On January 13, 2024, beneath sombre grey clouds and the threat of rain, a poignant scene unfolded on the grounds of Michogomone Primary School in Naari, Meru County.
Three men, dressed in different shades of pants – blue jeans, maroon, and cream khaki – stood on a vibrant red carpet to bid a heartfelt farewell to Kathleen Nkatha Murugu and Fredah Kananu Murugu, two sisters who had tragically passed away within a span of just two days. Michogomone Primary School, nestled in the chilly yet agriculturally prosperous Naari region, welcomed a diverse gathering of mourners from all corners of the country, united in their grief and determination to say their final goodbyes to the departed siblings.
In the shade of square tents, mourners sat in contemplation, their eyes fixed upon two white caskets adorned with handles of gold and silver, each holding one of the dear sisters. The focal point of this farewell was the arrival of three men from Alale, a remote village in West Pokot, located over 660 kilometres away. Wearing their respective pants – blue jeans, maroon, and cream khaki – they took a moment to express their disbelief and sorrow at the untimely passing of Kathleen, a woman who had left an unforgettable impact on the lives of the Pokot children. Notably, the three preferred to remain unnamed.
In a poignant display of grief, the man in cream khaki pants could only manage a brief introduction before tears overwhelmed him. The man in maroon khaki pants, wiping away tears, joined his companion in an emotional retreat from the stage, leaving the man in blue jeans to convey their sentiments. Kathleen’s impact extended beyond the borders of Meru County. Hailing from Alale, she had been a guiding light for six children from the remote village, providing education and support. These children, now orphans, had all undertaken the 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, with the highest scorer receiving admission to an extra-county school in Uasin Gishu.
Kathleen’s commitment to the community extended beyond the six; she had touched the lives of over 50 other orphans and children facing extreme poverty, providing them with essential learning materials and gifts. In 2019, she founded the Kathleen Francis Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising the literacy levels of the Pokot people, a cause her late son, Bobby King Murugu, had identified during his time in the community. The trio from Alale, emotional and visibly moved, had been Kathleen’s trusted representatives on the ground. She had promised to see the six children through college, and since 2021, she consistently supported the broader group with educational essentials.
Throughout the gathering, the men referred to Kathleen as “mum,” emphasizing the familial bond she had cultivated with them. The man in cream khaki pants shared a special connection with Kathleen, having hosted her late son Bobby during his time in Alale. Kathleen had also sponsored his diploma in journalism and a certificate in social work and community development.
Kathleen and Fredah, two sisters with similar personality traits, were remembered as development-oriented, jovial, and charismatic. Kathleen’s journey from Michogomone Primary School in 1966 to her educational pursuits in Mombasa, Thika, Nakuru, and eventually India, showcased her dedication to academic excellence. After a distinguished 35-year career in finance, accounting, and tax analysis in both Kenya and the US, Kathleen, a US citizen since 1995, had retired and was on the verge of returning to Kenya to devote herself fully to charitable endeavours.