NTUNGAMO. At least five girls of Standard College Ntungamo have been hospitalized following a fire that burnt the entire girls’ dormitory housing Senior Four (S4) students on Thursday.
The police have since arrested 32 students suspected of involvement in the burning of the dormitory.
Students’ personal effects, including books, suit cases, bedding, clothes were burnt. Four of the students with burns have been taken to Ntungamo Family Clinic while two others with severe burns were taken to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. Some of them were reported with breathing complications as a result of suffocation, according to the medics handling the cases.
Police say the fire started at about midnight after the students had threatened to strike and cut off the entire power supply to the school, protesting being locked inside the dormitories by school security guards.
“We responded in time and tried to put off the fire but it was too much and one of the girls’ dormitories was burnt to ashes. However, we managed to put off the fire before it could spread to other dormitories and offices in the same building. We have made arrests and we may make more,” the Ntungamo acting district police commander, Mr Geofrey Orochi said.
He said the suspects are being questioned over the strike and how the fire could have been started.
The Leeds dormitory accommodates mainly S.4 students who are starting their exams next week. There are nearly 30 triple-decker beds in the dormitory.
The students claim the security guards had locked the dormitories from outside to prevent them from accessing classrooms for preps.
A student who talked to the media on condition of anonymity, claimed the teachers had instructed the guards to lock the doors from outside to prevent them from meeting and discussing with boys who do their preps in classrooms.
In protest, students reportedly bolted the dormitory from inside before setting it on fire.
“They said they would rather die instead of being held hostage,” she said.
A security guard at the school confirmed that the school administration had instructed them at the beginning of the term to lock the female in the dormitory to prevent stop them sneaking out to town to meet their male colleagues at night.
Mr Boaz Ruyimbazi, the school headmaster, declined to comment on the issue, saying he was still in shock.
But the school director, Mr Steven Tashobya, who is also a national Electoral Commissioner, said the administration was working hard to normalize operations and investigate the security lapse that could have led to the fire.
“Our concern is how the students were locked from inside and how petrol was smuggled into the school. We’re also trying to restore the situation to normal and resettle the students, in the space available, especially those in S.4,” Mr Tashobya said.