Mukumu Girls: Govt transfers principal, disbands board after disease outbreak

The entrance of Mukumu Girls High School in Kakamega County. The school's boarding mistress who was admitted in ICU at a hospital in Eldoret town succumbed to complications from a bacterial illness at the institution.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group.

What you need to know:

  • Ms Fridah Ndolo has been transferred to the office of the Western region director of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and will be succeeded by Shikoti Girls’ Secondary School principal, Sr Jane Mmbone.
  • The CS further directed that all cereals in the school’s store be destroyed. He explained that the ministry was yet to make a conclusion on the laboratory tests so it could not decide on the safety of the remaining food.

The government has transferred Ms Fridah Ndolo, the principal of Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls’ High School, and disbanded its board of management.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu announced this on Saturday, when he visited the school to assess the situation after a disease outbreak killed three students and a teacher.

Ms Ndolo has been transferred to the office of the Western region director of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and will be succeeded by Shikoti Girls’ Secondary School principal, Sr Jane Mmbone.

Mr Machogu said the government appreciated the good work Ms Ndolo did ahead of her retirement next year.

“What happened was unfortunate and could have happened to anybody. We are not apportioning blame or condemning anybody but considering the situation and circumstances that we are in, we have brought in a new principal who is taking over with immediate effect. The new board should be in place by Monday,” he said.

Following the outbreak, water samples were collected from the school and taken for laboratory analysis at the Kenya Research Medical Institute (Kenri) in Kisumu and the Government Chemist. They were found contaminated with human feaces.

On Saturday, Dr Francis Kuria, the director of public health in the Ministry of Health, said the samples were analysed by a team of medical experts including pathologists from the University of Nairobi and the Ministry of Health.

“From the laboratory tests of stool, urine, and swabs, two bacteria presented consistently. We discovered that a water source at Mukumu had Salmonella Typhi and Enterotoxigenic E.coli. We suspect faecal contamination from sewage that flowed into the water source,” said.

He said the ministry provided guidelines on treatment of patients with symptoms to sub-county hospitals across the country, because students come from all over the nation.

Mukumu Girls' closed indefinitely after disease outbreak kills 2 students

Other interventions

The Ministry of Education also committed to treat water in all schools in Kakamega County and test it daily to prevent similar cases in future. 

The CS further directed that all cereals in the school’s store be destroyed. He explained that the ministry was yet to make a conclusion on the laboratory tests so it could not decide on the safety of the remaining food.

Further, the government released Sh5 million for the procurement of fresh food and possible repairs at Mukumu and Sh20 million to Butere Boys’, where an outbreak was also reported, following instructions from President William Ruto.

Butere Boys’ will use the money to construct a new dormitory and a dining hall to ease congestion.

The ministry further released Sh6 million for drilling a new water source and constructing a water purifier at Mukumu Girls’.

Mukumu has 2,018 students. As of March 31, the outbreak had affected 350 girls who were taken to the Kakamega County General Hospital. Some 287 were treated and discharged while 64 were admitted.

Thus far, four remain admitted at the main Kakamega facility while eight are at St Mary’s Mumias Hospital and facilities  in Bungoma, Kisii, Vihiga and Nairobi counties.

All patients from Mukumu have been given a waiver by the government, alongside those going for checkup.

Mr Machogu said it is expected that the school will reopen in the next two weeks after all the remedial measures are implemented.

Alumni appeal

Prior to the changes announced by CS Machogu, a Mukumu Girls’ alumni group had petitioned the Ministry of Education, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and other stakeholders in education and public health, and Kakamega County to immediately establish the systemic challenges.

The group had also called on Ms Ndolo to step aside to allow proper investigations.

"We also recommend that leadership changes be instituted immediately so that the school can start afresh and the healing process for the students, teaching and other auxiliary staff can be initiated,” the group said, through its chairperson, Ms Enid Busolo.

It blamed the board, claiming it was operating without the board chair’ss involvement.

"There are leadership and governance challenges in the school after the board chairman was sidelined in the running of the school. The alumni were previously represented on the board as one of the key stakeholders but our seat was unceremoniously vacated - without any official communication - and we have been in the dark about affairs at the school. We trust we shall be reinstated in a reconstituted board," said Ms Busolo.

The group suggested offering psycho-social support to the students, teachers and staff when the school re-opens.

They want to ensure hygienic conditions for the learners and that their food and water are stored and prepared in clean environments.

They also want regular testing of the water and food consumed by the students as well as better preservation systems.

Governor Barasa: Mukumu Girls' students sent home as probe into disease outbreak continues


Besides rattling the alumni, the health crisis at the school has split leaders of the Catholic Church, which sponsors it, and politicians from the county.

Bishop Joseph Obanyi accused Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and Woman Representative Elsie Muhanda of escalating politics in learning institutions in the county.

This came after Mr Khalwale demanded Ms Ndolo’s arrest, the board’s disbandment and consequences for county education director Dickson Ogonya on allegations of omission and commissions as the school faced the outbreak.

Dr Khalwale further asked parents not to send their children back to the school until the root cause of the disease was established. 

He accused the principal, bursar and store manager of being part of a cartel that supplies cereals and other supplies to the school. He also asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to speedily investigate the supply chain and the general financial management in Mukumu.

"The County Director of Education in Kakamega has outlived his usefulness and should accompany the principal of Mukumu as she exits. We shall not sit and watch as our education system is wasted," he said at Mukumu Girls’ last week.

Following his display of wrath, Bishop Obanyi termed accusations against the school administration as political and said any changes at the school were unwelcome.

Governor’s warnings

Earlier, Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa had assured that remedial measures would be to restore sanity and that the surveillance team would not allow any food from the school store to find its way to the local market.

Mr Barasa had also said that the county government had rolled out a countywide inspection of boarding schools to ensure they met health requirements.

He had directed the county department of public health to conduct a proper inspection at 24 high volume boarding schools, and asked food handlers in all learning institutions within the county to obtain clearance certificates from the public health department.

"It is now upon us to direct remedial measures based on the report released by Kemri because we cannot compromise the health of our girls. Laboratory reports indicated a lot of iron in the water and food used by students in the school. That is why it has not affected the other people around the school," he had said. 

Governor Barasa had also said recommendations by the multi-sectoral team investigating the food and water supply chain at Mukumu would be used in dealing with people who would be forced to take individual responsibility for the crisis.

"A full report from the multi-sectoral team will give the way for us to know who deserves to be sacked and who faces criminal responsibilities. We are taking this matter seriously. There will be no cover up,” he had said.