13 November 2018

Uganda: Rakai School Fire - Students Reveal They Had Been Getting Death Threats Since Last Term

As students, parents, and other concerned parties try to come to terms with the fire at St. Bernard's Secondary School, Manya in Rakai District that has so far claimed the lives of 11 students, many questions still remain unanswered.

Investigators are combing the scene of what appears to be a deliberate arson attack in an attempt to get some clues on what could have exactly happened.

The security minister and general Elly Tumwine and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) commander Colonel Kaka Baygenda yesterday visited the school whose surviving students have since been sent home.

"Investigations are going on. Police reached the scene and we shall get to the root of this," Mr Tumwine said.

However, there are allegations that an unidentified person was seen sprinkling fuel on students' beds and later set them ablaze.

"I saw someone pour fuel on a fellow student's leg from a window. The student woke up and asked the person what he was pouring on him. The person then lit a match stick and threw it inside the dormitory," a student revealed.

The crowded dormitory housing 50 senior three students soon caught fire. The students fought to get out only to find the door locked from the outside. It was minutes later that the door was broken and some managed to get out.

The school authorities have blamed a number of senior four students who had been recently suspended for indiscipline.

Rose Nalubowa, a member of the St Benard's board of governors said, "There have been some cases of indiscipline among some students and management recently chased them from the dormitories and ordered them to study while coming from their homes. We hear they instead rented rooms in Manya Town," she said.

These students allegedly left a drawing, on one the classrooms walls, with the words "Murder" as a warning to the school authorities.

"When they were moved out of the school, we saw some student whose name we can't recall saying, 'They have suspended us but they will see,'" a student said.

Some of these students were seen being put on a police patrol vehicle yesterday.

However, some parents of the deceased children have rubbished this claim and blame the school authorities for negligence.

"They are accusing the students of being the master minds behind this but we don't believe that. Students don't have the skill to pull off something like this. This mission had experienced arsonists not students," one parent said.

Another backs up this argument saying that her son had told her about anonymous letters they had picked in the school compound containing threats.

"When they got holidays they told us that they had gotten letters saying that they were going to get nine heads from the school and we advised them to stop moving in the school compound at night," she said.

One of the students also revealed that they had indeed picked a letter containing death threats in the compound last term.

"They threw the letter in the school compound and students picked it but they did not report the matter because they were scared," the student said.

The threat became real when the same dormitory was set on fire last Thursday.

"We saw some body moving in the compound while we were in evening preps then we heard some pupils from a nearby primary school come shouting. We quickly came out of the classrooms and found that the senior three dormitory was on fire," a student says.

Fortunately the fire was extinguished before serious damage was done.

The Sunday attack was, however, in favour of the arsonists.

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