Death of nursery pupil in Molo school sparks controversy

Joseph Mukera in an undated photo.

Photo credit: Family Album

When Joseph Mukera, 4, woke up on Wednesday 31 May, he was cheerful and in good health and had breakfast with his siblings.

His mother, Mary Wanjiru Njuguna, says she prepared her son, accompanied him and dropped him off at Milima Mitatu Early Childhood Development Education Centre in Turi, Nakuru, where he attends school.

Like any parent, she returned home knowing that her son was in safe hands - with his tutors at the ECDE centre.

Little did she know, that was the last time she would see her son alive.

Hours later, her son lay dead at the Molo Sub-county Hospital.

What happened at the school? What killed little Joseph? 

The parents of Joseph Mukera, Mary Wanjiru and John Njuguna.

Photo credit: Mercy Koskei | Nation Media Group

These are the questions his family is grappling with.

Mrs Wanjiru, a resident of Milima Mitatu village, says she received a distressed call from her aunt that Joseph had fallen ill and had been rushed to Molo sub-county hospital by his teachers and that she should be there.

"I rushed to the hospital and found Joseph's teachers who were about to leave the hospital. 

"At first they did not say anything but after a short chat they told me that my son Joseph was lying on a hospital bed. I went straight to the ward they directed me to and was shocked to see my son lying still on a hospital bed," the heartbroken mother explained.

"I broke down as I tried to wake him up but to no avail. A doctor who was attending to him broke the sad news that my son was dead. He died on arrival at the facility," the distraught mother added.

Her son, who had left home healthy and happy, was dead.

"I was confused and didn't know what to say. I felt like I was in dreamland. How could my son be dead? What killed him? I went out of the ward and asked the teachers what had happened None of them had an answer. They remained silent," said Mrs Wanjiru.

According to Ms Wanjiru, she was later told by neighbours of the school, who also have pupils at the school, that her son had accidentally hung from the school fence and suffocated with a knitted hat he was wearing during the 10am break. 

Photo credit: Mercy Koskei | Nation Media Group

She said neighbours were the first to respond to the cries of Joseph's colleagues and when they rushed to the scene, they found him hanging unconscious from the school fence before taking him to hospital.

"I am the one who prepared him for school and he was fine. He never complained about any health complications. In fact, I dropped him off at the school gate and came back home ready to go to a church function, but hours later I got a call that he had been rushed to the hospital. I don't understand what happened," she said. 

"When I enquired from his class teacher, she told me that she was not there during the incident as she had gone for tea. I wonder how they could leave small children alone. It is unclear whether he died at the school or at the hospital," the distraught woman added.

Joseph's father, Mr John Njuguna, said he left his son with his other siblings in the morning, had breakfast and left for work.

He said he was shocked to receive the news of his son's death.

"My wife came to work and told me the sad news that our son was dead," said Mr Njuguna. 

Photo credit: Mercy Koskei | Nation Media Group

"I had to stop what I was doing and rush to the hospital, it was heartbreaking to see my son, who I had left happy in the morning, lying lifeless in the hospital bed. What we want are answers from the teachers: the school says he was sick, while the school's neighbours, who responded to the distress call from the other students, say he was strangled by the Marvin while playing," he said.

According to a report filed at Molo Police Station by teachers at Milima Mitatu ECDE, the child allegedly died due to health complications, a claim the family has refuted.

According to the report seen by the Nation, the child died after falling ill.

The family now wants the police to conduct a speedy investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding their Joseph's death.

The parents have since recorded statements about the death, demanding justice for their son.

"We want to know what exactly happened, did our son die because of the negligence of the teachers at the ECDE centre, we want to know the truth of what happened," said the father.

Molo Sub-County Director of Education, Mr Sylvester Musikoyo, told the Nation that his office had received information from the head of the institution and that they were investigating the matter to find out exactly what happened.

The Deputy County Commissioner for Molo Sub-county disputed reports that Joseph died of suffocation, saying he was informed by teachers that he had been sick for some time.

"The child had a medical condition and died when he was taken to the hospital. A post-mortem will be conducted later to establish the cause of death," he said.

The school's account differs from that of neighbours of the school who say they were eyewitnesses.

Joseph's body now lies in the Molo Sub County Hospital mortuary awaiting a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death.