School Arson: the Kenyan Education Tragedy
Every year in Kenya, the ministry of education faces the threats and sometimes numerous cases of school arson. The trend of the increase in school fires raises several questions in the minds of stakeholders, teachers, and parents on the security of these schools, and the factors contributing to the incidents. The most notorious case of schools arson occurred in 2001 where 67 students from eastern province died in a dormitory fire with the latest being the September incidents at Moi Girls School and St. Georges Girls, both of which are located in Nairobi county. Most regions of the country have experienced some school arson cases, in which, mainly dormitories are torched and sometimes classes or administration offices.
Causes of school fires
While some fires may occur due to accidents such as electrical faults, most school fires in Kenyan schools are a measure of last resort through which students channel their grievances. These grievances range from thedissatisfaction of students by some new school rules or a complaint when they feel oppressed and ignored. For example, in 2016, most of the school fires arose as a response to the new directives from the CS education Dr. Fred Matiang’i. These directives led to ashortening of the school holidays for second and first terms while eliminating visiting days in thethird term. The measures were put in place with the broader goal of eliminating exam cheating. The recent fire at Moi Girls’ was also caused by students’ anger towards the administration.
Effects of school fires
Fire in schools destroysschool and student property, including dormitories, classes, offices, bedding and clothing of the student leading to losses for the school and parents. In more severe incidents, some may die while others develop complications related to fires. Emotional trauma resulting from loss, injury and fear affect both the students as well as teachers and parents. The shock especially may affect the performance of the students. Questions of how secure these schools are may arise among students, parents and the general population leading to thewithdrawal of students from the affected schools.
Preventing school fires
Stakeholders in the education ministry, as well as parents, should cooperate in the prevention of school fires. Prevention of school fires may be established through more involvement of students in administrative matters that may affect thestudents. For example, by creating a school council, students can air their grievances and negotiate a way forward. In case of disagreement, the administration and the school body may compromise on a stand that is agreeable to students and the school administration.