Sacred Heart Mukumu Girl's High School. Photo/ Courtesy.

Transferring of the Mukumu Girls Principal was a Stingy PR Gimmick

The lack of access to clean water in schools is due to a lack of coordination between national and county governments on water implementation tactics and the identification of resources to be tapped.

2 mins read

A 6 million borehole will sink in the next few days, water treatment shall be done countywide, medical bills for more than 500 hospitalized students will be footed by the government, and will be offered guidance & counseling upon returning to school.

These are the orders Education CS Ezekiel Machogu gave when he visited Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls High School in Shinyalu constituency, Kakamega County. Unfortunately, it took 4 deaths and countless admissions in hospitals for the Western-based school to get a promise of clean water, a basic human need.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) indicated that the food poisoning may have been caused by two lethal bacteria as a result of the consumption of contaminated water. Similar cases had also been observed in other schools for instance Butere Boys in Kakamega and Khasoko Boys in Bungoma County.

The four deaths including three students and a boarding mistress could have been averted by equipping the institution with reliable water purification systems, a function that is supposed to be undertaken by counties in line with policy directions from the national government.

According to an article that appeared in the Standard Newspaper in October 2022, the lack of access to clean water in schools is due to “a lack of coordination between national and county governments on water implementation tactics and identification of resources to be tapped.”

Consequently, the water supply and sanitation sectors are underfinanced as other competing needs take precedence. School principals are then left to grapple with the meager funds they are allocated to implement water projects which are often unsuccessful. That partly explains why Mukumu Girl’s High School resorted to tapping water from a nearby river.

Mostly what lacks in the leadership of our country is a clear vision and awareness of the critical nature of the right of access to clean water.

The ordeal at Mukumu Girl’s High School epitomizes the ramifications of poor leadership coupled with a wishy-washy drive toward meaningful policy formulation and execution.

As if we don’t learn from our repeated mistakes, the Education CS Ezekiel Machogu showed up at the facility and transferred the principal to another institution, a move that is typical of the knee-jerk changes the government usually makes in the face of a crisis to assuage the public.

These not-well-thought actions are meant to mask the fact that no tangible long-term measures have been put in place to ameliorate the dire situation.

Earlier on, the PS for Education Dr. Belio Kipsang’ was reportedly engaged in a heated altercation with the principal of Mukumu Girls Mrs. Frida Ndolo over the matter as they toured the school with the Health CS Susan Nakhumicha.

In the public eye, the principal is being used as a pawn for settlement in a matter where she is not the only person to blame. Past studies have shown that only one in three learners have access to safe water which implies that the dilemma is a crosscutting issue, zeroing down to an individual is being simplistic and naïve.

For students to access clean water, the Water Service Boards (WSBs) which are owned by County Governments must be empowered financially to develop and implement water facilities in schools across the nation.

The role of policy & strategy formulation and sector coordination is in the purview of the Ministry of Water & Irrigation Services according to the Water Act of 2016 that was operationalized in 2017. Monitoring and evaluation tours which are often haphazardly conducted or used as conduits for corruption must also be taken seriously by the ministry.

All Kenyans have a right of access to safe water and it is the role of both the national and county governments to ensure that it is realized.

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