FOUR secondary school students and a caretaker died after a fire burnt a dormitory at Le Pic secondary school in Nairobi's Riruta Satellite area.
The children were trapped in the dorm whose windows have metal grills. Those who survived escaped the fire through the ablution block where they managed to pull off the metal grills.
Residents living adjacent to the school managed to rescue some of the children by pilling down the corrugated iron sheet fence surrounding the 77-bed capacity dormitory.
The four students who died in the Sunday night fire included a Form Four student Joseph Kamau, a Form two colleague Derrick Omondi and two students in Form On, Kevin Mulinge and Michael Njenga.
Njenga was a disabled student who had been involved in a 2008 accident that prevented him from sitting for KCPE exams in that year. He succeeded in sitting for the exam last year and joined Le Pic this year.
Stephen Odhiambo, the 23 year old dormitory caretaker who would have alerted the students from a nearby room died mysteriously in his own bath room cum toilet.
His body was burnt beyond recognition amid claims that his hands and feet were bound by a rope. Odhiambo is said to have been a very strict with the students and had recently been deployed to the secondary school from the primary section.
His wife, Jacinta Achieng wept uncontrollably as she viewed the debris of what used to be the dorm where her husband and the four children died.
She said that since her husband was deployed to the secondary school section a week ago, some of the students had on three occasions warned him of unnamed consequences if he continued to be a strict disciplinarian.
Jacinta said in the latest warning, her husband had been told not to go back to the dormitory. She said her husband forwarded all the leaflets to the school administration for action which had yet to be taken by the time of the fire.
"Why is it that he is the only one who burnt beyond recognition? Investigations should be carried out fast to establish the cause of the fire," Jacinta said alluding to the possibility that the fire could be the work of arsonists.
The school administration had recently suspended four boys on disciplinary grounds before taking the decision to deploy the caretaker to the boys' dormitory.
The directors of the school Beatrice and Philip Kori conveyed their condolences to the families of the bereaved and announced a temporary closure of the school.
The directors declined to say what could have caused the fire and said they would wait for the investigations. Yesterday's fire points to the continued defiance by schools to adhere to the 2008 Safety Standards Manual for Schools in Kenya.
The incident comes just a few days after Education minister Mutula Kilonzo toured Endarasha Boys High in Nyeri where he inspected the school's dormitory which has since adhered to safety standards.
Two Form Ones students died after students set a blaze a dormitory in 2010 at Endarasha. Following yet another dorm fire this time at Asumbi Girls boarding school in August in which eight girls died, Mutula had reminded schools to enforce the safety rules.
Mutula then warned: "School boards and management committees -- in both public and private schools -- that violate the safety manual will be be dissolved and deregistered if they continue to defy government policy directives."
Ministry of Education officials led by the Director of Higher Education, Robert Masese arrived at the Le Pic school to conduct to prepare a preliminary report to be forwarded to the Minister and the Education PS.
Nairobi provincial commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu asked school managers to revert to the 2008 safety guidelines to prevent the needless loss of lives in schools.
According to the safety manual, all doors of a dormitory should be wide enough, at least five feet wide and should open outwards and should not be locked from outside when the students are inside.
Each dormitory is supposed to have a door at each end and an additional emergency exit at the middle clearly labelled as such.
Dormitory windows should not have grills and should be easy to open outwards. The dorms should also be equipped with fire extinguishing equipment which should be functioning and must be placed at each exit with fire alarms fitted at easily accessible points.
Each boarding school is also supposed to post evacuation maps at every entrance and exit to the dormitories, the classrooms, enclosed hallways, stairways and offices.
Every boarding school is supposed to schedule practice drill sessions for fire and other situations that the safety committee necessary to practise. Fire drills are required to be held once a month.