Up bid to curb school fires

School fires have for a long time claimed students’ lives and destroyed property. The causes include electrical faults or arson by rioting students. This is precisely why the Ministry of Education has issued strict guidelines on how to avert them.

The weekend fire that destroyed a dormitory and a store at Kisumu Boys High School is the latest reminder of this burning issue. Luckily, there were no casualties as firefighters arrived on time and put out the inferno before it could spread to adjacent buildings. Sadly, though, nothing was salvaged from the fire, whose cause has yet to be established.

As often happens, there has been an assurance that investigations are being carried out. It is important that the cause is identified so that remedial action can be taken. However, the security personnel and heads of two other schools in Kakamega County said as much early this month following dormitory fires. It was the same case also in May in Kirinyaga County when a dormitory was razed, leaving 165 boys out in the cold.

Last year, a school in Busia gained notoriety for five fires in three months that were blamed on a feud over supply tenders. It is commendable that the authorities took decisive action and the was mayhem stopped.

Fire hazards occur in boarding secondary schools claiming innocent lives and damaging school properties every year. A thorough investigation is necessary to create a safe school environment.  The worst tragedy was the 2001 incident at Kyanguli Secondary School in Machakos in which 67 boys died. A Bombolulu Secondary School fire killed 26 girls, and at Tigania’s St Kizito Secondary School, 19 girls perished.

To safeguard the students' lives, there is a need for regular checks on electrical wiring and a campaign to enhance fire preparedness. This should go hand in hand with installing fire extinguishers, providing firefighting equipment and training teachers and students on disasters through regular fire drills.