All schools should implement new safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education, Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has said.
Dr Matiang’i said the High Court ruling on the fire deaths at Kyanguli Secondary School should serve as a wake-up call to school heads.
Speaking in Nyeri, Dr Matiang’i told school heads and county education officials to implement the new safety guidelines that have been set by the ministry.
He was addressing county education officials during an impromptu visit at Kagumo Boys Secondary School, where he challenged the principal over the arrangement in the school’s dormitory.
The High Court ruling made on Thursday pointed out negligence by the school, as an agent of the government, and that it had failed to prevent the dormitory fire in March 2001 that saw the death of 63 children.
The High Court ruled that about Sh41 million should be paid to the parents of the students who perished.
“It is high time that we implement the measures in the manual. The safety of students should be taken seriously especially in schools with high population or else we will have problems,” said Dr Matiang’i.
Dr Matiang’i also instructed county officials to engage school principals in prioritising development projects in schools, pointing out that some schools were focusing on less important projects.
He pointed at Kagumo’s decision to build a state-of-the-art administration block yet the school social hall's condition is wanting.
“From what I have observed is that you need a new hall, not offices. You have to prioritise on the comfort and safety of the students and county officials should advise schools on that,” he said.
The Cabinet secretary also said the ministry would work on upgrading the status of some schools to eliminate population imbalance in institutions where top performers have too many students.
According to Dr Matiang’i, there is a high demand for admissions to top schools, which has resulted in overpopulated institutions.
“We can expand the top-performing schools but the more rational decision will be to upgrade the status of schools that perform consistently well,” he added.
Dr Matiang’i also noted there was a great drop in population in primary schools, which he attributed to a change in family structures.
“There are fewer children per family and I think this has contributed to low populations,” he said in reference to Kiganjo Primary School, which has more than seven empty classrooms.
The school has a capacity of up to 600 children but a population of only 245 pupils.
The Cabinet secretary said the education ministry would work to ensure the facilities are used to maximum capacity.
However, primary school heads were put on the spot over poor organisation of reading materials despite having a low pupil population.