By Andile Tshuma/Whinsley Masara
Thirty-four pupils escaped death after a 10-roomed dormitory at the Salvation Army church-run Usher High School in Matabeleland South caught fire in the early hours of yesterday, leaving a trail of destruction.
The affected pupils, who are in Form Four and are set to sit for their Ordinary Level Practical examination on Thursday, lost all their belongings including books.
The Bulawayo Fire Brigade received the first call for help at 00.07AM and arrived at the scene at 1.05AM.
Affected children were taken to the United Bulawayo Hospitals for trauma check-up.
Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer Mr Richard Peterson said when the brigade arrived at the scene, roofs in the affected rooms had already collapsed.
“A 10-roomed dormitory at Usher Girls High School was gutted by fire this morning (yesterday). When the brigade arrived about an hour after receiving the first call for help, the eastern wing of a dormitory comprising of 10 rooms were well alight with the roof already collapsed. The western wing was saved from the inferno,” he said.
Mr Peterson said a total of 34 Form Four pupils were safely evacuated from the building and no one was injured.
He said they were still investigating to establish the cause of the fire.
“We are still investigating to find the cause of the fire and the value of the destroyed property is not yet known,” he said.
Mr Peterson warned people to be more careful especially with electrical appliances to avoid fire outbreaks.
“We warn the public to always cross-check electrical appliances’ functionality and remember to always switch them off when not in use to avoid the continuous loss of property and lives,” he said.
Usher High School Headmistress Mrs Idah Moyo appealed for assistance as she said affected pupils only remained with the night wear they were putting on last night.
She said they were now facing an accommodation crisis.
“We are in a dire situation. We are appealing for assistance in the form of sanitary wear, undergarments, bedding, stationery and building material. We are however, grateful that all the pupils are safe and unharmed. Material things will always be replaced but you can never recover human life,” said Mrs Moyo.
Matabeleland South Provincial Education Director (PED) Mr Lifias Masukume confirmed the fire incident.
“I can confirm a hostel at Usher high School caught fire and pupil’s goods were destroyed. Students escaped uninjured and the brigade is yet to ascertain the cause of the fire although it is suspected that an electrical fault may have caused the inferno,” he said.
Mr Masukume said it was sad to note that schools within the province continue to suffer from fire incidents.
“Recently, a double storey hostel at Plumtree High School was also razed down by a fire, while Cyrene High School was also affected by a veld fire which spread into the school. Apparently, both Plumtree and Usher schools seem to have been affected by electrical faults. We encourage schools to constantly carry out thorough inspections, repair worn out property and ensure there are no live wires on electrical circuits to avoid dangers and losses,” he said. Chronicle