Photograph — Zaian / Wikimedia

Josephat Namatsi is asking the Kenyan National Assembly to join him in his mission to address the root cause of his daughter, Tracy Silvia Namatsi’s death – inadequate health care and negligence in schools.

The 15-year-old died from an illness under the supervision of her boarding school’s authorities about a week after resumption in January. However, the conflict between her reported cause of death (malaria) and what the school’s clinic had been treating her for, in addition to how they chose to handle the situation during the period her illness got severe is the reason for Namatsi’s current petition.

According to how the events played out, Tracy fell ill with malaria but was instead treated for a bacterial infection at the school’s clinic. Afterwards, she was sent back to continue with her classes, not long after which she went into a coma and had to be rushed to a hospital where she died. Meanwhile, her father remained completely oblivious as her health situation escalated, as the school authority made no attempts to reach him. He was brought up to speed only after she had passed away.

To make matters worse, the call Mr. Namatsi received about his daughter’s tragic death did not even come from the school, but from the hospital where she was admitted. His enquiry into the school’s reason for not allowing his sick daughter get proper medical treatment and avoid the unfortunate outcome went unanswered by both the school and the Kenyan Ministry of Education, and so he turns to the National Assembly.

One of the top priorities of any school, let alone a boarding school, should be to maintain frequent communication with parents as regards their children’s welfare. Especially since parents use their hard earned money to ensure that their children get quality mental and physical care.

Health in particular is a sensitive area, and in a case where the child is far from home, communication between parents and school administrators to that effect is crucial. Obviously, from the moment Tracy started to show signs of an illness, her father should have been informed, whether or not it was an illness that the school could handle. Sadly, in this case the school was not even up to the task, thereby combining inefficiency with negligence.

Tracy was reportedly put under observation for four hours, during which the school [mis]diagnosed her, administered care, and deemed it fit to send her back to class. The school probably thought that it was adequately carrying out its administrative tasks, but perhaps it should have skipped the part where it sent her back to class. Even if it had evidently exhausted the amount of care it had to offer.

Mr. Namatsi insists that Tracy would still be alive if her school’s authorities had reacted differently, and this is probably a truth. He laments that his daughter did not have to die of malaria, as it is a treatable disease, and so he doesn’t wants other parents to have to ever suffer his tragic fate.

Communications need to improve between school administrations and parents. Parents on their part should not be afraid of being labelled overbearing when it comes to their child’s healthcare and general well being, particularly when they are out of their sight. Yes, you should place a level of trust in your child’s school authorities, more so if you pay through your nose, but it may be best to try to ensure that trust is being honoured.

Schools on the other hand have been criticised one too many times for their low levels of healthcare and emotional provisions when it comes to the students. For instance Mr. Namatsi states that he had called Tracy’s teacher at some point in that fateful week, and while the teacher confirmed that he knew about Tracy’s poor health, there was no satisfactory follow up.

Parents should not be scared to leave their children under the supervision of their schools. Students’ rights to adequate health care need to be fiercely protected. And unfortunately, Tracy’s death is a reminder of this fact.

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