Over 1200 students at St. Maryâ€™s Secondary School Sanje in Rakai district have been asked to go home for two weeks after the school dormitories were burnt on Thursday.
The decision to temporarily close the school followed an urgent board meeting called by the school head teacher Peter Lukonge and Rev. Fr. Lawrence Kakooza, the parish priest on Friday.
The incident comes just three days to the official opening of the new term according to the academic calendar.
The fire started at around 9:45am on Thursday in one of the girls’ dormitories before it spread to consume the entire block that accommodates more than 500 students.
Students sobbed as they watched their belongings burn to ashes. The items included mattresses, blankets, clothes, cash, pass lips, birth certificates and passports for foreign students.
Students were writing their beginning of term exams when fire broke out and none of them sustained injuries in the process. They say that they ran out of their examination rooms as soon as the fire started spreading.
Goretti Nabaweesi, one of the affected students says she lost her valuable documents but thanks God for her life.
Mary Nasali, a senior two student says she was among the first students to run out of the school premises. She says that she lost a mattress, books and suitcase in the fire.
Rev. Fr. Lawrence Kakooza, the parish priest suspects a welder only identified as Geoffrey, who was hired to repair beds in the dormitories, to have started the fire accidentally.
Kakooza explains that all efforts by concerned residents, students and teachers to put out the fire were futile because the fire was spreading fast.
Richard Mboneko, one of the parents who participated in the fire fight, says it took fire fighters from Masaka about two hours to arrive at the school.
He blames the mess on the school administrators who decided to repair the beds during open term.
According to Peter Lukonge, the school head teacher, the temporary closure will allow them renovate the burnt structure.
Parents are meanwhile demanding that the school administration compensates their children for the losses.
Noah Serunjogi, the Southern Region Spokesperson, explains that the police fire brigade should not take the blame for the fire even though they delayed to arrive at the scene.
He adds that they are looking for the welder who is on the run to help police in it investigations.
St. Mary’s Senior Secondary School is a church founded school and one of the government aided schools in Rakai district. It is located about 12km along Kyotera-Mutukula road having with a population of more than 1200 students.