School head succumbs to Covid amid fears of spike

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Star of the Sea Secondary School was closed after several cases of Covid-19 infections were reported last week. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI

Sophie Njoka and Yusuf Masibo

A secondary school head teacher in Mombasa has succumbed to coronavirus while a deputy principal was fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) yesterday, raising fears of a spike in infections in learning institutions.

Tononoka Boys’ High School principal Mohammed Khamis succumbed to Covid-19, four days after he was admitted to ICU at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital.

News of his death came as panic gripped a school in Kakamega county after reports indicated that a deputy school head is receiving intensive care.

Reports indicated the deputy head teacher of Itete Secondary School was rushed to Lifecare Hospital in Bungoma Town at the weekend and admitted to ICU after his condition deteriorated.

Khamis’ death raised fears at Tononoka Boys and its environs after it emerged that 10 teachers who had closely interacted with him had tested positive for Covid-19 while several students are awaiting their results.

The principal was buried yesterday afternoon at the Kikowani cemetery in accordance with Muslim rites.

Mombasa county Director of Education Moses Makori confirmed the principal had succumbed to Covid-19 complications in the wee hours of Monday morning.

“It is unfortunate that the teaching fraternity has lost a hard-working, jovial teacher to the deadly virus after he developed breathing complications on Monday morning,” he said.

Khamis was admitted to hospital on Thursday last week after he began exhibiting symptoms of the virus and requested samples from teachers and students be taken for testing.

“He suspected that he had contracted Covid-19 and even went ahead to initiate the process of testing the entire school and all those who came into contact with him, including his family.

The exercise was carried out at the school before it was ordered closed on Monday.

Upon testing positive, he was hospitalised at Coast General Hospital isolation ward before being transferred to the ICU a day later,” Makori added.

Sources indicated that out of the 10 teachers who contracted the disease, three were admitted to the Port Reitz Hospital, while seven are at the Coast General Hospital isolation wards undergoing treatment.

At Friends School Kamusinga in Bungoma, one student tested positive for Covid-19. The Form Four student returned a positive result after he was admitted to Kimilili sub-county hospital with Covid-19 like symptoms.

Blood samples

Confirming the incident, Bungoma County Health and Sanitation executive Antony Walela, said testing of the student’s blood samples was done at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) laboratories.

“The school management reported to us that the student had symptoms similar to those of a Covid-19 patient.

The student is currently admitted at Webuye County Hospital isolation centre where he is undergoing treatment,” said Dr Walela.

The county official said the school has more than 400 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates.

The death of the Tononoka Boys’ principal comes a week after the school and Star of the Sea High School, both in Mombasa, were closed for two weeks after teachers and several students tested positive for Covid-19, raising fears of mass infections among learners.

Parents of the affected students complained that despite their sons interacting with the teachers and the principal, they were being sent back to their homes without undergoing the mandatory testing and isolation.

Some of the students from the two schools were ordered to isolate in their classrooms without being monitored by health personnel.

“Our children were ordered to return home after the first cases among teachers were confirmed.

Only a small number that managed to be tested were ordered to isolate in classrooms with no one to monitor their progress,” lamented a parent of Tononoka Boys.

The parent added that families with students at the two institutions were at risk of contracting the disease since their children had been allowed to go back home and are closely interacting with families and society.

Some 100 Form Four candidates from Tononoka Boys had resumed learning two weeks ago while 40 teachers were in school.

The Mombasa county government remained tight-lipped regarding the number of students who had tested positive for the disease.

Last week, Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo, confirmed that the two schools had been closed after cases were detected.

Reports also indicated that some members of staff took private Covid-19 tests after showing symptoms with the results turning out positive.

However, a teacher at Tononoka Boys who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that contact tracing and isolation was yet to begin one week after the school was ordered closed.

“Parents were sent a memo advising them that the school had been closed to allow for fumigation, the memo did not disclose details on suspected cases of Covid-19  and the need to isolate learners,” said a teacher.

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