You are a proud parent. Why? Your kid, the one you’d mushily refer to as the apple of your eye, and the heartbeat of the family, just got admitted to form one in one of the 101 national schools sprawling across the country. No mean feat.

The mood at home is hyper festive. Radiant. The fact that you had to dispose a fraction of your cherished ancestral land, or half a dozen cattle to meet the admission obligations does little to dampen the cheer. If anything, it exacerbates your pride. You feel responsible. You live for your kids anyway.

Depending on the gender of the kid;

Mum’s face glows each time she brags about her son to her friend (who consequently go green with envy) during those banter filled chama meetings. She warns them to also take their girls to equally decent schools if they hope to get a piece of him. She takes pride in rubbing it in their faces. Each one of them in that clique does it anyway; now is her turn.

The dad on the other hand, atop one of them tall stools at the bar counter, won’t just stop blabbering. He reminds any of his friends who cares to listen how his daughter is just as brilliant as the man who sired her (hehe we can be so dense at times, we men). Any way, he insists the girl is in fact first lady material, and so their sons better be presidents, or something close. Madness? No, the pride of a father.

So you love this kid of yours to bits. And since you’re striving to be the model parent, you understand a few things. You understand that such’ frivolous’ things as ‘good shopping’ and ‘enough’ pocket money that might as well be a ‘non-issue’, would be a matter of life and death to a teenager with a fragile self-esteem. And so you go the extra mile to make him/her as comfortable as can be.

A glance at the balance sheet…you have spent a fortune. Good investment nonetheless, or so you think.

A few weeks into second term, your kid starts complaining about the biting cold. The complaints become incessant. Then she starts to shiver, violently at times. The school nurse attends to her. So she pops some pain killers, and antibiotics. She somewhat recovers, attends lessons, but still feels rather awful. She looks weary. Well-meaning teachers (who have been strongly warned about being in contact with parents) advise her to take a rest at the sick bay. She reluctantly does.

But she’s not the only one flirting with death. Half the school is having this funny walking style. Some laugh it off; the wobbling. The students blame it on the numbing cold. The school nurse is overwhelmed by the bulging numbers who badly need medical attention. The school administration can’t just fathom how half the school can fall sick from the blue. It reads mischief. The boss, a good lady, reads hysteria. Misjudgment.

Meanwhile, your kid’s case worsens. Her dejected classmates collect her by the shoulders and trudge to the school van. The sight is heart wrenching. She’s hastily driven to a nearby hospital. Well, not exactly. It’s actually a dispensary. One of those CDF jokes. The paramedics there can’t diagnose any malaise. Another case of hysteria? You wish it were. Only that she’s in such a bad shape. Scary.

So she’s brought to Nairobi. A high-end hospital. Good move.

She can barely talk, and she definitely can’t eat. Her breathing is strained and painful. Doctors look at her, shake their heads, and then exchange those knowing glances. Those that are taught at medical school, perhaps. They gingerly inquire whether whoever brought them can foot the cost of the ICU.

The nurse and the accompanying female teacher go pale. “Is it that bad?” they incoherently mumble. The docs, in their signature outfits; snow-white coats, fancy lanyards and stethoscopes dangling around their necks, nod in unison. They have seen many people than they care to count die right before them. Their response is rather terse and tepid, “The situation is pretty dire, the girl should have been brought in at least a week earlier.” They promise to try their utmost, though keen not to raise any false hopes.

Neither the now forlorn nurse nor the jittery teacher is too enthusiastic about calling the principal with the grave news.  But the former finally makes the dreadful call. The principal is thrown off balance. (Think George W. Bush on 9/11). She loses her cool. Panic.

You then receive the damn call. Your world crushes down, almost. But you cling onto hope. The stubborn hope president Obama likes to talk about. Your kid is the remarkable type: strong and ambitious. The type who loves life, with its grapes and barbs. You  believe she’ll fight for her life. And because she loves you with all she got, you believe she’ll fight for you too.

You hop into the next shuttle to the city. Those that whiz by like rhinos on steroids. You eventually arrive in town after what seems like eternity. But before you can beat the pesky traffic along Mombasa road to get to the said hospital, where your little angel, the beacon of hope for the family is wrestling death; heavens open up and receive her.

On arrival, the grim news hit you like a bolt of lightning. Your hopes are dashed. Your world tumbles. You are totally crashed. You go ballistic. The principal and half her staff are there. The doctors are telling you something. You see nothing. You hear nothing. Darkness.


Nothing grates the heart more ruthlessly than losing a student you knew and taught. Yet that’s precisely what I had to endure; the wringed hopes of a humble family after losing the pride of their home. The buried dreams of a promising student. A star.

We lost Brendah to pneumonia. Docs said her lungs were severely damaged. She was one gorgeous girl, with a beautiful heart. An easy, disarming smile that could thaw ice. Always prim, with her braids tucked into a pony tail. She listened more than she talked.

Had she been attended to promptly, maybe, just maybe, her life could have been saved. Perhaps I couldn’t have written this. Perhaps I couldn’t have lost my job (not that I’m crying)

In retrospect, I think we should push for some drastic changes in our boarding schools – nurse to student ratio. It defeats logic to expect a single nurse to attend to say 1400 students.

Guide lines on prompt medical attention to avert medical negligence.

A certain the quality of drugs stocked in the school clinics, and even how well stocked such clinics are in the first place.
Parents and teachers alike ought to be cognizant of learners’ psychological concerns like stress in order to effectively contain any medical conditions that might come with them.
So, just how safe is your kid in school?


8 thoughts on “Lovely Brendah

  1. Yep. Just how safe is my child in school?

    My child coughs, a teacher should call me, on the same day. That’s a good place to start.

    Good read. Very good writing.


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