Monday, September 04, 2017

They should be held to account

There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Many of us have tried to cheat both. The tragic events of Saturday night have cruelly reminded us that sometimes tragedy strikes the innocent. The outcome of the emergency, though, should not have been the deaths of young children starting to find their way in this world or the minders charged with their safety and welfare. I lay the blame for the deaths at Moi Girls School Nairobi at the feet of the school's principal, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Governor of Nairobi City, all three who should have done everything in their considerable power to keep the children safe.

The principal was directly in charge of the school. The primary responsibility for the safety of the girls was hers. She has failed. She shouldn't have housed that many children in such a small space. She should have ensured that the children were trained in emergency evacuation in case of accidents, emergencies and disasters. She should have installed emergency equipment in the dormitory and trained the girls and their adult supervisors on how to use them. In every aspect, the principal has failed and her failures have ended in tragedy. She should not be allowed to get away Scot-free. She must be held to account.

The Cabinet Secretary oversees one of the largest bureaucracies in Kenya, that is charged with the task of ensuring that all our learning facilities offer an environment of safety. We have been reminded over and over that the Cabinet Secretary almost always gets what he wants when he wants it. He was in charge in 2015 when a wave of arson consumed dozens of boarding schools. He was in charge when the Ministry drafted policies to deal with emergencies and disasters in boarding schools. He was in charge as his Ministry failed to ensure that the policies were internalised by the thousands of principals and the tens of thousands of school teachers. He was in charge when his Ministry failed to enforce the policies that required all boarding schools to install emergency equipment, conduct emergency drills, train personnel on emergency evacuation. The Cabinet Secretary's failures allowed principals like the one of Moi Girls to endanger the students in their charge. The Cabinet Secretary has failed the children of Moi Girls. He should not get away Scot-free. He must be held to account.

The Governor of Nairobi City has an emergency department. His emergency department has fire safety inspection officers. They have failed in their duties to inspect and certify the safeness of boarding schools. They have failed because the Governor has failed. (I don't care that he has been in office for only three minutes; he wanted the job and so far, he has failed to keep our children safe.) He must not be allowed to get away Scot-free. He must be held to account.

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