The High Court ruling on safety of dormitories is a timely and apt reminder to school managers on the need to protect children in schools.
In her ruling, Lady Justice Roseline Korir rightly described dormitories as death traps. Indeed, every year, a number of cases are reported of property burnt and lives lost to arson in secondary schools.
What is, however, shocking is that many of these cases could have been prevented had school managers fully implemented the safety guidelines and recommendations fronted by Ministry of Education taskforces.
The ministry’s officials also seem lax in enforcing these life-saving guidelines.
Findings of a special investigation team on schools unrest in 2016 cited a number of causes of arson in schools including drug abuse, anxiety over examinations, indiscipline and fears over school audit queries.
Besides listing the causes, the report unearthed shocking cases of congestion in dormitories where some students were forced to sleep on triple-decker beds due to the high number of learners. Other students were even forced to share beds.
In some schools, dormitories do not have emergency exits, as recommended by the ministry, while some have narrow doors that compromise the safety of students in cases of emergency. Basic security breaches such as locking all dormitories when students are out of the halls are also not observed by some.
The requirement that the distance between beds should be wide enough to allow students to escape fast in case of danger has also been ignored by some.
What was, however, shocking in the 2016 study was the finding that some dormitories were locked from outside while students were asleep to deter them from sneaking out of the school compounds.
The findings of the Claire Omollo report confirmed the sheer negligence in schools that exposes students to danger.
Needless to say, the 100 per cent transition has put secondary schools under immense pressure as they have been forced to admit students beyond their capacity.
While this is a commendable move that will see more students access secondary education, everything should be done to ensure that children’s lives are not put at stake.
It is, therefore, important that the Government adequately funds schools so that they expand their facilities, especially dormitories, and implement all these recommendations to make our schools safer.
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