Survivors yesterday narrated their ordeal about the fire that gutted a secondary school dormitory in Rakai on Sunday night killing over 10 students instantly.
The Sunday night inferno at the boys’ dormitory for St. Bernard Secondary School, Manya in Kifamba sub -county, Rakai district left over 30 students injured and admitted to Kitovu hospital in a critical condition.
According to some of the senior three students in the ill- fated dormitory that housed at least 50 people, the arsonists opened one of the windows before pouring some liquid objects(expected to be petrol) inside the dormitory before lighting fire that caught the entire facility.
“We realised someone was pouring a liquid substance on us but we thought it was water. We protested the act arguing that it was wrong for him to pour water on us,” said one of the students in the dormitory.
According to the survivors, because they were used to keeping water near their beds, they this time round thought someone was playing games on them by wetting their bed with water.
“Because we had just returned from watching a football match, we were tired and never minded. We just slept,” said one Ronald Sserunkeera.
“I was woken up by the heat and smoke. I tried to run to the door to force it open but it was locked. It is then that I collapsed due to smoke.”
Another student narrated that it was not long when the arsonist lit fire that gutted the entire dormitory.
“I heard someone throw a bottle inside the dormitory and shortly fire was seen engulfing the dormitory,” said one Moses Mugambwa, a senior three student.
According to police, it was an inside job because two padlocks were allegedly found on the door and it took the intervention of rescuers to cut them using an axe.
In a statement, the school management said there was a group of 11 students who had been suspended over indiscipline and asked to commute from home and these are suspected to have been behind the fire.
Locals also confirmed that the students had rented rooms in the nearby trading centre and were always seen frequenting cinema halls during times of school.
Teachers, students arrested
On Monday morning police cordoned off the dormitory as a scene of crime to allow investigations into the matter continue without any interruption.
In the nearby school compound lay mattresses, suit cases and other scholastic items which were scattered as efforts to put out the fire went on.
Scene-of-crime officers dressed in white suits with cameras strapped all over their necks combed the area to find any clues to the fire.
Inside the dormitory lay a number of other items including buckets, burnt suit cases and triple decker beds with smoke still smouldering over the facility.
A total of eight people including five students, two teachers and the school warden were subsequently arrested by police to assist them in investigations into the matter.
Ministers visit school
The First Lady and Minister of Education, Janet Museveni, her security counterpart Gen. Elly Tumwine and the ISO Director General, Col.Kaka Bagyenda visited the school to ascertain facts in regards the fire.
“It is our responsibility as government to search and find the people who did this, so that they be judged accordingly; and we shall do it,” the Education Minister vowed.
“These people may think they can run away and they are not traced I assure them, they will pay the price.”
Gen.Tumwine ordered all students apart from the senior six candidates who are sitting for their final UACE exams to vacate the school to allow investigations into the matter run smoothly.
Previous school fires
In the past, a number of school dormitories have been prone to fire incidents killing a number of students.
In April 2008, a fire caught a girls’ dormitory at Buddo Junior School leaving 20 pupils dead.
There have been more fires at Bishop Ruhindi High School in Rukungiri District,
Bukoyo Secondary School in Iganga District,St Mary’s College in Buikwe District,St John Bosco Primary School –Katende, one pupil was killed,Kawempe Muslim SS, Merryland High School, Kibibi Junior School, Light College Katikamu, Moyo SS and St Leo’s Junior School.