Education International is disturbed to learn that 221 people are missing after a boat capsized off the coast of Sierra Leone, including many children heading off to begin a new school year.
The British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) correspondent in the capital, Freetown, said the boat sank on 8 September in heavy storms with about 70 children among the 268 people on board. Officials suspect the boat was carrying twice as many people as it was intended for, and they did not have lifejackets.
“According to media reports a lot of school children who were on their way to school were on that boat and have lost their lives. That children full of energy, hopeful for the future and looking forward to becoming great some day, as well as being the future leaders of their nation, should lose their lives tragically is painful,” said Assibi Napoe, EI Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa.
“On behalf of all teachers in Africa, staff at the EI Africa Regional office and Education International, we wish to convey our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families for this great loss.”
The boat was travelling a sea route of about 65km northward along the coast from the town of Shenge to the village of Tombo, near Freetown. It capsized not long after departure. A local journalist in Tombo told the BBC News website that the village was in a state of mourning as relatives wait for news. One man had nine children on the boat who were returning to start the new school term. The boat's owner has not been found to comment on the accident.