14 November 2018

Uganda: Police Fault Rakai School Over Security Lapses

Kampala — The police have ordered administrators of St Bernard's Secondary School, Mannya in Rakai District, to immediately install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras following the Sunday inferno that killed 11 students.

Another 39 others are fighting for their lives at various health facilities from a fire that authorities are linking to intruders seeking revenge.

The southern region police commander, Mr Latiff Zaake, said had the school's management installed CCTV, detectives would have quickly identified the masterminds of the inferno that has left the country grappling for answers.

"We would not be struggling to get the culprits if surveillance cameras were installed," Mr Zaake said.

Earlier recommendations

Mr Hillary Tuyambaze, the police Fire Brigade officer in the region, told this newspaper on Monday that his teaam inspected the school in July, this year, and made safety recommendations that management failed to implement.

"In fact, among the things we told them to address included removing the burglar-proof windows, removing expired fire extinguishers, retooling guards, installing smoke detectors and CCTV cameras," Mr Tuyambaze said

Yesterday, security officers and school administrators held a closed-door meeting chaired by Mr Zaake, which lasted four hours.

Officials of the parents' association and members of the board of governors chaired by Fr Joseph Ssembatya also met. We were unable to establish details of their resolutions by press time

Detectives yesterday returned to comb the scene of crime and interview more witness in the suspected arson case.

Education minister Janet Museveni, her Security counterpart Elly Tumwine, and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) Director-General, Kaka Baygenda, visited the school on Monday before all its students, except A-Level candidates taking national examinations, were sent home.

Unknown people reportedly sneaked in under the cover of darkness, locked the dormitory from outside with two padlocks, sprinkled petrol inside before setting the building housing 60 Senior Three students alight.

The school, which is owned by the Catholic Church, was established 1989 and currently has a population of 1,500 students.

In the last decade, it has been among the best performing schools in national exams .

Ms Prossy Namuganza, the deputy head teacher, said three victims; Boaz Akanijuka, Richard Mugoza and Denis Ssengeye had been discharged .

Student's tale

We entered the dormitory at about 9:30pm after watching a football match between Manchester United and Manchester City. Immediately after, I heard some students, who were already in their beds, complaining that someone had sprinkled water on them.

I did not take it seriously and we slept. But at about midnight, we were woken up by loud bangs and shouts. I raised my head only to see smoke everywhere. I used my blanket to pave way, looking for the exit door. I could not see and in the process, I stepped on some of my colleagues who had already inhaled a lot of smoke. Some were crawling, others were already dead as a result of suffocation.

I bypassed my friend Antonio [Ssekitende] lying on the floor, but I could not help him. I was battling for my life as well. By the time I reached the door, there was already a stampede; everyone was struggling to move out. We could hardly flee at once.

The rescuers were also forcing themselves to enter [the dormitory and save lives], but fearing to get burnt. I was lucky that one of them pulled my left hand and threw me outside. I was feeling dizzy and unconscious.

I only regained my consciousness after being put in the open for an hour. After pulling out all the other colleagues, that is when we were put in one of the cars and rushed to Mannya Health Centre. I thank God that I'm still alive! It was so horrific.

As narrated by Boaz Akanijuka,16

Uganda

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