Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fire in the House

Down, but not out.

When am down, down things seem to matter. So here goes.

20 children burnt in the dormitory of a boarding school. One of the supposedly premier boarding school in the country. Girls’ dormitory, the matron had locked the children in.

I have shied away from the papers since I heard the headlines on the fm stations yesterday. I was in boarding school, for long. Too long. I grew to hate it.

Hell holes. Sanctioned living hell holes. The new vision is the government paper, and, just maybe, the horror of this will make us do some self examination. The horror is here, and a list of other school fires. Suprisingly common, arent they? The graphics. Not for the faint hearted.

But reminded me of my boarding school dormitory. Triple decked beds, wires and steel posts everywhere. Having to climb up to the highest deck, or the lowest, as necessary. A concrete cage with steel partitions. Used to like the uppermost deck best. Open, to the roof. Could lie in it and look at the roof, when it was not too hot. No ceiling, plain corrugated iron sheets. Unpainted.

A fire in that place?

Makes me shiver. More than 200 kids crammed into the room. Two doorways, at either end of the long A-frame building. And one side free of the triples. Only one side of the room had a space that ran the length of the room. The beds were arranged in rows, 3 beds per row, end to end, a half meter of space between neighbouring rows. Big enough for us to squeeze our small frames through. And to jump from one bed to the next, in case of an emergency (prefect sighted, lights not out, not in own bed, etc)

Good thing the windows were large, no glass, plain iron frames with those rectangles in which the glass was supposed to go, just big enough for us to squeeze through. (Done, on some occasions. Prefect coming and we are not supposed to be in the dorm.)

Why did we never get fires? Don’t know. Law of probabilities, and we lucked out, maybe.

The dorm was just a shelter against the elements. The rain and the sun. When it was cold, it was miserable, wind from the lake from one end of the room to the next. When it was hot, the iron roof held the heat lovingly and baked us underneath. Oh, we did not have fires, because we were not allowed electric implements in the dormitory. Though there were some dare-devils who would boil a mug of water. Very simple implement, the heater. Get a bed spring, the coiled type, just small enough to fit in a mug of water. (Glad that they were plastic). Put live electric wire one end of it, and another the other end. Sockets of the lights worked well. And wait for the water to boil. For some reason, I don’t remember finding any sockets in the power points. Didn’t leave them there when I left.

Ugh. Nice memories, those.

Still, at least there was no fire, not when I was there. I hated the place so much (not the living conditions, which I am surprised I remember, but the constant, gnawing hunger in the pit of the stomach, that is why I hated that school), I have never gone back since I graduated.

But at least I did graduate alive.



Princess said...

I've failed to get through the entire piece.I might very well burst into tears...
Pray for the families, GUG.
I wish I could wave it all away. :0(

Anonymous said...

The news of the fire is all over the Kenyan media. Very sad and shocking. Sad thing is though that Kenyan officials are acting all shocked and yet a couple of these fires happen every year in Kenyan boarding schools! Seems we never learn.

gayuganda said...

Yeah Princess.

WildeY, very true. Seems situation is the same in Kenya. Funny, we have so many Kenyan kids in schools here. Could easily have been some of them.


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