Only 35 Percent Schools Meet Fire Safety Standards: Education Ministry

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Only about 35 percent of the boarding schools in the country have complied with fire safety guidelines, URN has learnt.

Dr. Denis Mugimba, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education and Sports disclosed this to URN in an interview about the latest fire incidents in schools.

On Sunday night, fire gutted two boys dormitories at Bilal Islamic school in Kawempe division, Kampala. This was the tenth fire incident reported in schools in the last seven weeks since schools resumed operation following the unprecedented closure triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least more than six learners were killed, several others injured and property lost in the school fires. Dr. Mugimba says that they are concerned that school dormitories have become death traps for learners.

In 2008, following the fire that gutted the dormitory at Buddo junior school and killed 21 learners, the Ministry of Education and Sports in collaboration with the Uganda Police Force drafted fire safety guidelines.

These included among others that each school should install fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fence the school premises to lockout strangers, remove the burglar proofing in doors and windows, eliminate the use of triple-decker beds and ensure that dormitories have multiple exit routes.

Despite years of vociferous debate and repeated calls for the government to improve its inspection regime, the fire incidents have continued. Dr Mugimba partly blames this on school administrators whom he says have failed to adhere to standards and only remember them when tragedy has befallen them.

Observations from Bilal Islamic schools indicate that the burnt dormitories were crowded with triple-decker beds with very minimal space between them. Learners have to crawl across several beds to reach their own.

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“It was luck that learners were not in the dormitories at the time of the fire. If there were children they could easily be trapped in this kind of arrangement,” one of the police officers who rushed to assess the damage said.

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