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Are Kenyan schools following new safety guidelines?

By Graham Kajilwa | Aug 10th 2015 | 2 min read
The remains of the beds in Stephjoy High School after a fire razed down a dormitory killing two students. [GEORGE NJUNGE/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: According to the Ministry of Education's school safety guidelines for  disaster and risk reduction, every school should post a blueprint map of the buildings, classrooms, dormitories and hallways.

There should be a telephone tree list including names of employees, pagers, teachers and parents for contacts in case of an emergency. The paramount of all is that fire drills should be carried out as often as possible to boost preparedness.

Considering that fire disasters are common with high schools, it means most institutions are not following these guidelines.

The safety measures by the ministry include instalment of serviceable fire-extinguishing machines, good security arrangements with provision for both night and day, well-maintained and clean learning rooms, a properly reinforced fence with an appropriate mechanism for repair and maintenance.

Boarding school dormitory doors should be at least 5ft wide and they should open outwards. The dormitories should also have emergency exits at the middle and back, and windows must be without grills and should be easy to open outwards.

Fire extinguishers and fire alarms should also be fitted in the dormitories in case of a fire outbreak to protect students from being burnt and at the same time to safeguard property.

The schools are also required to have a visitors’ book to record details of all visitors to the school so as to monitor strangers, who may have the intention of harming students or teachers.

On a visit to Precious Blood High School, the Principal Jacinta Akasa admitted the safety of schools is a paramount and complex issue.

“However, there should be no compromise when it comes to their implementation,” she said, adding that her school has adhered to the ministry’s guidelines.

“As for disaster preparedness, we usually have fire drills regularly so our students are always alert on the protocol,” she added.

Some schools, however, have gone beyond just following up the guidelines. Ngara Girls High School is one of the schools that have employed new technology. The school has security cameras that monitor all angles of the school compound right from the entrance.

“This will help keep our girls safe as we understand that we are located in a highly busy area,” the school's principal Nancy Mutai said during a prize-giving ceremony at the school.

But if the majority have adhered to the safety guidelines, why then do we have the same disasters ravaging the schools? When Upper High School was set on fire in 2008, killing one student, parents at that time blamed the school administration for admitting four students who had been expelled from another school.

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