14 November 2018

Uganda: Leader of Oppostion Asks Janet Museveni to Resign Over Rakai School Fire

Parliament — The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ochan, has asked the First Lady Janet Museveni, to resign as Education minister over what she said the ministry's failure to enforce its directives and guidelines.

The call during a House sitting on Tuesday comes in the wake of debate regarding the fire that gutted St Bernard's Secondary School, Mannya in Rakai District, killing 11 students and leaving 40 hospitalised with injuries.

This is the second deadliest bonfire in 10 years after the Buddo Junior school fire that claimed 20 pupils.

Ms Aol said that besides the failure to enforce standards, there has never been any police report into such fires that has been made public.

"The minister, without the investigation reports of the past fires, she has no business in this house; she has to resign," said Ms Aol.

She added that, "how many fires have we had, start to count from 2008."

The Leader of Opposition emphasised that it's unfortunate for parents to send their children to school to study only to pick them packed in boxes dead, in the face of standard guidelines faulted by schools.

However, the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga immediately stopped the debate, saying that the matter is still under investigation.

Following the Buddo inferno, the then Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura issued a set of guidelines for all schools as well as capacity to respond to fire emergencies.

They included a provision of fire extinguishers at all schools and fire-fighting skills for all members of the school community, including the students.

Many schools continue to operate under the watch of authorities without even a single fire extinguisher.

Legislators from the Opposition said this was a direct interdiction on the minister, especially given that supervision seems to be at its weakest.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Higher education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo told MPs that the ministry, in joint effort with the security forces had mounted investigations into the Rakai fire, with at least eight suspects apprehended so far.

He also said that after the incident, several efforts have been put in place including support to the bereaved families.

"Government joins the rest of Ugandans to mourn this great loss; we have made some financial contributions to the bereaved families to assist with burial expenses and to each of the families of the injured students towards medical expenses," Mr Muyingo said.

The minister was presenting a statement on the fire on the floor of Parliament.

He once again instructed all school heads, School Management Committees and Board of Governors to strictly observe and adhere to the Security Guidelines on safety and security of lives of students and pupils.

However, the minister contradicted the police statement when he said that nine students and not eleven were confirmed dead while 40 students are admitted to hospital.

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