Investigative

BUDO FIRE: School Headteacher says students were expelled before fire

The deputy headteacher of King’s College Budo, Peter Ssenyimba on Wednesday revealed that a number of boys were, on Friday last week, expelled due to what he termed as indiscipline.

He said the expelled students were part of the candidates who were sitting their final examinations, but they were allowed to commute from outside, in order to complete their papers.

The Tuesday early morning fire that started around 6:40am in Grace House (girls’ wing), destroyed property worth millions of shillings. However, at the time of the incident, the students had all left the storeyed dormitory for breakfast.

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Eye witnesses told the Police that they saw smoke coming from one of the corners occupied by Senior Six girls and alerted their teachers, who immediately called the Police.
By the time the fire fighters arrived, the biggest part of the house was already engulfed in flames.

Ssenyimba, who was also earlier arrested to help with investigations, was speaking from a canteen after he was allowed to have a short lunch while still in the hands of the Police.

In an earlier statement, the Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson, Luke Owoyesigyire, said three members of the administration had been arrested, but later released on Police bond.

He said Ssenyimba, Elizabeth Babirye Nuwagaba, the Grace House mistress and Sarah Ndaula, the matron, were on Tuesday picked and taken to Nsangi Police Station for interrogation and to help with the Police investigations.

He, however, said they were released on bond and returned to school.
According to Ssenyimba, the Police directed the trio to report back on Wednesday at 11:00am, but he said they were escorted back to school and remained in Police hands as they were taken around the scene of crime.

“As someone who bears responsibility, I had to be taken to help with the investigations.
But with God’s grace, I know everything will be fine,” he said, adding that he had not yet gained his freedom.

“You are able to talk to me because they have given me a small break to take my lunch but I’m still in the hands of the Police,” he said.

Earlier sources indicated that Ssenyimba, Ndaula and Babirye were being investigated for having received prior information about plans to burn the school, but either ignored it or failed to appropriately respond to it or forward it to the relevant authorities for action.

Some students said they suspect that the fire was an act of arson following two previous incidents of attempted fire outbreak at the boys’ end, an evening before. They believe that the fire was an act of revenge after some students were expelled towards the end of their exams.

Other sources, however, cited a land wrangle between the school and some members of the community, as a source of the fire.

The Police recorded statements from several students who first saw smoke coming out of the building.

It was not yet clear whether the school has cameras around the compound and several parents suggested that the Police make a review of the footage to establish whether it was a case of arson.

In the meantime, the situation at the school was getting back to normal and the students who were affected by the inferno were reallocated to other dormitories, formerly occupied by Senior Four and Six students who completed their exams and returned home.

“We still have space, given the fact that Senior Four and Six candidates have returned home, we have resettled the rest of the affected students in the available space,” Ssenyimba said.

On Tuesday evening, a number of government officials visited the school, including Dr JC Muyingo, the state minister for higher education and the education ministry permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza.

Kakooza later told journalists that the government will consider compensating the students who lost their property and contribute towards the renovation like the case was when fire gutted a dormitory at Gayaza High School.

He said the government had spent close to sh1b on renovation in Gayaza, which he said was a lot of money, which may not be available for King’s College, Budo in the current financial year.

He said the school and students will have to wait a little longer, until when the money is available.

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