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Police releases Budo fire report

By Vision Reporter

Added 16th May 2008 03:00 AM

THE Police have released the preliminary investigations into the death by fire of 20 pupils of Budo Junior School on April 14. Below is the report.

THE Police have released the preliminary investigations into the death by fire of 20 pupils of Budo Junior School on April 14. Below is the report.

THE Police have released the preliminary investigations into the death by fire of 20 pupils of Budo Junior School on April 14. Below is the report.

BACKGROUND During the night of 14th April 2008 at around 2100hrs, there was a fire outbreak at one of the buildings that had been converted as a dormitory at Buddo Junior School. The staff and workers of the school were the first to respond and the Fire Brigade followed later. The fire started from Nasolo Dormitory that houses P.4 girls totaling to sixty one (61) in number. It is said to have begun from a bed which was not occupied, where the house mother had piled some pillows which were not being used by the pupils. It later spread to Nalinya, Ssangalyambogo, Ssabaganzi and Collard (dormitories), which were all on the same building. The fire was first detected by some of the pupils in the said dormitory who made an alarm for rescue. Some of the occupants managed to get out by themselves while others were rescued by persons, who responded to the call. When the fire was finally contained and put out, nineteen pupils (19) all from Nasolo Dormitory were found to have died on spot while one died later from Mulago Hospital, all totalling twenty (20). In addition to the deaths, all the properties of the pupils in Nasolo were destroyed, while some were destroyed in other dormitories. 1 Investigations were immediately instituted under Wakiso Police CRB 5/12/2008. FOCUS OF INVESTIGATION Establish whether the cause of the fire was intentional and therefore criminal through an act of an arsonist(s), terrorist or otherwise; Identify and have the culprit(s) prosecuted in a court of law. Whether there was any criminal negligence on the part of those charged with the safe keep and welfare of the pupils and property of the school. Identify and have the culprit(s) prosecuted. Any other relevant investigations that may arise. WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SCENE The scene of the fire was visited by a team of Police investigators, Fire Brigade, Government Analytical Laboratory and Umeme. Relevant samples from the scene were taken to the Government Laboratory for analysis. The bodies of the victims were retrieved from the scene and taken to City Mortuary for post-mortem (check) and later to Medical School for storage pending results of the DNA tests.Using DNA testing by the Government Analytical Laboratory, the bodies of the victims were identified and handed over to their next of kin for burial.
The findings of the Government Analytical Laboratory ruled out:-
  • Electricity as the cause of fire.
  • Self ignition as the cause of the fire.
  • Explosive device as the cause of the fire
  • Did not detect any fire accelerants like petrol or kerosene.
  • Cause of the fire was not established. However, he could not rule out arson. The finding of Umeme was that the fire outbreak was not as a result of an electric short-circuit.
  • The above findings, therefore, tend to point to the fire having been ignited/set up by somebody or something. INTERROGATIONS/INTERVIEWS
  • The former and current head teachers were interrogated and recorded statements.
  • A number of teachers were interrogated/interviewed and recorded statements.
  • A number of teachers who had been transferred were interrogated and recorded statements
  • All the house mothers including the one of Nasolo were interrogated and recorded statements
  • Most of the security guards were interrogated and recorded statements.
  • Some of the pupils who survived the inferno were interviewed and recorded statements.
  • Some parents were interviewed and recorded statements.
  • The District Education officer, Senior Education officer (posting officer), and Principal Inspector of Schools were interviewed and recorded statements.
  • The District Health Inspector was interviewed and recorded a statement.
  • From the above, the following have emerged:- >b> DORMITORIES The School has a total of twenty-three (23) dormitories, of these five were formerly classrooms and were later turned into dormitories. The following were noted:-
  • The building that was converted into a dormitory did not have provisions in them for the house mothers to sleep together with the children, hence they were sleeping separately.
  • Nasolo dormitory, whose pupils died in the fire, fell in this category. Its house mother together with others were staying in another room, which is a distance from the dormitory in issue.
  • The decision to convert the classrooms into dormitories was allegedly made by the school management committee and effected by the former head teacher Mr. Kayongo William.
  • The district urban officer, engineer and health inspector were not consulted as provided for in law and practice during this conversion.
  • Admission to the school/dormitory is done by the head teacher in consultation with the school management committee.
  • Previous inspection reports noted that the dormitories were congested and recommended for their decongestion. This was not immediately done due to lack of resources.
  • The former headmaster and school management committee should, therefore, take responsibility for the overcrowding in the dormitories.
  • Due to electricity problems, the building which caught fire was said to have been without electricity for some days although others say it was there but very weak. As electricity has been ruled out by experts, it is inconsequential.
  • In absence of electricity, house mothers use lanterns. Candles, match boxes or any other form of lighting is not allowed, save for torches.
  • The house mother of Nasolo dormitory claims she put out her lantern after lights-out and took it to her room. She produced it to the investigating officers as proof. The cause of fire, therefore, cannot be attributed to it.
  • The classroom building which was turned into dormitories has big windows facing the football field and smaller ones which open half-way on the opposite side. Although these should be closed at night, at times this is not done. Any person with criminal intention could, therefore, make use of this.
  • Much as Nasolo dormitory had two doors, only one was being used as the other was closed for no plausible reason. This may have contributed to the number of fatalities as there was only one escape route.
  • SURVIVORS/NASOLO DORMITORY:
  • There were sixty-one (61) pupils in Nasolo dormitory, all of them girls and mostly in Primary Four.
  • Forty-one (41) of them survived the inferno.
  • None of them saw how the fire started. They only realised when it was already burning.
  • They raised alarm and tried their best to escape the raging fire.
  • Many people came and assisted them.
  • When the fire was contained and put out, they helped to identify those who were missing. A total of nineteen bodies were recovered from the scene, while one died in the hospital.
  • None of them could explain how the fire started.
  • Nothing so far has been found to link any of them to the fire.
  • HOUSE MOTHER OF NASOLO DORMITORY (Damalie Basirika)
  • Joined Budo Junior in 1991 as house mother of Herbert Dormitory and had been with Nasolo Dormitory since its inception.
  • Main responsibility is to look after the children just like a mother does i.e. their wellbeing and safety, cleanliness, safety of their properties etc.
  • On the fateful day, she claimed that after putting the children to bed at 8.30pm, she retired to her room as usual and heard an alarm just as she was about to enter her bed and responded to it.
  • Some of the pupils who survived, however, say that the housekeeper had left earlier and did not even lead them in the night prayers as was the usual practice.
  • Other survivors stated that they did not see her in the rescue mission not until later when the Fire Brigade was in the place.
  • Being hypertensive, her condition worsened when she was at the scene and was later admitted in Mengo Hospital.
  • She was, however, charged together with the security guards on duty on that fateful day for neglect of duty, contrary to Section 114 of the Penal Code Act.

  • THE GENERAL SECURITY OF BUDDO JUNIOR SCHOOL:
  • The school is enclosed by a chain-link fence around it. It has two main gates and three small gates. The enclosure is said to be porous as there are a number of holes in the fence and that the small gates were not normally locked although the new head teacher had stopped this practice.
  • Civilians neighbouring the school were allowed to move in and out freely as they collected water from the school but this practice was being discouraged by the new head teacher.
  • Civilians are also allowed to enter and play football in the school pitch.
  • Parents are also said to be allowed in the school at any time even if it was not visitation day.
  • SECURITY GUARDS
  • A total of eleven security guards were employed to look after the security interests of the school. They work in two shifts - day and night.
  • They are recruited locally and have no formal background or training in security related work neither is academic standards considered.
  • There is no system in place to monitor their performance and effectiveness like attendance register, occurrence book, etc.
  • They are paid between 40,000/= and 60,000/= per month. The school administration is alleged to have defaulted on paying their wages for several months.
  • Of the five guards who were supposed to work that night, one reported sick, one absented himself and three reported on duty. Those on duty did not detect or notice the fire and were alerted to it by the alarms being made by the pupils. They claim to have responded to it and participated in fighting the fire and rescue efforts with others.
  • The three guards who were on duty and the one absentee were charged with neglect of duty contrary to Section 114 of Penal Code Act and are on remand in Luzira Prison, since they failed to detect the fire immediately before spreading.
  • THE FORMER HEADMASTER (MR. Kayongo William)
  • Had been the head teacher in the school since 1995. He was responsible for the daily running of the school and to ensure that the school properties and pupils were secure. He did this in conjunction with the school management committee and PTA.
  • During his reign, teachers went on strike on 14th February 2008 for non-payment of allowances, amongst other reasons. He was consequently transferred to Buloba Boarding and Day Primary School.
  • He is, therefore, responsible for any administrative lapses that may have happened during his watch together with the school management committee.
  • The following are the members of the management committee, Rev. Canon Daudi Serubidde (chairman), James Lutwama Lwanga, Patrick Baaka Male, Sam Mukasa Kintu, Nelson Kawalya, Peter Jemba Kaggwa, Joyce Nkalubo and Rev. Henry Segawa.
  • More is yet required to link him/them with the occurrence of 14th April 2008.
  • THE CURRENTHEADTECHER (Dr. Dungu Livingstone)
  • He assumed office on the 5th of March 2008 after being transferred from Buloba Boarding and Primary School.
  • He was just starting to get his bearings and had held a special management committee meeting with the teachers and parents on the day of the incident.
  • He had not stayed in the office long enough to address any administrative lapses that may have been occasioned by his predecessor
  • Nothing as yet has been found to incriminate him to the fire of April 14, 2008.
  • THE TEACHERS WHO WERE TRANSFERRED/ TERMINATED
  • After the teachers strike of the 14th February, 2008 at Buddo Junior School, those teachers who were suspected to have been actively involved in it were transferred to other schools.
  • Information received that some of them could have had prior knowledge of the fire and removed their children is being investigated.
  • Investigations are also ongoing to establish whether they could have had a hand in the incident of 14th April 2008.
  • WAY FORWARD
  • Enquiries are still going on with the following in mind.
  • Electricity short-circuit has been ruled out as well as possibility of the lantern of the house mother being the source of the fire.
  • Could a mischievous child without the knowledge of any person have acquired a match box etc and inadvertently caused the fire?
  • Could the arsonist(s) have been from within or without?
  • Who could have had the strongest motivation to set the dormitory block on fire?
  • Could the fire have been intended for another building e.g. office to destroy records and mistakenly directed elsewhere?
  • Could squabbles or circumstances outside of the school environment (e.g. co- wives, etc) be linked to the arson?
  • Could terrorism have played a hand?
  • Could there have been political motive?
  • Any other options which may be unveiled.
  • Police releases Budo fire report

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