Student dies, three others go blind after drinking sanitiser - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 22 February 2021

Student dies, three others go blind after drinking sanitiser


The death of a student after he drank sanitiser in a school has turned the spotlight on the growing danger of the liquid in institutions.

What was initially a potent weapon in the fight against the coronavirus has now become an agent of death and destruction in schools, as students are also using it to burn dormitories and school property.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha last month banned the use of sanitisers in schools.

The student of Kaputir Mixed Secondary School in Turkana South sub-county died while three others have lost their sight after they consumed sanitiser.

A report made by the school Deputy Principal Jeremiah Ewoi at Kalemngorok Police Post and seen by the Nation revealed that one of the students, Sospeter Lokora, 20, died while others lost their sight after consuming the toxic drink within the school compound. The deceased was a Form Four student.

Nyeri School fire

A teacher inspects burnt boxes and other items following a fire incident at Weru Integrated Secondary School in Nyeri County on Tuesday last week.

Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

According to the police report, the deceased shared the lethal drink with his classmates on February 8, but immediately felt unwell. He was rushed to Kaputir Dispensary, but died two hours later.

School laboratory

The body was moved to Lodwar Referral Hospital mortuary awaiting postmortem. It remains unclear whether there were more toxic chemicals from the school laboratory that were used to make the drink. Turkana South Sub County Police Commander Robert Kibuchi said investigations have been launched into the incident.

One of the victims said Lokora was one of his best friends and that he could not read any mischief after he invited them to partake of the drink.

“I do not know if I will die like him. I did not lose sight immediately after drinking it,” the student told journalists at their home in Lokwar village, where his parents are monitoring his situation.

He said that the next day he went to school as usual and sat on his desk at the back row.

“When the teacher was in class, I started to strain to see the chalk board and later could not see anything. That is when I lost my sight,” he said.

He described the drink as colourless, smelt like sanitiser and tasted like alcohol.  A second student said he realised the drink had taken a toll on him when he could not see the footpath to his home.

“I was led by my fellow students to one of the teachers to report that the drink had affected my vision. I didn’t drink much, I only tasted it,” he said.

60 per cent alcohol

To be effective, sanitisers need to have at least 60 per cent alcohol, but according to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, they have methanol which is toxic and should not be ingested.

The centre has warned that swallowing hand sanitiser can cause alcohol poisoning in children.

Some of the effects include nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, blindness, seizures, coma and permanent damage to the nervous system or death.

Teachers at the school, including the principal, refused to talk to journalists, issuing orders to the school gate man not to allow anyone into the compound.

Fire consumes a dormitory at Oloormirani High School in Narok County on January 17, 2021.

George Sayagie | Nation Media Group

Parents and villagers, however, pointed an accusing finger at the school management, blaming it for poor storage of the sanitiser and other toxic chemicals at the school’s laboratory.

Led by Festus Kaimos, they demanded that the top management of the school be held responsible until justice for the affected students and their families prevails. 

In Migori, the torching of four dormitories in three secondary schools is being linked to sanitiser.

The incidents were reported at Kodero Bara High School in Rongo sub-county, Moi Nyatike and Winjo Secondary Schools in Nyatike sub-county.

Kodero Bara was closed indefinitely as investigations into the cause of the fire are conducted.

At Moi Nyatike High School, students are suspected to have ignited the fire using the hand sanitiser that could have been sneaked into the dormitory, destroying a 100 capacity facility at the institution.

Videos of the fire incident which were posted on social media platforms showed students at the school milling around the dormitory that had been engulfed in flames.

School fires

The school’s principal Mr Stephen Auka declined to discuss the fire incident at the school, only confirming that no learners were injured. He said police officers are investigating the cause of the fire.

In an earlier incident reported on February 2, another dormitory with a capacity for 161 was set ablaze at the school.

County education director Elizabeth Otieno raised alarm about the use of hand sanitisers in schools.  “ The causes of the school fires are still under investigation. I’m, however, concerned by the use of sanitisers in schools since rogue students take advantage of the inflammable substance to raze down dormitories. We are treating the incidents as criminal cases and all students who will be found culpable will be charged in the court,” said Mrs Otieno.

At Winjo Mixed Secondary School, 89 students spent Tuesday night in the cold after their dormitory went up in flames while they were in class for evening studies.

Mrs Otieno noted that the government does not advocate for the use of hand sanitisers in schools, but noted that students could be sneaking it in. By DAILY NATION  

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