Why Suicides Are Rising Amongst Teachers In Kenya


A teacher in Migori County has reportedly killed her daughter and taken her own life.

The body of Ms Sarah Boke Marwa, 33, was found dangling from a tree on her farm in Ntunyigi village, Kuria West.

Alongside Boke’s body was that of her daughter Dorcas Gati Mohagachi, who was just three months shy of her second birthday.

A police report about the January 7 incident showed that Ms Boke used a sisal rope to kill herself and her daughter.

On the fateful day, Ms Boke took lunch with her husband Daniel Chacha Mohagachi, 37.

Mr Chacha later left for Bukuria Primary School to pick up their other children, and upon arriving at home, he found his wife and the child missing.

“He looked for them and eventually found them hanging on a tree on his farm,” Kehancha town police said.

Domestic quarrels

The couple, both teachers, had a long history of domestic quarrels, and had recently reunited after living separately for some time.

In another case, Mr George Muhati, a teacher from Lubinu location in Mumias East, is reported to have killed himself on Tuesday this week.

The 54-year-old was said to have taken his own life in a poultry house using a manila rope.

A half-consumed chemical substance was found at the scene.

The two incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, with as many as 10 cases reported in the past one month from across the country.

The Kenya National Teachers Pressure Group says two of the incidents involved headteachers.

Two weeks ago, a primary school headteacher in Kitui killed himself as a result of family troubles.

House fire

Last month, a primary school teacher in Othaya, Nyeri County, died in a house fire he is suspected to have lit.

The 45-year-old, who was a recovering alcoholic, was said to have been alone in the house.

Kennedy Ochieng’, a 41-year-old teacher at Nyong’ong’a Secondary School in Nyakach, Kisumu County, took his own life in his home in Homa Bay.

The teacher reportedly hanged himself in Kalal village, Rachuonyo North sub-county in November last year.

Mr Akelo Misori, the secretary-general for the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), said depression due to work, family issues and hard economic times are major causes of suicide among teachers, as is the case with other Kenyans.

He proposed a serious study to determine the actual statistics, causes and remedy.

“But the cases are there. They are many and it is worrying. Some teachers over-commit to do certain things because they want to compete in this unequal society. Teachers want to live a good life and when these needs are not met, they fall into depression,” he said.


Hard economic times

Teachers, he said, need to be cushioned during these hard economic times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Where do teachers lean on? They do not have counselling services in their place of work. The psychosocial support which is necessary for such a large workforce is not adequate as prescribed in the Teacher’s Service Commission structure,” Mr Misori said.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, in his New Year message, said Kenya must continue thanking teachers for defying the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic to deliver quality teaching and learning in schools.

“I urge the teachers to continue being vigilant and put their best foot forward to ensure smooth learning in this special year, 2022, as they have always done,” said Prof Magoha.

Ms Martha Omollo, the spokesperson for the Kenya National Teachers Pressure Group, said frustration at work in the form of intimidation from those in management, threats, abuses, delocalization and family wrangles are among the key causes of suicide among teachers.

Depression is real

She said minor issues can act as triggers.

Ms Eva Muchemi, the Kenya National Teachers Pressure Group woman representative, said depression is real among teachers.

“Alcoholism is high among teachers and we have many in rehabilitation centres. Mental health cases are many and we have several cases in mental hospitals,” she said.

She added that some teachers have ended up in prison as petty offenders.

“We have one case where a teacher sold a stolen phone in the name of survival and looking for an extra coin,” she said.

Kenya ranked 114 among 175 countries in the World Population Review where suicide rates are the highest in the world.

The study was carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the suicide problem in Kenya, which had a rate of at least 6.5 suicides per 1,000,000 people.

The Ministry of Health promised to develop a National Suicide Prevention Strategy and Programme in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. The programme will include a free hotline for suicide prevention and psychological support.

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