By Abel Amala
A pupil at Kakamega Primary School, who survived last Monday’s fatal stampede, says the chaos began when a male Class Six pupil scared his counterparts in classes 4 and 5, screaming he had seen a ghost that “wanted to suck the children’s blood”.
Fourteen children died, and at least 37 others were injured in the chaos.
According to the daughter of Hellen Wahito and Alex Muhati, a Class Six pupil went to the building that has classes five and four, and told the children that they were being called by their teachers to the staffroom.
When the learners left for staffroom, the Class Six pupil is said to have walked back to a higher floor and told the children that he had an announcement.
When the pupils turned to hear what he had to say, the Class Six pupil is said to have scared his schoolmates that he had seen a ghost that had vowed to suck the children’s blood.
Alarmed, the pupils began scampering for “safety”. The resultant confusion led to the stampede that saw several pupils falling to the staircases and being trampled on by their schoolmates.
Postmortem reports released Thursday, February 6, by pathologist Nixon Mchana show the victims died from suffocation.
K24 Digital interviewed the survivor, a Class Four pupil, in the presence of her parents Hellen Wahito and Alex Muhati.
Below is her narration:
“Two boys were fighting in class, then another pupil came to our stream and told us that we were being called by our teachers to the staffroom. We hadn’t gone far, when he went back to a higher floor and said he had seen a ghost that wanted to suck our blood.
“In his own words, he said: ‘I am seeing someone who has horns, and is wearing red, white and black clothes. He is saying he wants to suck our blood’.
“The pupils immediately ran to the staircases, with the male children leading. Many girls tripped over the boys’ legs and fell. Other pupils -- while still frantic -- trampled on the ones who were on the ground, resulting in the victims suffocating and dying.
“I was pushed to the ground while attempting to run for safety. I fell on the staircases, and rolled down. I sustained not-so-major (sic) injuries. Sadly, my friend died during the stampede.
“I won’t blame teachers for the children’s death; they were at the staffroom when the incident happened.”
A mother’s regret
The survivor’s mother, Hellen Wahito, told K24 Digital that her daughter, had, in the recent past, complained that senior male pupils had developed a habit of deliberately tripping female pupils up while on the staircase.
“On Thursday last week, she asked me to talk to her teachers so that she could be transferred to another classroom which is not on the storey building. She said senior boys often tripped her and other girls up while using the staircase. Even on Monday morning, she asked me to plead with her father -- who was going to the school for a meeting -- to have her transferred to another classroom.
“I regret I didn’t heed her request. Her complaints began when she was in Class 3 when she asked me to transfer her to another school, but I refused because Kakamega Primary School, posts good grades in KCPE exams, and I have no reason to remove her from the institution,” said Wahito, a resident of Shivakholo.
“Her elder siblings studied at the school, and scored good marks in KCPE. Even now, I am still adamant to transfer her to another school,” added Wahito, whose daughter was treated at the Kakamega County Referral Hospital and discharged Monday.
Wahito’s daughter’s narrative was echoed by a male Class Five pupil, who said the Monday stampede happened at around 5pm.
Seated next to his father, Francis Majoni, and mother, Jesica Nyoso, the Class Five pupil said tens of his colleagues attempted to flee the “danger zone” using narrow staircases that can barely accommodate two people walking in opposite directions.
These revelations come on the back of a report by Western Kenya Regional Commissioner, Anne Ng’etich, that the government is still investigating the cause of the killer stampede.
Addressing journalists at her office in Milimani, Kakamega Town on Thursday, February 6, Ng’etich urged Kenyans to be “patient” with authorities as the probe continues.
They weren’t ‘running over nothing’
Education minister, Prof. George Magoha, while addressing parents, teachers, pupils and the entire Kakamega Primary School fraternity on Tuesday, disclosed that of the 14 learners, who died on Monday, five were male and nine were female.
“Two of the deceased were in Class Four, whereas the remaining 12 were in Class Five,” said the Education CS.
Magoha said the total student population at Kakamega Primary School was 3, 128, with 296 enrolled to the early childhood education programme.
The CS said the learning centre has 70 teachers employed by the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) and four by the Board of Management.
“The school has an average of 64 pupils per stream, and it has 51 classrooms,” said the minister, who went ahead to claim that due to the school’s history of posting top grades in KCPE, Kakamega Primary School has been popular among parents.
“In 2019, they posted a KCPE mean score of 333 marks out of the possible 500; in 2018, they had an average score of 338 marks; in 2017, they posted a mean score of 336 marks; in 2016, they had 322 marks; and in 2015, they posted a mean score of 328 marks,” said Magoha, who firmly stated he won’t accept a less-convincing finding on the cause of the fatal stampede.
“Children were running, but you won’t tell me they were running over nothing,” said Magoha.