Vulnerability of Urban Primary and Secondary Schools to Fire Hazards: A Qualitative Study in Ibadan, Nigeria

In recent years, lives and property worth millions of dollars have been destroyed in fire disasters in secondary schools around  the world. Cases of fire disasters in Nigerian secondary schools have been experienced in the last decade with increasing frequency and severity. It is therefore necessary to assess the level of vulnerability to fire hazards among urban schools (primary and secondary) in Ibadan, Nigeria. The objectives of this study are to identify direct vulnerability factors to fire hazards in selected schools in Ibidan, determine preparedness levels against fire hazards, compare fire hazard vulnerability levels between public and private schools in the study area, determine  risk recovery  strategies, and examine the likely challenges of ensuring fire safety among school managers and administrators.

Qualitative methods of data collection were adopted for this study. In-depth Interview (IDI) guides and observation checklists were used as the major instruments for eliciting data from respondents. A total of 8 schools were selected for the study; 4 public schools and 4 private schools. In each of these schools, 2 respondents were engaged in IDIs. These respondents were chosen to reflect school managers including, where available, proprietors and principals in  secondary schools and head teachers in primary schools, as well as class teachers and non-teaching staff. 16 respondents were interviewed in total. It is important to note that this is not a representative sample, therefore results cannot be generalised. It is an indicative study where the results highlight important issues for consideration in policy formulation by concerned authorities, or a pointer for further systematic study.

Findings are discussed in three major headings including direct vulnerability factors, preparedness factors and recovery measures. Based on the findings, it was  concluded that public schools in the study area were more  vulnerable to fire hazard compared to private schools. The immediate implication is that fire incidents in these schools would most likely account for high casuality figures in terms of  lives and property. It is important to state that although private schools are less vulnerable to fire hazards compared to public schools, fire incidents in private schools can still have major adverse impact on lives and property.The findings of the study have the potential to create awareness among schools on fire hazards and empower them to reduce their vulnerability to fire hazards. Secondary education policy makers can also use the findings to inform policy formulation.