July 7, 2016

Fire Destroys Girls’ Dormitory at Adventist School in Zimbabwe

, Zimbabwe Union Conference, with Adventist Review staff

A fire roared through a girls’ dormitory at a Seventh-day Adventist high school in northern Zimbabwe, reducing the building to rubble and destroying blankets, school uniforms, shoes, textbooks, and other belongings.

No one was injured in the blaze at the Mauya Adventist Secondary School in the town of Karoi.An outside view of the fire-ravaged girls' dormitory at the Mauya Adventist Secondary School. (ZUC)

The fire started while the dormitory’s 88 residents, aged 15 and 16, were studying with other students in the school’s dining hall, said Farukai A. Mbiriri, education director for the Adventist Church’s North Zimbabwe Conference.

“We thank God they were at study in the school dining hall, and so no lives were lost,” Mbiriri said.

The school was investigating the cause of the June 29 fire.

Mbiriri estimated that it would cost U.S.$12,000 to rebuild the dormitory and another $18,000 to replace the items lost by the girls.

“The girls are in a desperate situation given the fact that most parents are even struggling to raise school fees,” he said. “The cold winter in Zimbabwe makes the situation even more desperate.”

Students from other dormitories on campus were sharing their beds, blankets, and other possessions with the displaced girls. Shortly after the fire, students appealed to the teachers not to send the girls back home and promised to share what they had with them.

The school, which has 623 students, including 323 living in dormitories, opened in 2002 on a 500-acre (200-hectare) plot of land donated by the government. It initially operated as a day school, using farm buildings already on the land, but expanded into a boarding school in 2011. One of the conditions for the government land grant was that it become a boarding school. 

The North Zimbabwe Conference refurbished six farm houses and turned them into makeshift dormitories — three for boys and three for girls. The first building plans for a new girls' dormitory were submitted to the authorities shortly before the fire.

Adventist school property is usually insured by the church's insurer, Adventist Risk Management. But the makeshift dormitories were not insured because the school was preparing to build proper structures, conference leaders said.

Fires have happened at Adventist boarding schools in the past. 

In March 2015, three young boys died in a nighttime blaze at Labuiywo Seventh-day Adventist Academy in Kenya after courageously saving the lives of their sleeping classmates but then returning to retrieve their belongings. 

Read: Fire Kills 3 Boys at Kenyan Boarding School

Several months earlier, in November 2014, 69 girls were left without rooms after a fire broke out in their dormitory at Pine Forge Academy in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Read: 69 Girls Left Without Rooms After Fire at Adventist Boarding School

Back at the Mauya Adventist Secondary School, church leaders are looking to rebuild the destroyed dormitory.

The school lets out for vacation on Aug. 3, and the North Zimbabwe Conference is appealing to local church members for funds and volunteers to rebuild the dormitory before it reopens on Sept. 5. Donations of blankets, clothing, and other personal items are also being sought for the affected girls.

For more information about how you can help after the fire, contact North Zimbabwe Conference education director Farukai A. Mbiriri at [email protected].