Fire leads to calls for regulation of schools
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
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