Niger: strong union reaction following school fire
On April 13, a fire destroyed a school built with temporary materials on the outskirts of Niamey in Niger. Twenty-five of the 38 straw-covered classrooms in the school were ravaged by the fire.
The structure bringing together Education International member unions in Niger (IESNI) expressed their emotion and solidarity with the school community affected by the school fire in Niamey. It also called on the responsible public authorities to ensure the safety of educators and students in educational institutions, including through increased funding for the education sector.
The provisional assessment shows a tragic loss of human life with the death of 20 students between 5 and 10 years of age.
The origin of the fire is not yet known. Niger Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou visited the scene to witness the damage firsthand and to provide government support to the relatives of the victims.
Calling on teachers and parents of students to be more vigilant, he also promised that the government will do everything in its power to ensure that the perpetrators are found, if the fire turns out to be of criminal origin.
Securing educational institutions requires increased funding
For education unions, this deadly fire underlines the need to have safe places of learning. Such security requires adequate funding for education.
Ongoing global union advocacy for safe schools
The ISESNI also recalled that schools are under constant attack by criminal gangs in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, where teachers and students too often pay the ultimate price.
Informed of the tragedy, the Education International Africa Regional Committee (EIARC), during its special session on April 15, deplored the incident and sent a message of condolence and solidarity to the affiliates of the Niger. The committee recommended that an audit of school and academic infrastructure be carried out and that a draft resolution be proposed at the next conference of the African region of Education International in 2022.
Internationally, the Education International World Congress held in Thailand in 2019 passed a resolution on attacks on schools in Africa that calls on its member organisations to urge governments to:
- Sign, implement and support the Safe Schools Declaration to ensure that all students and teachers, men and women, can learn and teach safely;
- Systematically investigate attacks on education, and prosecute those responsible;
- Provide non-discriminatory assistance to all victims of attacks on education and give them physical and psychosocial support.