Fire leads to calls for reg­u­la­tion of schools

Otago Daily Times - - The World -

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia faced mount­ing calls for stronger reg­u­la­tion of re­li­gious schools fol­low­ing a hor­rific fire at an Is­lamic board­ing school that killed 23 vic­tims, most of them teenage boys trapped be­hind the barred win­dows of their dor­mi­tory.

The fire broke out at a ‘‘tah­fiz’’ school where stu­dents learn to mem­o­rise the Ko­ran.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into the cause of the fire were on­go­ing, but two gas can­is­ters found at the school had raised sus­pi­cions, the Malay

Mail re­ported.

One vic­tim was as young as 7 years old, me­dia re­ports said. Kuala Lumpur po­lice chief Amar Singh said the other vic­tims in­cluded 21 boys aged be­tween 13 and 17 and two teach­ers.

Four­teen stu­dents and four teach­ers es­caped or were res­cued from the fire.

Malaysian of­fi­cials said there had been 31 sim­i­lar fire in­ci­dents in the past but Thurs­day’s fire was the worst in 20 years.

How­ever, me­dia re­ports said the num­bers were much higher. Na­tional daily The Star said 1034 fires oc­curred in reg­is­tered and un­reg­is­tered re­li­gious schools from Au­gust 2015 to Au­gust 2017.

Au­thor­i­ties claimed the school had made struc­tural changes to the build­ing and had not se­cured a clear­ance from the fire depart­ment. The school de­nied this.

Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity Malaysia pro­vides a sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, but grow­ing con­ser­vatism has led to a boom in the num­ber of Is­lamic re­li­gious schools, most of which are not over­seen by the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry.

In­ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tion and train­ing has led to a slew of safety is­sues, in­clud­ing re­ports of stu­dent deaths, re­li­gious leader Mo­hamad Asri Zainul Abidin said in a col­umn posted on his Face­book page. — Reuters/DPA

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