Govt blames school fires on lack of permits for occupancy

A dormitory at Sempeera Memorial Primary School in Kassanda District. Many schools across the country do not follow the fire safety and security rules. PHOTO/BARBRA NALWEYISO

What you need to know:

  • The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Dr Denis Mugimba, said investigations indicate that the majority of the affected schools are privately owned and lack occupational permits.

The Ministry of Education has attributed the recent fire outbreaks in schools to lack of occupational permits, especially among private schools, across the country.

At least six schools have caught fire since reopening of education institutions on January 10.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Dr Denis Mugimba, said investigations indicate that the majority of the affected schools are privately owned and lack occupational permits.

Dr Mugimba said of the six schools that caught fire, five are private.

“We are seeing increased incidents of fires in private schools and we have established that when private schools set up their infrastructure, many occupy the buildings without occupational permits,” he said at the Media Centre yesterday. 

“Those occupational permits certify that you have met the basic minimum requirement of safety of the building you are going to use for the public. The absence of occupational permits in private schools is a major issue, ” he added.

Dr Mugimba said only 36 percent of private schools across the country possess the permits.

The ministry said schools can acquire the permits from the local government, adding that the institutions will be forced to publicly display their occupational permits to parents and visitors.

In 2008, the ministry in conjunction with police issued a circular with a list of guidelines on how schools could address school fires and ensure safety and security of learners. The guidelines included having emergency exits, security committees, firefighting equipment, and sickbays.

However, Dr Mugimba said many private schools have not implemented the guidelines.

The State Minister for Primary Education, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, said the government will review the guidelines, adding that schools that don’t implement them will have their dormitories closed.

However, the chairperson of National Private Education Institutions, Mr Hasadu Kirabira, said the government should first focus on the cause of the fires before putting pressure on schools.

He said some schools have all the guidelines yet they are among the affected schools.

“It is true some schools do not have occupation permits. However, these are not a big deal because the permits cannot stop the fire. There are some external and internal threats in some schools. Let the government establish the causes and sensitise schools how to overcome the fires,” Mr Hasadu said.

School fires since January 10

· Bilal SS Kawempe - February 23

·New Crest Junior Primary school - January 15

·St John Primary schools, Kyotera - January 23

· St Cecilia PS in Makindye-Ssabagabo - January 23

·Nanziga SDA Primary School in Maya - January 17

·Bupadhengo and Bulaba PS

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