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Fire Guts Yet Another School Dormitory, 9 Students Arrested.

In what seems to be a growing trend in Kenya, another school has gone up in flames, this time in Murang’a County.

Property of unknown value was Tuesday night destroyed after students from St. Peter’s Kandara Boys High School (formerly Gakarara Secondary School) in Kandara torched one of their dormitories, forcing more than 540 students to spend a night in the cold.

The incident occurred a few minutes past 9pm, immediately after the first bunch of students had gone to the dining hall for supper which had been served late due to an earlier incident that had caused the school to recook lunch for the students.

According to the school’s principal Mr. Anthony Thuo, the students had complained that the githeri that was served to them for lunch had a taste of chlorine, a substance used to cleanse drinking water. After talking to the students, the principle instructed the cooks to prepare some rice, an activity that he told them, would take some time due to their numbers.

He claimed that as far as he was concerned, the matter had been solved and the students were okay with delayed lunch and supper.
“We had an issue with them yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon when they claimed that their githeri had a taste of chlorine. We settled the issue and I instructed the cooks to prepare rice for them. This took about three hours prompting them to have their lunch at around 4pm. We told them that due to the delay, they would take their supper at around 9pm and they agreed without any problem,” said the principal.

The students went for preps at around 7pm. At 9pm, the Form Ones were signaled to the dining hall for supper but as they were heading back to their dormitories to give way for the rest, they noticed some fire gutting down one of their dorms and raised alarm.

The school administration immediately put on their sirens and the members of public along with the Kandara Police dashed to the school to help.

The neighbouring residents rounded all the students to ensure their safety and to make sure that none of them escaped. As some of the residents were helping to put off the fire, the rest of the people and the police frog-marched the students to the school’s assembly point and ordered them to lie on the floor.

With the help of the Murang’a fire engines which responded in good time, they were able to put off the fire before it spread over to other buildings. They were only able to save property belonging to 23 boys in that dorm.

After the one and a half hours of firefighting, the teachers did some rollcall to ascertain the status of their students. None of them was missing.

“We ensured that none of our boys dared to enter the burning building to salvage their belongings for we could not risk letting them get near that fire. 123 students were affected with about 100 of them losing all their personal effects to the inferno,” said Mr. Thuo, adding that no student was injured.

According to police sources, 9 students are now in their custody and have been cooperating very well with the investigators. They are now narrowing down to about two or three who are said to be the actual culprits that set the dorm on fire.

“The main suspect has already owned up to the torching and is cooperating very well with us. He has already told us that he stole a matchbox which he used to light the mattresses with as his friend kept vigil, just in case someone came by unexpected,” said our police source.

However, he informed us that the investigations were still in their initial stages and they would not divulge any more information as at this time.

Wednesday morning, the principal convened a Board of Management (BOM) meeting which resolved that the school be closed immediately to allow investigations to go on uninterrupted and also allow the affected students time to get over the trauma.

He promised to call a parents’ meeting soon to deliberate on the way forward before the students resumed back to class.

He thanked all those who helped put off the fire and wished any resident who might have been injured during the exercise, some quick recovery.

Worried parents who had streamed the school after news spread of the fire were could not hide their joy to the news that no student had been injured or perished in the fire. However, they expressed their bitterness in the manner that things turned out saying that it was now time the government devised new ways to arrest this wave of student torching the schools.

“I am happy that no child has perished or gotten injured in this unfortunate incident. However, as parents, we are very mad with this unruly act as we obviously are the ones to bear the blunt of this. The government should bring back the cane as its removal has a lot to do with indiscipline among the children,” said one parent.

Area MP Alice Muthoni Wahome blamed indiscipline among the students to drug abuse and negligence among parents who had absconded their duty to discipline their children, leaving the burden to the teachers.

“As parents, we have a duty to ensure the discipline of our children and not to leave it to the teachers alone. The teachers should also embrace dialogue with the students even as they stayed vigil to monitor the students’ behaviour and movements at all times. I am happy that the area principals have convened an emergency meeting to discuss this issue and I pray they work out some collective solutions to this problem so as to avoid the spread of this bad trend,” said the legislator.

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