Why many schools are death traps for children

Monday, November 11th, 2019 04:05 |
Kuppet Secretary, (Tertiary Education) Sammy Chelang’a, Chairman Omboko Milemba and National Organising secretary Paul Maingi soon after the union released the findings of a survey on safety of schools.
Kuppet Secretary, (Tertiary Education) Sammy Chelang’a, Chairman Omboko Milemba and National Organising secretary Paul Maingi soon after the union released the findings of a survey on safety of schools.

A report by Kenya Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has confirmed that many schools in the country are death traps for children. 

As a result, tens of children die each year in school bus accidents, dormitory fires, dilapidated structures and  physical abuse by teachers, non-teaching staff and other bullies at school.  

The report came against the backdrop of the September tragedy at Precious Talent Academy, Nairobi, which claimed eight lives of young learners while 60 others were injured. Subsequently several schools across the country deemed unsafe were closed by the governmement. 

 The closures have inconvenienced thousands of learners, teachers and parents served by the institutions, as well as hundreds of national examination candidates. 

Following the disaster, Kuppet commissioned a study in 213 schools and the findings have confirmed what the media had been highlighting all along: Many schools are disasters waiting to happen.

Releasing the findings of the survey last week, Jonathan Wesaya Maina, an education expert at Tathmini Consulting,  said only 39 per cent of the schools sampled had broken the school safety manual down into simpler language for easy understanding by learners and other members of the school community. 

The report says while 67 per cent of the schools found the budget allocation on safety and security inadequate, 28 per cent had no allocation at all and only three per cent found the allocation enough.  Similarly, 97 per cent of secondary schools said the money was inadequate to cater for the increased student population due to the 100 per cent transition policy.  

“There is need for adequate resourcing for Quality Assurance and Standards department to address issues of safety in schools as well as increasing the budget allocation on maintenance and improvement to address issues of safety in schools,” Maina recommended.

Fire disasters 

The audit was conducted in 213 schools in 21 counties: Meru, Vihiga, Taita Taveta, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Samburu, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia, Kericho, Busia, Siaya, Homabay, Migori, Nairobi and Embu.  Out of this, 153 were secondary, 46 primary, 12 special school and one tertiary institution. 

While 55 per cent of schools surveyed were reported to have a visible label on fire and emergency assembly points, lack of exit and escape zones was highlighted as a major gap in assuring safety. In 2017 for instance, Moi Girls School Nairobi lost 10 girls trapped in a dormitory that caught fire in the middle of the night.

In the same year, over 100 public schools reported fire incidents where dormitories and school property worth millions of shillings were destroyed. The cause of the fires was attributed to arsonists believed to be students. 

According to the study, only 34 per cent of the schools displayed school safety instructions in an open area.  While half of the schools had inducted teachers and learners on school safety, 62 per cent agreed that the community had a role to play in school safety and security. 

“While 63 per cent of the schools sampled had safe and adequate toilets, another 20 per cent had inadequate and unsafe toilets while 17 per cent had inadequate toilets but they were safe. About half  of the schools had no demarcations for escape and exit points and in some institutions, laboratories were the only places with these demarcations,” says the report. 

Reacting to the report, Francis Liech, Secretary General, Kenya National Fire Brigades Association said students, teachers and staff around schools should be properly trained on fire management and disasters. He said Fire Safety Management should be taught as a subject in schools so that the children are aware of the dangers that fire can cause.  

Consequently, the report has called for training on safety, which should target trainee teachers in colleges and those who have already been posted and ensuring full implementation of safety policies. The report has called for a review and harmonisation of all policy instruments and guidelines relating to safety, security and disaster management in the education sector. 

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