The late Miriam Nanjala, a student of Mukumu Girls High School

The late Miriam Nanjala, a student of Mukumu Girls High School who died following a disease outbreak in April 2023.

| Photo|Family Album

Mukumu Girls tragedy: A family’s agony at death of visionary daughter

What you need to know:

  • Damaris sells porridge and scones in the Chekulo market. Her lastborn daughter, Miriam, was working hard to write off that part of their history.

The night before Miriam Namanjanja died, she spoke eloquently about the future she envisioned. All she wanted was to pull herself out of abject poverty that had permeated so deep in her family and carry her parents and siblings along with her.

Her mother, Damaris Wakhoya, tells the Nation that this was the first time her daughter told her about her grand plans for the future.
“When I grow up, you will not suffer. I will ensure all my siblings get the best life,” Miriam told her mother.

“When I tried looking at her, our eyes wouldn’t lock, but she kept talking. My heart beat so fast, but I was hopeful that her words would come true.” 
Damaris sells porridge and scones in the Chekulo market. Her lastborn daughter, Miriam, was working hard to write off that part of their history.

“She told me that she would be a doctor. She hoped to achieve more than her aunt, a teacher, who was her role model. I just told her to work hard,” recalls a distraught Damaris.
Miriam was born 15 years ago, and, in April this year, all her life’s dreams were buried at her parent’s home in Malava, Kakamega County. 

When students went home for the half-term break in March this year, Miriam left the Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls’ School feeling weak. Her mother, who was at home when she arrived from school, remembers getting worried when she saw her daughter’s wobbly gait. 

Miriam went straight to the living room and slept, telling her mother that she had been unwell for some time.  Shortly after, her dad, Daniel Webo, came home and found her on the couch. 

“My daughter looked pale. I asked her what was happening and she told me that she was unwell. I asked whether she had received any form of medication and she said she had been given brufen and malaria drugs at the sick bay. She complained of a stomachache, back pains and, occasionally, headaches. Her stool was black,” recalls David.

Deteriorating situation

During the break, they took her to a local dispensary and all tests taken there were negative. She was getting weaker by the day. At the dispensary, she was given painkillers and amoxicillin capsules. She stayed at home for two more days but her situation deteriorated.

“We took her to Malava sub-county hospital where blood, urine and stool samples were taken for testing,” he says. Again, all tests turned negative.

“We were given painkillers and amoxicillin capsules once again, and I was advised to buy drugs that could boost her blood count,” he says.

All this time, Miriam slept all day and barely walked. On the Saturday that she died, her parents took her to a better hospital– Lugulu Mission Hospital.

“We knew her as a quiet and reserved child, but on the day she died, she had so many stories to tell,” says her father.
Ever since she came from school, her appetite remained poor. But on that Saturday, she asked for mangoes and milk which she devoured heartily. 

That night, she complained of feeling too hot but her body was cold. “She asked us to open all the windows and doors but she was still hot.”

At 3 am, her parents decided that they couldn’t wait till morning to take her to hospital. She requested her father to ask her cousin who owns a motorcycle to come and ferry them to hospital. 

Read: 'Poisoned' then neglected: Tragic story of Mukumu girls

The dad left her in the house and when he came back with her cousin, he found Miriam’s mum standing on the door and the words she told him broke his heart.

“Our Miriam is gone,” he recalls.

“What happened yet I left her talking?” There was no answer at the time. Everyone was trying to come to terms with the most heartbreaking outcome for any parent who had great hopes for their child. When the Nation visited their home, Damaris courageously narrated what happened.

“Before her father left, she woke me up to tell me that she had dreamt that she had become a veterinary doctor. She told me to ask her dad to cook ugali for her. He did, in three minutes. I didn’t want to eat, so she had her last meal with her father,” she narrates.

"When the father left for her cousin’s place, I stayed behind, preparing to leave for hospital. Her bedroom is just next to the main door. She asked me to open the door to let in fresh air. I didn’t get it at first, and she joked that I needed to learn English. She repeated, in pauses, and I laughed so hard. I was hesitant to open the door because it was cold,” she adds.

Miriam insisted, but when she went near the door with the help of her mother, she became too weak to stand. “She looked back as if someone had called her and died, kneeling down and having her last diarrhoea,” says Damaris.