Five days a week, Consolata Mukhunji is sure of her daily routine. She wakes up at 5am to prepare her three grandchildren for school and then leaves for work.
She would return home at 8pm to find her grandchildren aged 5, 11 and 14 safely at home.
Ms Mukhunji’s daughter died in 2019, leaving behind the three children, whom she took under her care.
Life was simple for them in Huruma estate in Nairobi. But now her days are filled with sorrow and anguish.
Since September 10, her life has not been the same. Working as a domestic helper, she always left earlier than the children. She had instructed her two older grandchildren to walk their youngest sister to school before they headed to class.
But little did she know that that day would be the last time she would see her youngest grandchild, Maureen Khadeiza.
“Maureen had just started PP1 at Huruma Primary School and because I leave early, her brother, who is in Standard Seven, takes her to school before he heads to his school. His two brothers study at Mission of Hope,” Ms Mukhunji said.
In the afternoon they are also supposed to pick her up from school. Maureen’s classes end at 1pm while her brothers’ end at 4pm.
Ms Mukhunji says that she had informed the school that Maureen should not be released with the other pupils but should remain behind and wait for her brothers to pick her up at 4pm.
“This particular day, I arrived at home and did not find the children. I asked my neighbours if they had seen them and one of them told me that the young one did not come home and the others had gone out to look for her. I also immediately left to search for them,” she explained.
Not a school issue
On the way, she met her grandson and she started questioning him.
“He told me that when they went to Maureen’s school to pick her up, she was not there. And inquiring further from the guard at the school gate, he said that Maureen was released alongside the other pupils at 1pm. We looked for her until 10pm, when I decided to go and make a police report,” Ms Mukhunji said.
It was after Maureen went missing that Ms Mukhunji’s neighbours told her that for the previous one week she had been arriving home alone at 1pm.
Ms Mukhunji said the school headteacher told her that the school released all the pupils at the same time and if Maureen was now missing, that is not a school issue.
“I felt pain in my heart hearing those words. All I wanted to hear from the headteacher was some sort of concern to maybe assist me in looking for the girl,” she said.
“She said that the matter is not a school issue but a home matter, when the girl disappeared after coming out of the school and was still wearing a school uniform. I have reported at the Kariobangi Police Station, Mathare, Babadogo,”
It has been 10 days and Maureen is yet to be found.
According to Cecilia, the centre manager at Huruma Primary School, it was not clear to the school who was supposed to pick up Maureen after classes.
“Sometimes her brothers came to pick her up and sometimes she went home alone. Ms Mukhunji did not say who was to pick up her child. We only knew that she could not pick her up because of her busy work schedule,” Ms Cecilia said.
But Ms Mukhunji rejected the claim, saying that after enrolling her grandchild it was mandatory to inform the class teacher how the child would leave school after classes, which she said she did.
“I am the one who specifically informed the class teacher that I would not be able to pick up the girl and they should hold her back as others left so as to wait for her brothers to get her. It is quite unfortunate, the school has my mobile number. They should have reported to me that Maureen was leaving school at 1pm on her own,” she said.