Uganda: Emotions run high as parents receive remains of students

Kampala. Chemical tests have positively identified the remains of students killed in the fire that gutted St Bernard’s Secondary School Mannya in Rakai District on Sunday night. The successful DNA fingerprinting has also now paved way for victims’ bodies to be handed over to parents for burial.

Police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga, assisted by two consultant pathologists from Mulago hospital, said the tests proved that the deceased were killed by heat and suffocation before they were burnt.

“We have successfully identified all the nine bodies of students killed in the Rakai fire and results are with the respective parents. Our examination has shown that these students died of too much heat and suffocation before they were burnt,” Dr Byaruhanga said.

But it was also moment of anguish at Mulago hospital mortuary as caskets containing the charred remains of the nine students were wheeled out.

Mr Peter Kisegerwa and Ms Teodorah Aliganyira both wailed as they received the casket containing the remains of their son, Remegios Tamale.

Left with no plausible explanation to explain her son’s death, Ms Aliganyira sank into self-reproach, regretting why she shifted her son from Kyotera Vocational Secondary School to St Bernard’s SS.’

“I wanted my son to perform better, but I now regret why I did not keep him at his former school. I wanted him to be successful. I wanted him to achieve his dreams. I regret my decision. He should have stayed at Kyotera,” Ms Aliganyira said between sobs.

Ms Aliganyira said some survivors narrated how her son asked his colleagues to flee to safety as they tried to pull him out, but he was already weakened by the dense smoke and intense heat.
“His colleagues tried to save him but he declined and instead asked them to run.

He held onto a metallic bed and wished his colleague well. He knew his colleagues could also die if they had stayed to save him.

I wish he had only fallen ill and I left with the chance to treat him,” she said as she leaned on relatives for support.

Tamale’s remains were not taken back to Rakai for the school’s general requiem Mass as earlier planned since his ancestral home is in Semuto, Nakaseke District.

The State minister for Primary Education, Ms Rosemary Seninde, who saw off the nine ambulances carrying the victims’ caskets, applauded pathologists for quickening the DNA tests.

She said government had catered for burial expenses of all the victims and promised an extensive investigation to ensure whoever was involved in the inferno is brought to book.

“It is unfortunate and painful to see our young children die in such an incident. These could have been important people in the future. We ask the parents to remain calm as police conduct investigations,” Ms Seninde said.

Mr Mathias Mulumba, the uncle of Emma Kasozi, who had spent only two months at St Bernard’s S.S. after joining from St Henry’s College Kitovu, said as a family they were also regretting why they shifted him.
“Our boy had just joined that school.

He had not even spent a term in it. We are speechless. We wish there was a way we could know that this would happen. We would have kept him in his former school,” Mr Mulumba said as he fought back tears.

At least 10 suspects have been arrested by a joint security force comprising the army, Internal Security Organisation, and police.

By Daily Monitor

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