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Stephjoy 11 remain in custody as death toll hits three

STEPHJOY-FIRENAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 4 – A court on Tuesday allowed the police to detain for two more days 11 students of Stephjoy Boys Boarding School, who are suspected of involvement in a dormitory fire that left three students dead.

The police told the court that they needed more time to carry out investigations in order to determine what to charge the boys with, if at all, on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the school authorities will also face charges given accusations that they failed to adhere to fire safety regulations by having bars on the dorm windows, narrow doors and failing to install fire extinguishers.

The 11 boys were taken in for questioning following the fire that took place between 11pm and midnight Sunday night, in a suspected case of arson.

Kiambu Women’s Representative Annah Nyokabi told the media on Monday that a petrol bomb was thrown into the dorm through a window.

She argued that Sunday night’s fire was connected to a fire started by the Stephjoy Girls a few weeks earlier leading to its closure.

“When we tried to find out what was at the root of their discontent, the only thing that came out clearly was opposition to morning devotion. But before they tried burning the school down we informed the police about what they were posting on Facebook and nothing was done.

“One girl posted, ‘if this school doesn’t burn today it will never burn,’ and then after, ‘now my heart is at peace,’” David Gitehi, the school board Chairman told Capital News.

On July 23, prior to US President Barack Obama’s visit, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the police would not hesitate to prosecute students who started school fires following a wave of unrest.

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He attributed the unrest to fear of the second-term mock examinations with Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi advising that they be carried out internally by schools to avoid putting pressure on the form four students by making them compete regionally.

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