23 August 2012

Kenya: Eight Pupils Die in Dorm Fire Amid Tuition Ban

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Primary school students (file photo): The pupils were on holiday tuition, despite a ban decreed by Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo.

At least eight pupils at a girls' primary boarding school in Homa Bay died in a dormitory fire on Wednesday night.

The class seven pupils at Asumbi Boarding School were asleep in the dormitory when the fire broke out due to what is initially suspected to be an electrical fault.

However, area deputy police boss Kennedy Wabuoba said investigations had been launched to determine the cause of the fire.

Wabuoba said the fire still remained a mystery as the school management remained at large to shed light over the incident.

Parents stormed the school on Thursday morning after learning the sad news and took away their children as others broke down in tears on learning of the demise of their loved ones.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in his condolence message called on the Education Ministry and the Provincial Administration to carry out proper investigations into the loss of the eight young pupils. He further urged them to ensure families and other pupils are counselled following the fatal incident.

"News of children perishing in fire is traumatising indeed. This tragedy is therefore a real blow to the parents who were hoping that their children would emerge with good results in the coming exams. I ask the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Administration to get to the bottom of this tragedy and present a comprehensive report to the nation. The parents affected must also be given necessary assistance as they struggle to come to terms with this loss," he said in a statement.

The pupils were on holiday tuition, despite a ban decreed by the Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo.

The fire that started at around 9pm burnt down three dormitories and destroyed property worth million of shillings.

The Kenya Red Cross coordinator in Homa Bay John Roche said they helped remove the charred bodies, which were taken to the Homa Bay mortuary.

It could not be established how many pupils were in the dormitory, as others were in their classrooms.

Kilonzo last Wednesday reiterated that strong disciplinary action would be taken against any public or private schools ignoring the directive abolishing holiday tuition.

He said the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Code of Conduct bars a public officer from charging or accepting any fee for tuition of a student, even if it is given outside official working hours.

He indicated that any head teacher entertaining the practice will be punished and the School Boards of Management will be dissolved.

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