At least 26 children between the ages of 5 and 6 died in the fire at their school in the rural municipality of Maradi in central Niger. A security source told local media, explaining that the flames broke out in several huts where the courses were set up, built with flammable materials such as wood and straw. “The firefighters received a call from Maradi around 1 local time and immediately went to the scene of the accident, but before their arrival the classes were already engulfed in flames,” explained a civil protection officer.
At least 80 other children were seriously burned in the fire and were rushed to the regional emergency room. Last April, another similar episode saw at least 21 children between the ages of 6 and 12 burned to death in a school fire in Niamey, the capital.
According to the United Nations, Niger, with a population of around 25 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world and has one of the lowest literacy rates in Africa. Due to the low education budget, there are not enough schools in the country and many are makeshift constructions made of wood, straw or sheet metal. In some rural areas, classes are held in the shade of trees.