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100 days after Moi Girls School fire tragedy, mothers demand answers and justice

by 10/12/2017 17:59:00 0 comments 1 Views
By NJOKI CHEGE
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A hundred days have passed since a 2am inferno at Moi Girls’ School in Nairobi claimed the lives of 10 students.

Everything has since gone quiet, or so it seems. The children have been buried, newspaper headlines and stories about the blaze have petered out.

Journalists have packed up their cameras, folded their notebooks and moved on to other stories.

Mourners who had come to console the 10 families have since left. The school is slowly rebuilding, receiving a cheque from a well-wisher once in a while.

The remaining students have since gone back home for the December holidays with their families. 

The country has moved on in pseudo pretence of normality, but that has not been so for 10 mothers and their families — the tears of parents have not dried; not yet.

Kenyans who lost their children in the flames that ripped through the dormitory on September 1 are still enveloped in gut-wrenching pain and grief.

The Nation tracked the families now mourning the loss of the 14-year-olds. Some are battling guilt, blaming themselves, albeit wrongly, for the deaths. They have been left to ask numerous questions that nobody seems to have answers for.

Lives have changed. Families have been left with gaps so deep, they could never be filled with another child. Careers have been disrupted and businesses have come to a standstill. 

Some mothers have never gone back to work since the time of the tragedy. Siblings have been left alone.

The story of the Moi Girls’ fire tragedy is one of calamity.

It is a story of mothers who have collectively refused to move on. Only four out of 10 agreed to speak. Two out of the four agreed to have their photos taken.

Some mothers could not make it to the focus group discussion to tell of their experiences. They are battling depression.

Some have been sent to institutions because they still do not believe their daughters died. One spends most of her day by a tree at her daughter’s grave. Another has refused to talk about the tragedy.

They have difficult questions for the Moi Girls School administration and the Education Ministry. 

These mothers want justice.

 CLARA ASIKO

Daughter: Natalie Nanga Asiko

It was just Natalie and I. My parents died and Natalie was my world. It doesn’t matter how strong your faith is. Nothing can shake you to the core more than losing a child. Natalie was a respectful and God-fearing daughter.

Sometimes I sit and ask, “Natalie, where are you?” and questions such as “Is there heaven?” have a lot of meaning to me. I prayed together with my daughter many times. When I think of her death and how she loved God, I remember Ephesians 5:6 that urges children to be obedient to their parents so that they may have a long life.

That is the only commandment with a promise. Natalie was an obedient child. So what happened to the promise of a long life? These days, I wake up angry at everyone. That dormitory had more than 200 students. Why these 10 girls? How was it that my child was among those who could not wake up? Why are these 10 girls very special?

With these questions, I wake up to a bleak, hopeless day. Sometimes I forget that Natalie is dead and pick up my phone because I have something I need to tell her. Then I remember she is dead.

I miss those messages from Natalie, asking me to bring home pizza or KFC chicken. Then, they sounded like a bother, but now I crave them. I need another chance to bid my daughter farewell and tell her that I love her.

A month after I buried my child, I suffered depression and was hospitalised for a week.

I still see a psychiatrist. I could say it is helping a little though the progress is slow. One minute you think you are ready to move on, and then you realise you cannot. The most annoying thing is that everyone seems to have advice for me and they all know how I should deal with my loss.

Some people will tell me to put away my child’s photos. The school has not been very helpful. Teachers only came to see me because the doctor ordered them to do so as part of my treatment.

Nobody is willing to answer my questions, even the simplest ones. I believe Moi Girls should be held responsible for our daughters’ deaths.

I am also on the path of stigma. Society does not understand how to handle bereaved mothers. People don’t want to talk to you. They just invite you for weddings and parties to cheer you up. I am not in a celebratory mood. I am mourning.

Grief is a personal journey. People handle it differently, so we decided to come together as mothers of Moi Girls’ victims to start a support group. We communicate mostly via our WhatsApp group “For Our Lovely Daughters.”

We are 10 mothers at different stages of grief. Some of us want to talk about our children, others have shut down. We support and console one another and visit sometimes. My mind will be at peace when justice is served. Natalie was too innocent a child to die like she did.

 JUDY FAIZAH AZIZ

Daughter: Hawa Aziz

“This is the mother of one of the girls burnt in the Moi Girls fire” is how I’m introduced to people these days. My grief has become a tag around my neck. It is what people identify me with.

I am not coping with anything. I’m pretending to cope. Acting like all is well. My house, during these holiday season, is full of guests and Hawa’s cousins, but I am lonely. The loneliness is real.

Hawa’s bed has an occupant but every morning I go to her room expecting to see Hawa. The school administration does not care.

They have never bothered to contact me. They are finished with us. I visited Hawa’s grave on Saturday and it felt like a dream. Hawa is alive.

I wear her clothes and shoes. I don’t know if I will ever heal. My cousin sent Hawa’s father a counsellor but he refused.

I took the single session. I said never again. I have been told that healing starts from within. So I lock myself in the bedroom and tell myself “Judy, you have to heal. You have other children to take care of,” but grief is selfish. Grief is a personal journey. I am living one day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time.

The stigma is real. I have had to change stalls where I buy groceries. I do not even go to the same salon. I no longer visit my friends. I avoid going where people know me except the office because I have to work. I avoid chamas and I do not plan to attend any soon.

I avoid all these so that people will stop staring at me pitifully and asking questions or offering advice on how to move on.

Hawa’s younger sister is doing well. My friend, Mama Sumaiya has been counselling her and helping her stay strong. My sleep pattern has changed.

Usually, I would be in bed by 11pm and wake up by 4am. These days, I sleep at 3am.

I lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, remembering my daughter who wanted to become a lawyer. September 1, when Hawa died, was Idd-ul-Hajj. Why didn’t I go for my daughter? I picked her small sister from school and she suggested we go and get Hawa.

I declined because she was sitting for an examination. I wish I went for her. A lot of things now make sense. When I gave birth to Hawa through C-Section, I was left with a permanent mark. She was the only child I got through CS. Perhaps God knew that I would not have her for long.

Everyone seems to have moved on except me. Her death should not be in vain. Someone needs to take responsibility for what happened.

These were avoidable deaths. Do they know how my life has changed since that day?

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