasa.

“We decided not to opt for the Kemri one because we had 73 tonnes of food items that needed to be incinerated. It could have taken 73 days to finish the exercise, whereas in Bamburi it would take two days.”

The Nema director also noted that Bamburi Cement asked to conduct the incineration for free as part of its corporate social responsibility.

 Mr Franklin Ongori, the Kakamega deputy county commissioner, said the process had to take place as part of efforts to restore the confidence of parents and the local community at large.

He said a team of parents, teachers and the media, escorted by armed security officers, witnessed the exercise.

“With support from well-wishers, we managed to save Sh360,000 meant to transport the consignment from Kakamega to Mombasa as a transporter did it for free. We saved money the school could have used to destroy the food stuff after Bamburi offered to do it with no cost. We are happy we have managed to destroy the cargo according to the law,” said Mr Ongori.

Fredrick Odera, the Mukumu Girls’ deputy principal in charge of academics, said the school is set to reopen next week as they have complied with all the protocols set by the Health ministry.

“We canceled the tenders of all food suppliers and now have new ones. We have also disinfected our stores and repainted them, in readiness for the resumption of learning next week,” said Mr Odero.