School fires in Uganda new crest kawempe
Fire destroyed the New Crest Junior School in Kawempe Division, Kampala, on January 15, killing four students and injuring three others. FILE PHOTO

In Uganda, classrooms and dormitories regularly catch fire, why do these fires happen, and who is to blame, here are the causes for school fires compiled by Flash Uganda Media.

School fires have been rampant in several schools in Uganda over the years. This has frightened everyone involved, including educators, parents, and members of the government.

The top reason for these fire outbreaks is that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers have not been installed in many schools in Uganda. 

As the article continues, more details about the causes of these fire outbreaks will be discussed.

A Brief History of these School Fires

The New Crest Junior School in Kawempe Division, Kampala, was destroyed by fire on January 15, killing four students and wounding three more.

A fire that ravaged one of the school’s dorms killed a Primary Four student at St John’s Primary School in Kyotera District on the same day.

A mere five days after students returned to school following nearly two years of school closures due to the Covid-19 outbreak, two separate occurrences startled the nation.

The number of school fires in the first three weeks of the new school year has already reached six, with four more incidents occurring last week.

Nanziga SDA Primary School and St. Cecilia Primary School, Masajja are both in Wakiso District. The rest are in Busoga Sub-region, with Bupadhengo Primary School located in Kamuli District and Buluba Day and Boarding Primary School, Mayuge District.

Other schools were gutted by fire in the previous years.

  • Wairaka College (May 31, 2019)
  • Budo Junior School (April 16, 2008)
  • St. Bernard’s Mannya SS Rakai (November 11, 2018)
  • St Jude PS in Nakasongola on (February 21)
  • Mbarara High School (April 24, 2016)
  • Mother Majeri Primary School Kirinya, Bweyogerere on (April 24, 2017)
  • Welden College Mbarara (August 15, 2016)
  • Rugarama Nursing School (September 21, 2019)
  • Mary Stuart Hostel (May 26, 2018)

In all these schools fires lives were lost, some students were hurt and millions of shillings’ worth of property was damaged.

What are the causes are school fires in Uganda?

When schools are nearing their final examinations, or when students have just reported, these fires are more likely to occur. 

We have compiled the causes of Ugandan classroom and dormitory fires by the Flash Uganda Media team, with information about where and why these fires happen in Uganda.

Most schools don’t follow safety measures

Among the set safety rules for schools in Uganda is that;

Every dorm must have at least two exits – the main door and an emergency escape door – as part of the safety regulations. 

In contrast, many dorms have only one door, and many of these are shut from the outside at night.

Lack of CCTV cameras around the school

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and perimeter fences are all things that many schools lack. 

Others still allow triple-decker bunkbeds and windows that are impenetrable by burglars.

Peer influence

During adolescence, many young individuals are easily influenced by the company they keep. Some will do anything to gain acceptance or to please others. 

Because of negative peer pressure, pupils have gone so far as to set fire to their schools only to show that anyone can do it.

Poor communication

Sometimes students accuse the school administration of ignoring their concerns. For this reason, some students may mobilise their friends to set ablaze for such trivial matters as food, field trips, and uniforms.

Sometimes harassment can lead to students taking matters into their own hands if they feel they are being treated unfairly. 

It could be a punishment that was given to them which they thought was too heavy and they didn’t deserve. Out of anger, they may set the school on fire, but this is on rare occasions.

Poor parenting

The lack of parental guidance is a major factor in the number of school fires that occur in Uganda. Some of the kids planning to set their schools on fire have previously been suspended from other schools for reasons of insubordination. 

As to why certain students are more disobedient than others, it’s not clear. When parents fail to provide their children with the advice they need, their children are more inclined to do what they want.

Overloaded curriculum

A lot is demanded of students in Ugandan schools. Some kids are unable to cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with too many expectations. 

It’s difficult to determine if there’s tension at the school because teachers tend to be busy and don’t get to know their kids well. 

This may sometimes cause them to act out of stress.

How can we prevent fire in schools?

Exits and alarms should be easily accessible

Staff and teachers can easily handle this crucial task. Fire exits, alarm stations, and stairways must always be free of obstructions. 

In the case of an emergency, kids will be able to evacuate the building without any difficulty.

Need to Review and Update fire prevention policies

As a school, even if your fire prevention and control strategy are rock-solid, there may be flaws or blind spots that you aren’t aware of. 

The procedure of preventing fires should be continually revised and improved.

The Ugandan government, schools, and local fire departments need to work together. In every area, they offer educational programs for campuses or schools. 

These discussions together can help refine your fire prevention policies.

Empowering students

School children must be taught about the importance of maintaining a safe distance from open flames at all times. 

Teachers can reward them as a way of expressing gratitude for their good behaviour, following the rules, and helping their classmates. 

This in turn instils a sense of pride in your pupils’ participation in the school’s fire prevention and safety program will help them succeed in college.

Offer to counsel

Counselling services should be available at every school, and they should be available at all times. Teachers, parents, and students should be allowed to talk about critical issues affecting the school and listen to what they have to say. 

As a result, students can benefit from the advice of others who are at a similar stage in their education.

Train school administrators on good management

School administrators might improve their management abilities by participating in regular training sessions on how to prevent fires including what to do In case there’s an outbreak.

Create safe zones

If there is a fire, everyone should be able to flee to a designated safe spot outside the school. An accessible safe zone should be located far from the building.

Practice fire safety drills more often

Fire safety lessons need to be constantly emphasised, no matter how well schools implement fire safety plans and preventative measures. 

Every month, conduct a fire drill to ensure that all students are aware of the various escape routes and how to prepare for an emergency evacuation.

Why is fire safety important in schools?

For obvious reasons, a fire in a school can have a devastating impact on the lives of dozens or even hundreds of students. Combustible materials like wood or plastic make up the majority of classroom furniture, as you may be aware.

Combustible liquids in the chemistry lab make it a high-risk area for fires. An out-of-control fire in this type of environment can quickly spread and inflict significant damage. 

Furthermore, pupils’ lives are forcibly taken from them. For these reasons and more, fire safety is important in schools.

Conclusion

Students and staff alike need to be aware of the importance of fire safety in any educational facility. While school fire drills are necessary, they aren’t adequate to keep students and faculty safe from harm in the event of an actual fire. 

To prevent this, school administrators must go above and above by installing advanced fire detection equipment, routinely evaluating escape routes, and shaking up the safe zone as needed.

For most of the fires in Ugandan schools, the main reason is still unknown because of the way through which these fires happen. However, these listed are still some of the main causes of fire outbreaks in schools.