Jun 02, 2023 News
– 17 female students, 2 dorm mother escape unharmed
Kaieteur News – Four male students have reportedly confessed to setting fire to the St. Angela Girls’ Hostel located in Karasabai Village, Region Nine, during the wee hours of Thursday.
The inferno comes less than two weeks after a fire at the female dormitory at the Mahdia Secondary School located in Region Eight killed 19 girls and a five-year-old boy.
Reporting on the recent incident, the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) revealed that the fire occurred between 02:30 hours and 03:15 hours on June 1. It was stated that around 03:15 hours a student woke up to use the washroom when she discovered the building on fire and raised an alarm. The Fire Service reported that quick action by the dorm mothers and villagers resulted in all of the occupants of the building being evacuated in a safe manner. The building was partially destroyed by the fire and a quantity of books, beds, clothing, other personal effects were also destroyed. At the time of the fire the building was occupied by 17 female students ages 11 to 16 and two dorm mothers.
Firefighters from the Lethem Fire Station accompanied by the police arrived on the scene around 06:30 hours to carry out investigations and ensure the fire was completely extinguished. Notably, it was decided that the displaced students be housed in the Karasabai Hostel while replacement furniture, and care packages are being sent into the village. The GFS thanked the residents of Karasabai who came out in their numbers to assist in the evacuation process as well as containing the fire.
For their part, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in a statement claimed that the four male students had threatened to set fire to the building after they were chased from the premises by the caretaker. It was further stated that the boys on Thursday morning set their plan in motion and executed same.
Notably, all the female students that were in the building managed to escape safely. An alarm was raised and ranks of the Karasabai Police Station and villagers formed a bucket brigade and extinguished the fire.
According to police, the four alleged suspects were contacted and interviewed by the police in the presence of the Regional Commander, the Regional Education Officer (REO) and their parents. The four students reportedly confessed to the planning and execution of the crime. They are presently in custody assisting with further investigations.
According to a resident of Karasabai, while the students escaped unharmed, they were not able to save any personal items. The resident disclosed that when the fire started, residents nearby were alerted but by that time the fire had already spread. It was explained that there is only one fire tender in the region which is based in Lethem – some three to four hours away from Karasabai Village.
Following news of the fire, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn along with officials from the Fire Service, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, and other officials, headed to Karasabai Village. They carried out investigations and engaged residents.
Following the tragedy in Mahdia, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) in a statement had urged everyone to support and advocate for dormitories with proper infrastructure and safety procedures for children seeking education. The council said: “numerous concerns have been made regarding the dormitories, including the availability of healthy and sufficient food, access to fresh and clean water, electricity, security, proper utilities and furniture, layout and design of the buildings, and overall living arrangement of the students.”
They also called for a thorough investigation of all dormitories and for prompt remedial actions are taken to improve the situation.
The council recommended the following:
1) The occupational, health and safety standards be vastly improved with emergency plans and equipment be in place.
2) Replace all steel grills with less hazardous construction materials.
3) Improve sleeping conditions for students.
4) For every dormitory, a welfare officer be stationed to provide the necessary support to the students.
5) Increase the number of caretakers at the dorms and carry out training so that they can adequately carry out their duties.
6) Appropriate and adequate food supply for students.
7) An enhanced team be established to monitor the dormitories across the hinterland.
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