At least 26 children between the ages of 5 and 6 have died in a fire at their school in the rural municipality of Maradi in central Niger. A security source told local media, explaining that the fire broke out in several huts in which the courses were held, built with flammable materials such as wood and straw. A civil protection officer explained that “the firefighters received a call from Maradi around 1 am local time and immediately went to the scene, but before they arrived the lines were already burning.”
At least 80 other children sustained serious burns 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 about 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 budget for education, there are not enough schools in the country and many of them are temporary constructions made of wood, straw or sheet metal. In some rural areas, lessons are held in the shade of trees.
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