Crumbling school structures put students at risk

KICUKIRO - Two students and a school employee at Groupe Scolaire Rubirizi, in Kicukiro District, narrowly escaped death when they fell into a pit latrine last Friday, before area residents and police officers came to their rescue.

KICUKIRO - Two students and a school employee at Groupe Scolaire Rubirizi, in Kicukiro District, narrowly escaped death when they fell into a pit latrine last Friday, before area residents and police officers came to their rescue.

The accident reportedly occurred as a result of the dilapidated state of the latrine, which has been worsened by the prevailing rainy season.

The school demolished the pit latrine after the incident and closed other faulty structures. The casualties have been discharged from hospital and are recovering.

According to Warren Habimana, who heads the School Construction Unit at the Rwanda Education Board, there are very many similar rundown buildings in schools all over the country, which puts the lives of students at risk.

During rainy seasons especially, such buildings fall or have their roofs blown off when classes are in session.

“There are many schools which were constructed long ago, without even following safety standards,” Habimana said.

“We cannot close them at once though because we would remain with less classrooms but we are replacing them slowly by slowly.”

The critical ones are closed, or used for other purposes like storage, he said.

According to Habimana, to avoid future accidents, the new structures are strictly ordered to fulfil safety standards required by the ministry.

The Ministry recently called on all districts to submit lists of schools with questionable structures, though only two districts have complied.

The exercise was aimed at creating a database of affected schools, from which the ministry would base to plan and mobilise funds and labour to renovate or replace them.  

“If we get the database of all those schools in time, maybe before the end of this financial year, we will include their renovation or expansion in next year’s budget,” added Habimana.

To minimise expenses, the ministry expects to also use communal work, “Umuganda”, in the construction exercise.

Jean Damascene Kayitana, of the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, also informed The New Times that a process was underway to relocate students from shaky buildings to more reliable ones, especially during rainy seasons.

Head teachers are also being sensitised how to avoid natural hazards like lightening, skills that they will later pass on to students in their respective schools.

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