It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark! On the onset of the heavy rains that were to last a full forty days and nights cycle, Noah’s family and all animals had a place to take refuge and they survived the calamity of that time.
As I think of Noah’s preparedness, the sorrowful Kyanguli Secondary School fire tragedy of our generation lingers in my mind. Maybe if Kyanguli had some fire extinguishers installed, if the dormitory windows had no grills or maybe the dorm had an emergency exit door, we would still be having the young souls building the nation today.
25th March 2001 was a day like any other in Kyanguli Secondary School. Night came and students retired to their beds after toiling hard on their books. The moon was shining, and quietness prevailed. The conditions were perfect for sleep.
On that fateful night at around 1 am, a fire swept the dormitory when many students were dead asleep catching more than a hundred students unaware.
Those who perished could not escape because one door was locked. Furthermore, the windows of the dormitory were barricaded with metal grills leaving one single exit point as the only salvation for the students who were then engulfed in heavy smoke while screaming for help.
By dawn, 67 young souls had been reduced to nothing, but smoldering ashes and several others were injured and left with severe burns.
No fire services responded to the inferno and within minutes, the roof of the dormitory collapsed on the helpless students. Before the disaster, there had been tensions in the school over the cancellation of the results of 100 students who had done their KCSE exams over cheating and this resulted in a section of the students turning against the principal.
It later came to be revealed that two students at the Kyanguli school were the perpetrators of the heinous act. They were arraigned in court and charged with murder. Further, the principal and his deputy were charged for negligence.
Three years before the Kyanguli disaster, another fire had razed down a dormitory in near similar circumstances at the Bombolulu Girls Secondary School, ending the lives of 25 girls.
With the most recent Precious Blood Talent School tragedy that saw the demise of 8 pupils after the collapse of a two-story building that housed their classrooms and the Kakamega Primary School stampede that claimed the lives of 14 pupils, we still have a long way to go in curbing school-related calamities.
Despite efforts by the government to mitigate school disasters, the arch is not fully built yet and most schools seem not to have a laid down disaster or emergency preparedness plan.
There is a need for the government to work on strengthening policies that promote disaster management, the creation of more and strategic fire exits and fire assembly points in schools. Further, there is a need to invest in skills such as counseling skills, disaster management skills, life skills, first aid, and scouting skills in efforts to curb calamities in schools.
Having an effective emergency response and disaster management strategy in place might save us whenever disasters strike. Since time immemorial, we have had calamities catching us unaware not fully prepared to deal with them due to a lack of proper disaster management strategy. We may never be able to tell the exact time when they will occur but using history and data, we can always prepare insight drawn from data. The Building Bridges Initiative is an assurance of proper resource allocation to ensure a win on national disasters.