Fire guts down dorm to turn spotlight on West Pokot County disaster preparedness

The charred remains of the students' belongings after a fire gutted down their dorm.

A fire has gutted down a dormitory at Kiwawa Boys Secondary School in Kacheliba Constituency, putting the West Pokot County Government on the spot for poor disaster response and preparedness, particularly in schools.

The school has just a few buildings and is counting huge losses after property worth millions of shillings was destroyed in the fire, whose cause has not been ascertained.

According to the school principal Luku Tokoi, the gutted dormitory was made of iron sheets and everything that the students owned was reduced to ashes. More than 140 of them were affected.

“No injuries or loss of life was reported but they lost all their property, including bedding, books, and other personal items. It took about two hours for the fire to be contained,” he said.

The school management said that the fire started at around 4 am when the students were in their morning preps. Students, with the help of staff and the local community, tried to put it out using small fire extinguishers and water but in vain.

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He asked parents to stay calm as police investigate the actual cause of the inferno. Likewise, he assured parents of the safety of their children, who are now using the classrooms as dorms.

“Students are crowded in the classroom where they sleep on the floor at night and use the same for learning during day time. This has affected their learning,” the principal said.

Preliminary investigations indicate that faulty power lines could have caused it.

A village elder Jackson Chemsar said that the area is semi-arid and parents can’t afford the necessities for the learners at the moment, as the parents’ association called on well-wishers to help in setting up another dormitory.

The county disaster management team has set up camp at the school to come up with a report on the exact cause of the fire. The team has also donated 60 mattresses and 30 blankets to the affected students.

The county head of disaster preparedness and management David Chepelion said the department will help the school return to normalcy.

There have been concerns that most fires are not contained in time, posing a danger to learners.

West Pokot County has only one firefighting machine based in Kapenguria. In this case, it could not make it to the Kiwawa area in North Pokot Sub-county more than 200 kilometres away.

Another disaster happened in Cheptulel Secondary and the county was unable to respond immediately.

Recent cases in Makutano and Chepareria towns have shown that fire emergency teams take time to respond to such incidents. Previously, parents in the region had appealed for the deployment of fire response trucks to various sub-counties in rural areas to curb the rising cases of fire incidents in schools.

By Evans Kapusia

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281