To the people of Tigania in Meru, Kenya, St. Kizito is a name they would rather forget.
It is a reminder of a night’s orgy of violence that left 19 girls dead from suffocation and another 71 injured at a local Catholic Boarding School.
School administrators said that the school grounds were haunted. Officials quickly agreed to change the name of the boarding school. Everyone wanted to forget the events of a Black Sunday July 13th, 1991.
The School’s Deputy Principal made a statement so shocking that it was quoted all over the world – from the defunct Kenya Times Newspaper to the New York Times.
‘It was like hell had broken loose.’ These were the haunting words of a girl who survived the St Kizito tragedy. She was not exaggerating.
Rape and Murder
When the dust settled down, dozens of male students were arrested and charged with rape and murder. The murder charges were reduced from murder manslaughter.
Some of the boys were convicted but they faced light sentences of four years or even less.
The girls who survived the ‘Black Sunday’ say that they have faced stigma and ostracization because of what happened back in 1991.
Everyone was asked the same question: Why?
According to some survivors, the male students wanted to protest bad food, lack of running water, the failure of the school to register them in an inter-school athletics competition.
The boys had a meeting with the Principal where they said they wanted eggs and milk to be included in their diet.
Strikes were a common occurrence at St. Kizito. A former student said that he witnessed no less than 10 strikes during his time there.
But the female students were not interested in participating in the strike. The plan was to punish the girls for not their refusal.
Some boys accused girls of having sexual relations with teachers.
A Well Planned Attack
Furious, the male students surrounded a dormitory where the girls were sleeping. They began by pelting the doors and windows with stones.
Panicked, the girls screamed loudly and huddled in a corner. Some girls were injured and praying earnestly that help would arrive.
It was about to get much, much worse.
A group of intoxicated boys broke down the doors with large stones and entered the dorm. It was a well-coordinated attack.
They had already cut off electricity supply to the dorms in anticipation, forcing the female students to retire to their dorms early.
Rape and Assault
The male students went on to rape and assault their fellow counterparts for hours that night. At the end of the evil night, 19 girls were dead and 71 girls were injured.
Visitors to the school were shocked when they visited the dormitory on the morning after. There were broken beds, torn clothes, abandoned shoes, and dozens of dead and injured girls littering the dorm.
In the morning the country woke up to the devastating news. Even President Daniel Arap Moi wept when he visited the school on Monday morning.
More than 300 male students were suspended indefinitely following the orgy of violence.
Why did No One Intervene?
Survivors testified that they screamed to the point of exhaustion, but the violence continued.
Several things went wrong on that fateful night. For one, a nearby police station declined to respond to crisis calls.
They complained that their cars had no fuel and they were, therefore, unable to get to St Kizito to help the situation.
270 girls were hiding in a dormitory that normally only houses 70 students. The panic and overcrowding resulted in a large number of girls dying from suffocation.
Police tried to prosecute the school security guards for not rescuing the girls, but the charges did not stick and the guards went free.
A survivor told NTV that the watchmen responded to the girl’s screams for help by telling them to be quiet.
Several school administrators coped out by claiming that the school grounds were ‘haunted.’
A teacher who was living in the school compound tried to rescue the girls from their attackers, but they merely waited for him to go away before returning to carry out their orgy of violence.
This humble school in Central Kenya was featured in the New York Times for all the wrong reasons.
Rape was Normal at St. Kizito
The school principal Stanley Laibon and Deputy principal told the Kenya Times that rape was a common occurrence at the school.
In fact, the deputy principal is reported as telling Kenya Times that the boys ‘never meant any harm against the girls. They just wanted to rape.’ It was a statement that spoke volumes.
71 girls who survived the night of horrors testified that rape was normal at St Kizito Secondary School.
So normal in fact, that a local Probation Officer told the New York Times that if girls had not died on that day, no one would have heard about it.
The events of July 13th, 1991 spurred major changes in the way boarding schools were run in Kenya. Most of the boarding schools were converted from coed schools to either boys or girls.
Only a few mixed schools remained.
As for St. Kizito Secondary School, it was renamed St. Cyprian Boys School and now hosts only male students.