Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo yesterday called on Nairobi's St Mary's, Strathmore, Riara and Makini schools to stop conducting tuition over the holidays. Mutula held a press conference in his office and demanded an explanation as to why the schools have ignored the directive from the ministry. "Information reaching me indicates that the four private schools in Nairobi are still carrying out holiday tuition".
Mutula sacked the Homa Bay County Director of Education Beatrice Asiango and the District Education Officer William Okumu, blaming them for the deaths of eight children in the dormitory at Asumbi Girls Boarding Primary School on Wednesday night. Asiango and Okumu were accused of allowing tuition to take place in the school over the holidays.
The minister also dissolved the school's Board of Governors. Mutula condoled with the families of the dead children. The children who perished were Wendy Akello, Doreen Tobias, Celestine Anyango, Pauline Apiyo, Sharon Ngala, Eunice Anyango, Beverline Agong and Yvonne Awino.
Mutula told the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), which employs teachers, to discipline the head teacher of Asumbi, Antonina Msula, for failing to comply with the directive.
Mutula asked the police to investigate the criminal aspect as to why the doors of the dormitory were locked from outside. “It is shocking that the Asumbi incident has taken place during the holidays, at a time we have said we don't want tuition in schools during holidays," said Mutula. The minister termed the incident "unfortunate", saying it would not have occurred had the school management complied with his ban on holiday tuition.
There were 85 children at Asumbi attending tuition, he said. “The school management was in gross violation of the ministry's policy governing health and safety regulations that are aimed at protecting the students while in school," said Mutula.
He said the school management violated the July 2008 Safety Standards Manual for Schools. According to the manual, all doors of a dormitory should be wide enough, at least five feet wide and should open outwards. They should not be locked from outside. Mutula cautioned school boards and management committees — in both public and private schools — that they will be be dissolved and deregistered if they continue to defy government policy directives.
Yesterday, shocked parents and relatives dismissed reports that their children were in school for tuition. Amos Ngala, father of a 13-year-old Sharon Awuor, said he was shocked by the death of his daughter who reported to the school on Friday last week. He said that he and other parents sent the students for tuition following orders by the school head teacher.
Ngala said his daughter left the home on the stipulated date, and dismissed claims that the pupils had gone for an educational tour and had only detoured to the school en route to their homes.
“The pupils were given orders by the school administration to report for the tuition on the stipulated date and there was no issue of the trip as claimed by the school officials,” said Ngala who could not control tears rolling down his cheeks. Joseph Oloo Okeyo (47), father of Pauline Akinyi Opiyo (14), said his daughter left home for an educational tour and he paid Sh2,000 for it.
Ngala's account contradicted the version of events given by the head teacher, Antonina Msula, who denied claims that the pupils were in school for holiday tuition. She said 57 pupils were in the school during the fire incident. She said they had permission from the DEO's office allowing the students' tour of Nakuru and Nairobi which ended on August 20. “No, the pupils were not learning. They were just resting in school after the trip in readiness to leave for home,” Msula said.