The Puzzle of 5 dorms burnt at Sigalame Boys school after every 18 days
Between July 26 and October 26, at least five dormitories at Sigalame High School were set on fire.
Simply put, every 18 days, a dorm at the boys-only public school caught fire.
Police had a difficult time identifying suspects until October 28, when eight students were arrested after being caught on CCTV attempting to burn down the sixth dormitory.
The arrests were confirmed by Busia County Police Commander Maxwell Nyaema.
“They are in custody as we continue gathering enough evidence against them. We have an outsider among them.”
When investigations are completed, the suspects could be arraigned at the Busia Law Courts this week, according to Mr Nyaema.
On October 28, the boys allegedly attempted to burn down Masiga Annex dorm, but the attempt was foiled by the school administration, which relied on footage from a recently installed CCTV camera.
The suspects were immediately handed over to the police. Previously, the police had taken at least 47 statements from students, teachers, and residents near the school.
“We relied on CCTV footage in identifying the suspects. Previously, it has been frustrating to nab the culprits behind the arson but we are now on the right track,” he said.
In previous incidents, Nyaema stated that officers had listened to phone conversations between the suspects and searched the arson scenes but were unable to apprehend the perpetrators.
On July 26, the Kilimo dormitory was set ablaze, followed by Haile Selassie on August 10, Lenana on August 25, Ndenda on September 20, and Okampo on October 20.
John Nyoike, who took over as county police chief after Nyaema, faced the same challenges as his predecessor, with no suspects to bring to court or evidence leading to arrests.
Frustrated, Nyoike convened a meeting with the students in case one of them was involved and encouraged them to refrain from torching the school, which was founded in 1965 in the Funyula constituency.
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Just two weeks after the meeting there was yet another dorm on fire. The worst bit was that no one from the school was cooperating with investigators.
The 1,780-student school sits on 42 acres and is patrolled round-the-clock by 14 security personnel, with each dormitory assigned a guard.
Following the fire at Ndenda House on September 20, the Board of Management (BoG) proposed to Teachers Service Commission (TSC) boss Nancy Macharia that school principal Peter Auma be transferred, and he was replaced by Gabriel Asomba.
An extraordinary Board of Education meeting attended by Western regional directors of education and their county and sub-county colleagues also resolved that any administrative officers implicated in the fire investigations be placed on leave.
A number of teachers and non-teaching staff members, including an accounts clerk, bursar, caterers, and a storekeeper, were transferred in what was seen as far-reaching measures to combat the arson cases.
The school had a mean score of C+ of 6.7 in last year’s KCSE exam. Busia Director of Education Thadeous Owuor said the school will not be closed.
“We will not shut down the school. We have done so before and the students lost a lot in study hours. Parents, too, have lost much in replacing the burnt property.” Said Owuor.
The school’s Parents Teachers Association once hired private investigators, who produced a report that failed to identify any suspects.