How Senior One student perished in revenge fire

This photo taken on February 27, 2023 shows a section of one of the dormitories that were devastated by fire at Kyamate Secondary School in Ntungamo Municipality on February 26, 2023. PHOTO/PEREZ RUMANZI

What you need to know:

  • The suspect and his accomplices reportedly tied the victim to the bed before pouring petrol into the two dormitories and setting them on fire.

The fire that gutted two boys’ dormitories at Kyamate Secondary School in Ntungamo District killing a student and injuring three others, was deliberately set by bullies, the Monitor has learnt.

The incident occurred at about 9pm on Sunday. The affected dormitories are Mandela and Nyerere. 

In an interview with the Monitor on Monday, the head teacher, Mr Emmanuel Arinaitwe, said the bullies were revenging against the deceased’s twin brother for reporting the key suspect to the school administration for alleged bullying.

He identified the deceased as Bonus Atukwatse, 14, and the injured were Marvin Nuwenyesiga, Isaiah Ajjuna and Amanya Lisbon.

“The fire was deliberate and suspected to be petrol because the security guards found an empty 10-litre jerry can which smelled of petrol and the students’ beddings were soaked in petrol,” he said.

 He added: “This was as a result of teasing and bullying. The key suspect is a Senior Three student. The suspect asked the deceased to wash plates for him and then beat him up.”

Mr Arinaitwe said the deceased’s twin brother reported the matter to his office and the suspect was suspended for a week.

He said on a fateful day, the suspect sneaked back into the school with the help of other students. The suspect and his accomplices reportedly tied the victim to the bed before pouring petrol into the two dormitories and setting them on fire.

“These are badly behaved students. We try our level best to control bullying and when badly behaved students see that they may be suspended, they look for excuses to leave school but there has not been any big thing since the opening of the school. We do not want teasing and bullying so when you stop them from doing that, they start planning things like this,” Mr Arinaitwe said.

The Monitor has also learnt that at the time of the incident, Senior One students had been sent back to the dormitories following a power blackout.

The Rwizi Region Police spokesperson, Mr Samson Kasasira, said they have arrested four students to help with the investigations but the key suspect is still on the run.

“Two others are still on the run,” he said, adding that the suspect was seen in the school on the fateful day despite being suspended.

 “… a jerry cane containing petrol and a blanket soaked in petrol were recovered at the scene of the fire indicating that the fire was started intentionally with a motive to destroy property or take life,” Mr Kasasira said.

He added that they are still investigating the matter.

Mr Kennedy Rutaraho, a Senior Six student, said: “We were in class for preps when the incident happened. We only rushed to the dormitory to save some few students who had been sent back by the administration.” 

The general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu), Mr Filbert Baguma, condemned the acts of teasing and bullying in schools and asked all institutions of learning to put in place mechanisms to stop the vice.

“We should not be hearing issues about teasing and bullying in schools because that is an old thing. There is no parent who sends his child to be tortured in school anywhere in this country. Actually, the school administration should have an arrangement such that whoever is caught teasing and bullying other students should be expelled from school,” he said.

The dean of students at Bishop Stuart University, Ms Sarah Nambowa, said schools need to hire counsellors to deal with the trauma and effects of bullying.

Ms Nambowa said if the issue of bullying in schools is not handled properly, it might lead to an increase in similar cases in the country.

Mr Ramadhan Kimbugwe, the founder of Prowess Communications, which deals with boosting self-esteem and communication levels among children, said: “Bullying tortures the child psychologically and affects the child’s social skills to relate with other people and when someone calls him, he thinks of the past scenario and this leads children to be loners.”