Netizen 24 KEN: School fires raise questions on safety

School fires raise questions on safety In Summary The loss of the innocent lives rekindles sad memories of fire tragedies that have rocked ...

School fires raise questions on safety

In Summary

  • The loss of the innocent lives rekindles sad memories of fire tragedies that have rocked the education sector in the recent past, with 126 cases in 2016 going down into history.

  • Mr Akello Misori from the Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers also said politics and wrangles within schools were possible catalysts for the rampant arson cases.

Advertisement By KENNETH K. NDORI

The revelation by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that the recent fire at Moi Girls High School in Nairobi that claimed the lives of nine girls was a case of arson raises more questions than answers.

Dr Matiang’i observed: “We have a school environment where there are arguments about local communities and the headteachers and they foolishly take it on to the point of destroying school property and getting into criminal activities to make a point.”

He added that some parents are angered that the job of headteacher goes to those who “don’t come from the area or from the same clan”.

The loss of the innocent lives rekindles sad memories of fire tragedies that have rocked the education sector in the recent past, with 126 cases in 2016 going down into history.

At the time, a variety of motives were cited. Some included what appeared to be protests by students over the shortening of holidays and limiting of visits by parents. Others included revenge from cartels that had previously benefited from selling of national exam papers prior to the exams.

DISCIPLINE

Blame was also placed on parents who failed to discipline their children. Dr Matiang’i castigated parents for failing to “instill the right values” which, in turn, resulted in students engaging in anti-social behaviour.

Teachers were also said to lack guidance on how to manage students’ behaviour, especially after the governm ent banned caning in schools without putting in place alternative and workable ways of handling students’ indiscipline. Other findings cited drug abuse and imposition of strict rules on students by school administrators.

That politicisation of school leadership can lead to arson attacks should be a cause of great worry. Management wrangles, clan politics and questions of who should sit in school boards have dogged many schools over time to the extent of bringing even giant schools to their knees.

In a ‘BBC Focus on Africa’ radio interview in 2006 on the possible causes of fire incidents in Kenyan schools, Mr Akello Misori from the Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers also said politics and wrangles within schools were possible catalysts for the rampant arson cases.

SELFISH INTERESTS

It is indeed worrying when school managers fails to provide a service to students, the school community and other stakeholders in the education sec tor and opt to pursue selfish interests. No wonder, school leadership is now a coveted position of extorting money from students and parents.

In 2016, 150 students and 10 teachers were charged over school fires with almost none of the cases having been successfully prosecuted.

All in all, the 2008 Safety Measures by the ministry of Education would have come in handy in saving the lives of the nine students and preventing many others from serious injuries. These measures include installing fire-extinguishers, adequate security arrangements, well-maintained and clean learning rooms and a properly-reinforced fence.

DORMITORY DOORS

The rules also require that boarding school dormitory doors should be at least five feet wide and they should open outwards.

Schools are also required to record details of all visitors to monitor strangers, who may have the intention of harming students or teachers. Some schools have ignored these measures, expo sing students to danger.

Schools should play their rightful part in ensuring the safety of all learners, failure to which the administrators should be ready to take the blame and face the consequences of such negligence.

Mr Ndori teaches English and Literature at Mvita Boys Secondary School, Mombasa. [email protected]


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Netizen 24 Kenya: Netizen 24 KEN: School fires raise questions on safety
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