Alarm after 10 schools hit by wave of arson attacks, unrest

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 12:00 |
Kensley Natasha, a student of Buru Buru Girls’ Secondary School in Nairobi being attended by medics at the Metropolitan Hospital, yesterday. Photo/PD/PHILIP KAMAKYA

Thousands of students were sent home yesterday following a wave of unrest that swept across the country as the effects of crowded term dates appeared to take its toll on learners. 

At least 10 secondary schools have suffered arson attacks in the last two weeks. Several others have also witnessed cases of unrest with disgruntled learners citing high handedness and lack of extra curricular activities as schools race against time to recover hours lost during the long closure of institutions following the outbreak of Covid-19 in March last year.

In the latest incidents, property of unknown value was destroyed at Chavakali High School in Vihiga county and Buruburu Girls Secondary School on Sunday night following student unrest on.

In the Buruburu incident, fire broke out in one of the cubicles, causing chaotic scenes as students scampered for safety. 

In some videos that went viral on social media, two learners were captured jumping from the third floor to the ground as smoke billowed from a dormitory behind them.

Yesterday, the school was closed indefinitely with the Board of Management saying the decision was reached after a consultative meeting to pave way for investigations into the incident.

“We will allow parents to go home with the girls and the date when they are supposed to come back will be communicated,” said BoM  chairman Lazarus Opicho.

By yesterday morning, about 59 students were receiving treatment at Metropolitan Hospital, according to a statement from the facility. Learners were treated for smoke inhalation. 

Thirty others were treated and discharged. Fire is reported to have destroyed one of the dormitories that houses 112 students almost to ashes.

On the same day, a similar incident was reported at Chavakali Boys High School where one a dormitory was razed.

Latest incident

It is said the fire broke out but it was contained by the students, who used water to put it out. 

The principal declined to comment on the incident. Vihiga County Commander Benjamin Ong’ombe said they are trying to establish what might have caused the fire and issue a report.

The latest incident comes days after a fierce fire destroyed a dormitory at Vihiga Boys High School.

Fire reduced to ashes Mudavadi dormitory, which houses 100 students. Police said the fire, which broke out early while students were in their morning studies, might have been caused by an electrical fault.

  In Uasin Gishu, a dormitory at Kipkabus Boys High School was set ablaze in a suspected arson attack.

It was reported that some students used a mattress to torch Njiru dormitory allegedly protesting over poorly-cooked ugali.

County Police Commander Ayub Gitonga said the incident was being investigated, adding that the situation was under control.

“All the learners have been accounted for and have been sent home as investigations continue,” said the police boss.

On Friday, two Form Four students were charged for attempting to torch a dormitory. While appearing before Eldoret Principal Magistrate Harrison Baraza, they denied the charges.

Electrical fault

They were each released on a Sh50,000 bond with a surety of similar amount. Case will be heard on October 9.

Police had arrested the students on Thursday night after they were found with petrol.

Meanwhile, St Ignatius Mukumu Boys High School in Kakamega was shut down after two of its dormitories were razed by fire last week.

Several students were arrested for questioning following the Thursday evening inferno but have since been released.

Investigators pointed at an electrical fault as the possible cause of the fire at Dr Luke’s and John Bosco dormitories. 

But Kakamega East police boss Robert Makau said the released students were still being investigated. 

Yesterday, three students from a Murang’a school were charged before a local court with attempting to burn a dormitory.

The three boys from St Paul Gathuki-ini High school in Murang’a East sub-county were charged that on October 29, they were found trying to burn one of their dormitories.

The Form Two students denied the charges before Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Maina. 

At the same time, the court released seven boys, who were arrested together with the suspects after police investigation report failed to implicate them in the crime.

The court released each of them on Sh100,000 cash bail and set their case to be heard on November 15. Separately, several schools have been hit by cases of student unrest.

Litein Boys High School in Bureti sub-county was yesterday morning closed indefinitely after students went on the rampage.

They destroyed classrooms and dormitories’ window panes after pelting them with stones protesting alleged high-handedness by the principal and some teachers.

There were also allegations of poor diet. Police moved in to restore order and stop further destruction of property. 

Officers cooled down protesting students and the Board of Management resolved to close the school.

Students were sent home for unknown period. Area Police Commander Peter Isanda confirmed the incident and said the school was closed indefinitely.  

“It is true the school has been closed indefinitely to avoid further destruction of property,” he added.  

In Baringo, traffic was paralysed on Tenges-Kasoiyo road after students from Tenges Boys High School walked more than 30 kilometres to the county headquarters in Kabarnet. Students were protesting the transfer of their principal, Paul Busienei.

More than 600 students were seeking audience with education officials.

Police calmed the students who later converged at Kabarnet stadium where they were addressed by education officials under tight security.

Separately, Molo Academy in Nakuru was closed indefinitely for the second time after students went on the rampage on Sunday night.

Chaos came weeks after the school was reopened following another strike that left behind a trail of destruction.

Sub-county Education officer Sylvester Musikoyo said they had resolved to close the institution indefinitely to allow police ample time to conduct investigations.

“Institution has been closed down indefinitely. Police have been deployed to investigate and take to court criminal elements,” said Musikoyo.

Early morning

During the last strike, students had complained that they were being barred from wearing marvins to keep them warm during early morning hours despite the area being chilly.

They also wanted the school to do away with preps on weekends.

Learning was also paralysed at Keveye Girls’ High School in Vihiga yesterday after students went on the rampage to protest alleged defilement of a student.

The learners said one of them was attacked and raped by a man, who accosted her early Saturday morning while she was going to relieve herself in the latrines.

The students were later calmed down by Sabatia sub-county education officer Alex Duro, who promised that investigations would be done and the culprit brought to book.

 And Yesterday morning, another dormitory went up in flames at Gendia Boys’ High school in Rachuonyo North sub-county.

Rachuonyo North Sub-County Police Commander Sarah Chumo said no student was hurt in the incident.

In a similar incident, fire razed a boys’ dormitory at ABC Katelembo Mixed Secondary in Katheka Kai of Machakos at 5am yesterday.

Katelembo Assistant County Commissioner Susy Kasaine said that though no one was hurt, the whole  dormitory was burnt down. The cause of the fire is yet to be established.

Reports by Noven Owiti, Wycliff Kipsang, Enock Amukhale, Philip Yegon and Dennis Lumiti

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