Sunday, July 20, 2008
School Fires: Arson or Accident?
What is happening in Kenyan secondary schools? Can someone please stand out of the whole damn mess and speak out.
Of late there have been incidents of fires breaking out (!) in our schools leaving tidy messes in their wake. Just last week a fire broke out at Nanyuki Boys’ and destroyed property worth a tidy sum. And two days ago, another fire “attacked” another high school (Upper Hill High School), destroyed property and left at least one student dead.
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Kalenjin secrets: Deadly Nandi versus Arap Moi
This recent spate of “mysterious fires” reminds me of two separate “school fires” that led to the loss of so much property and nipped many lives in the bud.
I am talking about the Kyanguli and Bombolulu fires. Remember them?
On 26th March, 2001 at least 59 male students died at Kyanguli Secondary School (in Machakos) when a fire swept through the dormitory they were in. Arson was raised as a possible cause of the fire.
Three years before the Kyanguli fire, in 1998, at least 25 female students died in Bombolulu, near Mombasa, when their dormitory caught fire while they were locked inside. A commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the Bombolulu fire and its only findings were that the fire was caused by an electric fault. Nothing concrete.
These are just some of the most horrendous fire tragedies that have ever hit our schools. But it seems school heads (and the Ministry of Education) will take a very long time to learn that a stitch in time saves nine.
Most of these schools do not have warning systems that would help to deal with fires before the worst comes to the worst. Neither do they have fire fighting equipment (nor the expertise among the students on how to handle “fire” situations).
Most of the Boarding secondary schools have sub-standard dormitory dynamics. I mean: i)the wiring system is ovyo kabisa; ii) the dorms ‘carry’ so many students than they ought to; ii) they have very small windows (and fewer too); iv) some students bring incendiary materials into the dormitories but the schools have not put in place the necessary mechanisms of making sure students don’t get their hands on such material.
But, know what, some other schools take the issue of “fire” very seriously. They have in place mechanisms of preventing incidences of fire from ever occurring. They are also very particular about the psychological health of their students. You rarely hear of riots or fires in these schools and institutions.
Seriously, this situation has to be taken care of before history repeats itself and we are left lamenting and pointing fingers (in the wrong direction!). I would hate to hear “The cause of the fire has still not been established” while at the same time counting bodies and calculating the losses incurred after a conflagration.
Posted by ritch at 6:58 AM