An audit report reveals that schools are ill-prepared to deal with fires
According to a fire safety audit of secondary schools, the majority of schools do not meet minimum safety standards.
As per the Auditor General’s report, schools are overcrowded, most lack proper equipment, and are literally a death trap in the event of a fire.
The report also stated that fires were primarily caused by student indiscipline.
Fires have been a common occurrence in the country in recent weeks, with school after school going up in flames in what preliminary reports point to arson.
What should concern parents, however, is the disclosure of the safety standards of the majority of the country’s secondary schools.
The Ministry of Education prepared and issued a safety standards manual for Kenyan schools in 2008, but its implementation appears to have been hampered.
According to Auditor General Nancy Gathangu, many schools lacked adequate infrastructure, and some lacked the necessary equipment to deal with a fire, such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and post-evacuation maps indicating entry and exit points.
Some schools even lacked basic fire assembly points, and the majority were not built to the required safety standards.
The audit, which included 42 schools in five counties: Machakos, Siaya, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, and Kiambu, revealed that many of the schools were ticking time bombs.
Some did not have doors at each end of the dormitory, nor did they have clearly labelled emergency exits in the middle.
Increased admissions in response to the government’s push for a 100% transition from primary to secondary schools are endangering the lives of many unsuspecting students, according to the report, because congestion is likely to impede student exit in the event of a fire.
For instance, thirty of the 40 schools sampled had more beds than were indicated during registration; 6 of these schools had triple-decker beds, 34 others had double-decker beds, and all failed to adhere to the required spacing of 1.2 meters between beds and a 2-meter pathway space.
The auditor noted that the Ministry of Health had failed to ensure compliance with its fire safety guidelines because some dormitory windows in the schools sampled were reinforced with metal grills, making rescue more difficult.
While the guidelines require classroom and dormitory doors to open outwards, 22 of the 42 schools examined had classroom doors that opened inwards, and 5 of the dormitory doors opened inwards; in the event of a fire, students were likely to lock themselves inside during escape.
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It was also revealed that, according to the Ministry of Education, the majority of fires were caused by student indiscipline, which was blamed on insufficient guidance and counselling by teachers who were also not adequately trained.
The Auditor General recommends the formation of safety subcommittees to train staff and students on basic safety procedures, such as demonstrations and drills.