On behalf of teachers and education workers around the world, Education International expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families and school communities of the victims of yesterday's tragic school shooting in Finland.
The shooting rampage took place on 23 September in the town of Kauhajoki, where a 22-year-old vocational student killed 10 people before shooting himself. He later died in hospital. This is the second school shooting to have taken place in Finland since the first incident shocked the world last November. "In general, schools are safe places for children to learn and play, and teachers strive to keep the school environment secure and healthy," said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. "It is therefore profoundly disturbing for all concerned when an act of violence such as this shatters our concept of schools as oases of safety for children." The previous school shooting in Finland took place 8 November last year in Tuusula and left 9 people dead. However, government took no action in the wake of this attack to tighten legislation on firearms. In both cases, the shooters held valid gun licences, and both gave indirect warnings by posting videos on the internet. EI strongly supports the call by Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen to tighten the country's gun laws to restrict the use of handguns to shooting ranges. In a statement posted on its website, the Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ), an EI member organisation in Finland, said: "The tragedy has prompted many schools and education institutions to improve their security. General surveillance and emergency plans are being revised. The OAJ is currently monitoring the developments closely." The EI Executive Board, meeting in Brussels since 23 September, strongly condemns the shooting and urges Finnish teachers and students to support their prime minister's call for increased restrictions on gun ownership and usage.