By Bob Natifu
I was nearly shocked to death by the story of the pupils in Budo Junior School were burnt in an inferno that could have been averted. I am an old boy of Budo Junior and I speak with confidence as an insider and outsider. All the citizens, including the president are con
I was nearly shocked to death by the story of the pupils in Budo Junior School were burnt in an inferno that could have been averted. I am an old boy of Budo Junior and I speak with confidence as an insider and outsider. All the citizens, including the president are concerned about the tragic incident and that is good news.
However, it is amazing how quick we are to talk and soon we forget. Could nothing have been done to avert the Budo tragedy? We seem to have mastered the art silence! Think of the lost lives and the bereaved parents! For the time I was in Budo nothing of the sort could have happened under the headmaster, Mr. Kaggwa, who honourably retired to his farm in Buwambo!
Perhaps we can partly attribute this to the good administration and the alertness of school inspectors who at times paid impromptu visits to the schools. My father is a retired education officer, and i vividly remember he used to conduct impromptu visits to different schools, including classrooms. I have not seen this happen in recent years! Being an education officer or school inspector carried a lot of respect and authority and every child knew who our District Education Officer (DEO) or the Inspector of schools was. Reason? They used to visit the schools often.
When I made a trip to Budo Junior in 2006, I found there the same old people I had left there. The old useless fire extinguishers that had been used ages past were still there! I read that the students were locked up in the dormitory! by whom? At no time were we ever locked up. we used to take charge of our safety with the able leadership of the house prefect and the matrons. Surely in this case what would these frail old women have done to rescue the screaming children? What happened to teachers on duty that were in charge of the weekâ€™s activities at theschool?
The teachers on duty are supposed to ensure that the schoolâ€™s programmes are followed on time and everything is in order. They must be around pacing up and down until 10 or or 11pm. The fire, it was reported, broke out a short time before 10pm. What about the night watchmen? That said, we cannot blame the tragedy on the negligence of the teachers and security guards alone. With all due respect, no parent takes his child to be protected by security guards or teachers on duty or the matrons. What happened to the ministry of Education that must set standards for these schools?
Children must and should be protected by the laws set by the government. For how long shall we have investigations carried out that never yield anything? This is not the first school fire in the country. There have been 28 recorded incidents of fire outbreaks since 2000 in our schools and the highest deaths before the Budo incident were 11 at Kabarole Islamic Primary School in Fort portal in 2006.
I have visited a couple of Government and private schools around the country and I simply shudder! Some schools are death trap for the children! You find children piled in one dormitory, some sleeping on triple deckers in an asbestos-roofed house, without any emergency exits! Surely this time round let us have something tangible done. every time a school catches fire there are lamentations, apportioning of blame and the matter ends there until the next tragedy! Giving the bereaved parents sh500,000 was a good gesture but the education minister and her team must do much better than that. The minister must wake up and treat this matter with the urgency it deserves. Let the Budo fire be the last!
How many lives must we lose for us to act? The Ministry of Education must make policies about school buildings and administration and stictly enforce them to make sure our children are safe wherever they are. Sh500,000 or any other amount cannot make a difference to a parent who could send his or her child to Budo.
Having worked with and for children for sometime now, I think this is a daunting challenge we must take head-on.
â€œGakyali Mabagaâ€(it is just the beginning). if we donâ€™t do something about the safety of our children what does the future hold? May their souls rest in eternal peace!
John Nagenda will be back next week
Let the Budo fire be the last!