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Niger: Dozens of children aged 5 – 6 years old dead from fire at their school

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Niger: Dozens of children aged 5 - 6 years old dead from fire at their school

At least 26 children between the ages of 5 and 6 were killed in a fire at a school in Maradi, southern Niger, on Monday (November 8th), Chaibu Abubakar, the governor of the region, told AFP.

“At the moment there are 26 deaths, 13 injured, four of them seriously,” said the governor, explaining that the young children were “first-timers”, students of the preparatory class “between 5 and 6 years old”.

“We do not know the origin of the fire, an investigation has been opened to determine the causes,” he added, announcing that “a three-day mourning period has been declared in the Maradi district since tomorrow, Tuesday.” The fire broke out in thatched huts, classrooms made of straw and wood. In April, 20 infants, ages 3, 4 and 5, were charred in a fire that broke out in their classrooms in a Niamey neighborhood.

The children study in classes made of straw and wood

In Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, authorities are building thousands of sheds, made of straw and wood, to cover school shortages, where children study, often sitting on the ground. Fires in such classrooms, made of unsafe and highly flammable materials are common, but rarely cause casualties. The country's president, Mohamed Bazoum, recently promised to replace these halls with permanent buildings. After the fire in Niamey, “we drew the attention of the authorities to the danger posed by these thatched huts – school halls,” said Isufu Arzika, secretary general of the Niger Teachers Association (SNEN). “It is better to take lessons under trees than in thatched huts that turn into flammable graves for students,” he said.

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Source: politis.com.cy

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