We endanger lives of young ones by ignoring safety regulations

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 00:00 |
A police officer during the rescue mission at Precious Talents Top School. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Yesterday’s death of seven pupils, and the injury of more than 70 others, is a sad reminder that our children are not safe in school. 

Six pupils of Precious Talent Academy in Dagoretti South, Nairobi died at a local Catholic dispensary where they had been rushed for treatment after a classroom collapsed. The seventh body was pulled out of the rubble.

It was shocking to watch on TV parents rushing to the accident site only to learn that their children had been rushed to hospital. Painfully for some, the search ended in mortuaries. 

As usual, it was time for blame game. The proprietor of the school blamed the tragedy on the construction of a sewer line, which he said, weakened the building. Parents and local residents accused the management of negligence, saying the structure was hopelessly weak. 

Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha admitted that the Ministry officials were not even aware of the school, which was not even licenced. So, how do schools operate in full public view for years without the State being aware that they are illegal institutions?  

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko should tell us who approved the construction of the classroom and certified it for occupation. 

Meanwhile, the nation mourns yet again. Yesterday it was the collapse of a classroom. Tomorrow it could be a crumbling wall, a roof getting blown off by wind or a cholera outbreak in a school. 

Children are being killed by motorists and in school bus accidents. Many are sexually or physically violated by teachers and other school staff. Drowning accidents and school fires are far too common. Who bears the responsibility? 

After last year’s fire tragedy at Moi Girls High which claimed the lives of eight girls, the then Education CS Amina Mohamed pledged that the government would take all necessary measures to ensure learning institutions were as secure as possible.

Saying the safety of learners should be top priority in the layout of school structures, Amina promised that construction of new schools should be based on the model design that would ensure a healthy and stimulating environment in which children can learn with comfort.

The safety of the learner is central to the provision of quality education. This is particularly critical for learners at the basic  level because of their tender age. 

Young pupils are vulnerable to threats such as bullying by older colleagues, intimidation, verbal and physical abuse and all manner of harassment. 

Insecurity for children can emanate from inappropriate school facilities and infrastructure.

These include poorly constructed classrooms and playing grounds, insufficient and broken-down toilet facilities, gender insensitive location of toilet and bathroom facilities, and inadequate and inappropriate furniture.

After the 2007/08 post-election violence which saw the destruction of schools and disruption of learning, the Ministry of Education developed a Safety Standards Manual which would serve as a blueprint for enhancing safety in schools. 

The manual recommends minimum room sizes for classrooms and dormitories and the role of teachers, school managers and boards of management in ensuring safety of learners. Is the manual being adhered to? 

The Kenya National Fire Brigade Associations has also been asking the government to enforce the standards of construction of classrooms and dormitories to minimise disasters like fire tragedies. But who is listening to ‘mere’ fire fighters? 

Tragedies like yesterday’s would be minimised if laws and regulations were adhered to and if expert advice was taken into account.

Unless we resolve to protect our young ones by demanding that safety standards in schools are strictly enforced, more deaths will continue to be reported.

— Mburu is Education editor with PD [email protected]

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