The Kenyan police is investigating an arson incident by students at a boys’ boarding school who 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 Itierio Boys’ High School 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 (1900 GMT), 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.
Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo — who had been expected to be the star of the night — is popular with young people. Although he did not score, he helped his national team to qualify for the quarter finals.
Mr Apollo Omungu, the school’s deputy principal, said the students at the school in Kisii County in western Kenya started chanting at around 8pm (1700 GMT), 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.
Attempt to enter girls’ domitories
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.
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.
Students were spotted fleeing from the school on motorcycles commonly known as bodabodas and on foot along the Kisii-Suneka Road 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 where 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.
The school’s principal, Mr Andrew Otara, told the Nation that he arrived from a headteachers’ conference in the coastal city of 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.
Source: The East African