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A fire in a Niger preschool claimed the lives of at least 25 schoolchildren. As a result, many are now questioning the safety of students across West Africa.
The fire occurred in Maradi, one of the countries largest cities in the south-central region. Niger is one of the poorest countries by rank with a rapidly growing population. Due to the lack of space in more substantial buildings, temporary thatched-roof classrooms became more and more commonplace. Following the tragedy, all preschools in straw sheds have been banned in the country. Along with the dead, 14 are also injured, with five in critical condition, according to the Nigerien Council of ministers. All the victims were younger than seven, according to the Ministry of National Education.
In Pursuit of Change
This is not an isolated incident. Another fire in April claimed the lives of 20 others in the Nigerien capital Niamey. Criticism of alternative schooling has continued by Nigerian education advocates.
Many claim the schools are too jam-packed and combustible. After the April fire, the National Union of Teachers of Niger put out a statement urging officials to cease using straw huts for schools.
Child protection advocate Zakaria Salifou remarked that the classrooms had been “built with risky materials.” He added, “that this tragedy had to occur before anyone took action — words fail me.” The union’s secretary Issoufou Arzika said it would be better to have a class under trees, according to Agence France-Presse. He called the straw huts “flammable graves for pupils.”
Niger’s government secretary-general Abdou Dangaladima stated that “this tragic event once again brings mourning to the Nigerien people.” Classes are currently suspended in the city as authorities are still investigating the cause of the incident. A mourning period of three days has been declared.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Washington Post: Fire sweeps through Niger preschool, killing at least 25 children; by Danielle Paquette
CNN: School fire kills at least 25 children in Niger; Reuters newsroom
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Mathieu Dessus’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Mathieu Dessus’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License