Within a spate of weeks, there have been reported cases of fire outbreaks in two Senior High Schools, one in the Ashanti Region and one in the Greater Accra Region and The New Publisher is of the strong view it is a wakeup call that ought not to be ignored.
While dust is yet to settle on disturbing reports that on two separate occasions within two weeks, fire has destroyed a boys dormitory at Accra Academy, a Senior High School based in Accra and that some 700 students are left stranded, salt was added to injury with news again were round that a boys dormitory at the Oppong Memorial Senior High School (SHS) at Kokofu in the Ashanti Region, has also been gutted by fire, displacing about 300 students.
In both cases all belongings of the students in the dormitories were burnt beyond redemption and the dormitories buildings were also completely destroyed.
In our usual ‘fire-brigade’ style, the Ghana Fire Service has been directed to investigate the cause of the fires.
The two separate but related incidents raise a lot of questions including the safety of our schools and preparedness of school heads to prevent such outbreaks.
It raises questions on the type of fire safety education that the students are even given.
It raises questions on whether or not school authorities even make it a must to have fire extinguishers in all class rooms and dormitories.
One wonders why after the two incidents, education authorities have not thought it wise to conduct a major electrical engineering audit across all public secondary schools, especially those with boarding facilities.
Some of the school buildings are very old structures and may have started suffering various stages of electrical wiring defects, which has been a major cause of fire outbreaks in buildings.
Fortunately, in both cases, the 300 victims of Oppong Memorial Senior High School and the 700 victims of Accra Academy escaped unhurt.
What if one or some of them had been trapped in the fire?
Would such a casualty have provoked authorities to be a bit more proactive in investigating the safety situation in other schools?
What if the fire had spread and burnt down other structures in the school or perhaps the entire campus? Would that have been serious enough to attract the requisite attention?
Sometimes it is prudent to take such warning signs serious and to do the needful.
The government is implementing a brilliant Free Senior High School policy which has been applauded across the sub region and even in parts of the developed world. Nothing should be allowed to mar the beautiful history in the making.
Perhaps this is a signal for authorities to also adopt a more proactive in fractural safety measures across the schools, especially when the Free SHS policy has quadrupled enrollment and obviously increased the pressure on existing infrastructure.
We strongly recommend a through electrical engineering audit across all public secondary schools.