Police have started investigating circumstances under which 11 children were left dead after fire gutted a dormitory at the Salama School for the blind in Mukono.
According to Kampala Metropolitan deputy police spokesperson, Luke Owoyesigyire, the fire outbreak happened at 1am at Salama school for the blind in Luga Village, Ntanzi parish , Ntejeru Kisoga town council in Mukono district .
“The cause of the fire is currently unknown but so far 11 deaths as a result of the fire have been confirmed while six are in critical condition and admitted at Herona Hospital in Kisoga,” Owoyesigyire said in a brief statement.
This incident comes at a time when cases of school fires had greatly reduced around the country.
According to the Uganda Police 2021 Annual Crime Report, a total of 1,258 fire emergencies were handled in 2021 compared to 1,015 in 2020, marking a 23.9% increase.
These fire incidents were mainly attributed to negligence, electrical short circuits, charcoal stoves, and unattended candles among others.
A recent police report indicated that most school fires are set deliberately by persons with ill motives.
The Police Director for Fire and Rescue Services, AIGP Joseph Mugisa recently said that whereas there have been guidelines put in place by government to help control school fires, these have not been heeded to by schools.
He said in most schools, the dormitories are so congested whereas the deckers are piled up.
“Packing of deckers and learners in a dormitory should be avoided. For example, in the Kawempe school fire, there were three deckers going up and learners were almost touching the ceiling. In case of emergency, the learners could not escape and many could be killed during a stampede,”Mugisa said.
“Dormitories should have adequate means of escape but there should also be adequate evacuation plan in case of any emergencies.”
The Police director in charge of fire and rescue services said schools should have perimeter fences and CCTV cameras installed at strategic points as a determent measure but also check bags of learners before entering schools for materials like matchboxes and petrol that could be used to start fires.
Schools have also been urged to always keep an ear on suspended or expelled students but also watch out for any information in case of misunderstandings with neighbours and in any case, the information should be reported to police for action.
“Schools should have portable fire extinguishers in place and other fire detection and alarm systems for use in case of a fire outbreak. Schools should also be constructed in a way that aids fire safety,” AIGP Mugisa said.
Recently, Police and Vivo Energy partnered to launch a fire safety education campaign titled ‘Cool Kids Stop Fires’, aimed at reducing the incidents of fire outbreaks in schools and resulting injuries, fatalities and loss of property.
The campaign will also be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports.