Enforce safety rules to stop school deaths
Thursday, February 6th, 2020
The tragic death of 14 and injury of more than 45 pupils of Kakamega Primary School on Tuesday is yet another reminder that our children are not safe in schools.
It’s also clear Education ministry officials, teachers, parents and other stakeholders are yet to implement safety measures in learning institutions outlined in the Schools Safety Manual.
Launched by then Education minister Sam Ongeri, the manual even recommends minimum room size for classes and dormitories and the role of teachers, school managers, teachers, pupils, boards of management and communities neighbouring schools in ensuring pupils are safe.
Is this manual being adhered to? The Kakamega incident came soon after last year’s incident at Talents Academy, Nairobi, in which eight pupils died.
On Tuesday, Deputy President William Ruto and Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha visited Kakamega and promised investigations into the tragedy.
Unfortunately, they were just going through the motions of what happens each time such calamity befalls the country. Such reaction leaves critical questions unanswered.
For how long will Kenyans mourn the deaths of children in avoidable school accidents?
Why are those charged with responsibility of ensuring compliance with safety guidelines reluctant or unwilling to do so?
Notably, the school fires that left many learners dead or injured, besides destroying property worth millions of shillings, seem to have also returned.
Last week, three students were injured in a dormitory fire at Moi Girls Secondary in Mandera. Three weeks ago, a student died in a dormitory fire at Bahati PCEA Secondary School in Nakuru.
Experiences gained from the 2008 post-election violence informed the Ministry of Education to develop a Safety Standards Manual for application nationwide. This manual is supposed to serve as a blueprint for enhancing the safety in all schools.
The Kenya National Fire Brigade Association has been pleading with the government to enforce construction of classrooms and dormitories in such a manner as to minimise disasters such as fire tragedies.
Unless the country rises as one to boost the safety of school children, more mass deaths will continue to be reported countrywide.
And the growing list of needless fatalities in learning environments is testimony that we have never learnt any lessons from the pain.