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Outrage as two students killed in StephJoy school fire

Two students died and eight injured as the season of school arson sweeping across the country worsened.

Arsonists, suspected to be students, torched a dormitory at Stephjoy Boys’ Boarding in Limuru, Kiambu County, on Sunday night. The 11pm fire quickly spread to two dormitories nearby.

Seven of the injured boys were treated at Tigoni County hospital, about seven kilometres away, and discharged, while the eighth boy, who suffered more severe burns, was transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital for specialised treatment.

In the past month alone, arsonists have struck at 20 schools, leaving in their wake a trail of destruction and threatening the lives of thousands of students.

Among the schools affected are 10 in Kilifi, five in Nyamira, three in Meru, five in Tharaka Nithi, three in Embu and one in Isiolo counties.

CRISIS MEETING

The spate of arson prompted the government to call a crisis meeting last week during which Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi considered banning mock examinations to ease tension in schools.

The announcement has been ridiculed and opposed by Kenyans who say assessment must take place to determine students who should progress to the next level.

 

Kenya has a tragic history of school fires started by students who are either afraid of exams or seeking to exact revenge against school authorities by harming prefects.

On Monday, students and parents said the fire was started by unknown people, suspected to be students, who threw an inflammable substance into the dormitory.

Some of the witnesses claimed two students were seen by a security guard near the affected dormitory minutes before the fire broke out.

“The watchman confronted them demanding to know what they were doing outside the dormitory at that time of the night but they rudely asked him why he suspected they were up to no good. The watchman then ordered them to go and sleep,” said former Juja MP Stephen Ndichu, who was among the first parents to arrive at the school Monday morning.

 

STAMPEDE AT THE DOOR

“I was awoken by screams from fellow students and realised the dormitory was on fire. The students were running helter skelter, trying to force open the door which was locked from inside. Realising that there could be a stampede at the door with everybody trying to force his way out, I rushed to the window and screamed for help. That is when students from the other dormitories came to our rescue,” said Dennis Baiya, a Form Two student.

“I do not know exactly what happened. I just found myself in hospital where I was rushed unconscious,” said another Form Two student, Daniel Muhindi.

It took the rare courage of George Njenga, a Form Two student, to rescue his colleague Zachary Njoroge from the fierce inferno.

“We were all standing there watching as Zachary’s body was consumed by the fierce fire. I decided I had to do something. I grabbed one of the bedsheets, dipped it in a bucket of water and wrapped it around myself then waded into the fire and pulled him out. He was badly burnt, I don’t know whether he will make it,” George said.

Sources at the Kenyatta National Hospital said Zachary suffered 95 per cent burns and was in critical condition.

NO FIRE EXTINGUISHER

It took the students about one hour to put out the fire using water, as the school has no fire extinguishers. It is not clear whether any member of staff was in the compound at the time.

The bodies of the students, identified as Ian Kamau, 16, and Edwin Mugo, 15, both in Form Two, were badly burnt. They were collected by police officers from Limuru around midday Monday and taken to the City Mortuary.

Ian’s mother wept uncontrollably as her son’s body was being taken away by police, asking to be allowed to see it. Police arrived at the scene shortly after the fire had been put out and arrested 10 students for questioning. They later picked up one more student Monday morning.

The school’s founder, Joyce Mugambi, said the school would cooperate with authorities to establish the cause of the fire.

The chairman of the school’s board, Mr David Ngecha, said he called the school’s matron around 10pm to find out if everything was okay and was told that all the boys were in bed.

“I was therefore shocked when the same matron called me shortly after 11pm telling me the school was on fire,” a visibly shocked Mr Ngecha said.

SOURCE: Daily Nation