Students of Itierio Boys High School in Kisii burnt down seven of their 12 dormitories after their teachers refused to allow them to watch a football match on television on Saturday night.
The students reacted in anger after learning that they would not be allowed to watch the game between Portugal and Croatia in the ongoing European championships, Euro 2016.
The game, which started at 10pm, ended in a nil-nil draw and was extended to extra time, during which Portugal scored the winning goal. As a result, it ended past midnight.
Mr Apollo Omungu, the school’s deputy principal, said the students started chanting at around 8pm, two hours before kick-off.
The protests started soon after the boys were ordered to leave the entertainment hall in line with school regulations.
“We tried to calm them down but they became unruly and came out of their classes.
"Soon after we ordered them to their dormitories, we saw the dormitories on fire,” said Mr Omungu, who reported the arson case at Gesonso Police Station in Suneka Division.
Officers from the station, led by the police boss, Mr David Mburukwa, and assisted by the Administration Police’s Rapid Response Team, were called in to disperse the rioting students who also stoned windows, destroying several other buildings in the school.
STONED NEIGHBOURING SCHOOL
They also stoned a library at the neighbouring Itierio Girls High School.
Their attempts to enter the girls’ dormitories were, however, thwarted by the school’s security officers and staff. The violent incident left the staff and neighbouring community in shock.
“We had to confront the boys in order to stop them from carrying out what seemed like an attempt to attack our students,” said Mr Evans Chweya, the Itierio Girls deputy principal.
When the Nation team arrived at the scene on Sunday, smoke was still billowing from the burning dormitories. Broken glass littered the scene.
Students were spotted along the Kisii-Suneka Road fleeing from the school on boda bodas and on foot on the night of the incident.
Many of them were later rounded up by the police with the help of the neighbouring community.
The arson incident came only a week after three dormitories were burnt down at Magena Boys Secondary School, in the same area, while another fire broke out at Omobera Seventh Day Adventist Girls High School in Nyamira County.
On Sunday, Kisii Education Board Chairman Henry Onderi condemned the incident and asked the police to arrest the culprits.
“We can’t continue to subject parents to untold agony of having to pay for reconstruction of schools after mindless destruction by rogue elements,” he said.
Mr David Omariba, the fire brigade chief, on Saturday night said he could not send his team to the school “due to chaotic scenes of students on strike”.
But Kisii’s Disaster Management Director Julius Tinega said the county fire engine’s pump was broken.
The county’s 2016/17 budget has set aside Sh35 million for a new fire engine. A county ambulance arrived at the scene about five hours later and there were no casualties.
The school’s principal, Mr Andrew Otara, told the Nation that he arrived from a headteachers’ conference in Mombasa on the night of the incident.
“We called the police as soon as the chaos began but by the time they arrived, the dorms were already ablaze,” he said.
County Commissioner Kula Hache visited the scene in the company of the county’s AP commander, Mr Mohammed Kutsola, and his police counterpart Agnes Mudamba.
Ms Hache condemned the incident and vowed to ensure that the culprits were arrested.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae — who also visited the school — expressed shock at the incident. He said the county government would support the rebuilding of the school. “We will do all we can to ensure that the school gets back on its feet,” he said.
He promised to ensure that a new fire engine is bought in the 2016/17 financial year to handle such emergencies.
Meanwhile, property worth millions of shillings was reduced to ashes in a dormitory fire at Kaplong Boys Secondary in Sotik, Bomet County on Friday night. Sotik police boss Jonathan Ngala said the cause of the 8.30pm fire was yet to be established and no casualties were reported.
Additional reporting by Geoffrey Rono