All Things Kenyan

Boy’s Dorm Burns

If you have been following the news from Kenya, you know about the fire in the boys’ dormitory in Machakos. Fifty-eight students died in that fire. It is believed that the fire was set by another student. One student managed to escape by crawling through the ‘gap’.

The gap is the space between the roof and the wall of the building. The walls of the dormitory are most likely concrete and the roof is corrugated metal. When these type of buildings are assembled there is a space left between the walls without the peak and the roof. This is the gap. Interestingly, I had the gap filled in with cement in the house I was living in. It was a misguided attempt to keep lizards and bugs out of my house. Later on, I simply learned to live with them.

Something that surprised me about the fire was the fact that the windows had bars and the doors were locked. Obviously, this contributed to the death toll. I’m not sure if that was done in an attempt to keep the boys from sneaking away at night or to keep them safe. Either way, this procedure is being looked into.

At the school I taught at I don’t recall the door of the boys’ dormitory being locked or bars on the windows. I don’t think that school had enough money to put bars on the windows. In fact, there weren’t even panes of glass in the classroom windows.

Most schools in Kenya do not have running water and calling for a fire truck is simply impossible. If there had been a fire at the school I taught at, the main thing would be to get everyone out and watch the building burn.

Another interesting development with this fire is the parents’ reaction. They have allowed their boys to be buried together in six mass graves. The boys that died were burnt beyond recognition. I find it refreshing yet almost surprising that the parents allowed the mass burial. You see, each tribe has its own set of burial rituals. Some of these rituals are sure to clash with the beliefs of other tribes. It’s nice to see that the parents could come together on this and allow the mass burial of their sons.

At the ceremony, one of the fathers was sad because he didn’t know which coffin held his son. The service was inter-denominational and thousands of mourners attended.