Schoolgirl in fire tragedy ends up in ICU

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By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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In one bed at the intensive care unit of the Nairobi West Hospital lies an 11-year-old girl. She has scars on her face and is motionless, blinking only occasionally. Though her eyes are open most of the time, she cannot see. She cannot talk either, but doctors believe she can hear.

This girl almost died in her school dormitory. Fiona Wanjiru, 11, has been in the ICU since March 1 when a fire broke out in her dormitory at GSU Primary School, a public institution located inside the compound of the General Service Unit (GSU) headquarters near the intersection of Outer Ring Road and Thika Highway in Nairobi.

She is the only pupil from the affected dormitory to have been admitted to hospital after the fire incident, and very few people know for sure what happened.

Her family says she was sound asleep that Wednesday night when a fire broke out in a room where mattresses were stored in the dormitory.

As others scampered out, the family believes, Fiona, a Standard Six pupil, was dead asleep and she inhaled so much of the poisonous fumes from the burning mattresses that the carbon monoxide numbed her.

Her mother Hellen Wambui believes the flames never reached her because her nightdress, the one she was in when they found her in hospital, was intact. Her bedding was also unscathed, save for the fact that her mosquito net had sooty dust on it. What makes it more puzzling is the fact that she sustained burns on her face and hands.

Ms Wambui, 42, fears that because her daughter was new to the school – having enrolled in January this year – no one remembered about her until it was too late.

“One teacher mentioned that night that it is a pupil who told a teacher that Fiona was still inside. That time it was so painful but I asked the teacher, ‘Was the child forgotten because she was a newcomer?,” a teary-eyed Ms Wambui, a cook at a school in Nairobi, told the Nation on Thursday. Fiona’s elder sister Janet Wanyeki, a former pupil at the facility, said they are at a loss reconciling the facts.

“She’s the only person who really knows what happened in that room. That’s why we need her to wake up,” Ms Wanyeki said. Ms Wambui, a single mother, equally wonders why there has been little support from the institution.

Calls and text messages from the Nation to the headmaster went unanswered. Fiona’s class teacher also did not respond to our queries. Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, who has been briefed on the matter, promised on Friday that he would give a comment but he had not done so by the time of going to press.

The family is charged Sh100,000 for every day the girl spends in the ICU and by Saturday, the bill was well over Sh2 million. Through the efforts of Fiona’s elder sister Ms Wanyeki, who is a student at Kenyatta University, the family has raised about Sh300,000 through M-Pesa.

Well-wishers can assist the family through M-Pesa PayBill number 583974 and account name “Fiona Wanjiru”.

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