EDITORIAL – Investigate the Malaka Fire Outbreak, Take Precautionary Measures

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EDITORIAL –

Investigate the Malaka Fire Outbreak, Take Precautionary Measures

ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2019, Liberia woke up to the gloomy and shocking news of the death of 27 students of the Malaka Quranic Memorization Center in Paynesville. Mostly kids and teenagers, these young Liberians were deprived of reaching their full potentials in line with international conventions and our own Liberian Law regarding the protection of children.

THE VICTIMS, INCLUDING their Quranic instructor, met their ghastly fate when fire broke out at their boarding school in Bassa Town, Bob Taylor Road in the suburbs of Paynesville City.

ACCORDING TO OUR own investigation and reports from experts, the Malaka Center had only one entry point which doubled as an exit facility – a condition which seriously decreased the margin of survivability whenever disaster strikes.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE fire outbreak, President George M. Weah visited the scene and sympathized with the bereaved families, the Muslim community and all Liberians. President Weah also vowed that his government would investigate the cause of this national tragedy.

WHILE THE ENTIRE nation still reels from the calamity, rumors have been flying here, there and yonder, that the fire disaster might have been orchestrated. While we at The Analyst would not want to dwell on such rumors in the wake of government’s call for thorough investigation into the disaster, one cannot also overlook the hazardous regime within which many of our schools operate in this country.

THE MALAKA SCHOOL INCIDENT therefore brings to mind many bugging questions. How many of our schools ever conduct fire drill trainings for staff and students? What is the Ministry of Education own policy regarding safety of schools? Are there any monitoring and evaluation exercises conducted by the Ministry of Education to ascertain quality control of schools within its bailiwick?

THESE QUESTIONS MIGHT have triggered comments from the Director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Henry O. Williams, when he spoke with journalists immediately after the fire incident.

PLACING THE BLAME of the fire outbreak squarely on the improper monitoring systems of the country’s education authorities, Mr. Williams said the nation would not have experienced such loss if the Liberian educational system was checking on public and private school facilities. He further indicated that effective supervision and monitoring of the school system would ensure the alleviation of risks and the improvement of good learning atmosphere for students.

“WE LIBERIANS NEED to have a resilient school system wherein lot of factors will be looked at, including building’s conditions of accessibility to avert future recurrence of the tragedy,” Mr. Williams emphasized.

While Mr. Williams has concentrated his concerns on school safety, rumors about the tragic fire outbreak being orchestrated by arsonists should not be overlooked, as has been alarmed by the Chairman of the Aggrieved Youth of Liberian and member of the Fula Community, Mr. Mohammed Alie Bah.

ACCORDING TO MR. Bah, prior to the Tuesday incident, there were unsuccessful attacks on the school.

“THE FIRST ATTACK in 2018, was between the hours 7:00pm to 8:00pm. Huge smoke emanated from the bathroom which drew everyone’s attention in the mosque. When they rushed there, all they could see was a bunch of cloth with heavy fire on it. The second occurrence took place in the same year in similar way,” Mr. Bah stated when he addressed the media in the wake of the fire outbreak.

BAH SAID, WHEN the two previous attacks occurred, the Imam of the Mosque informed the community and its leadership who later informed the police station about the happenings.

“THE POLICE PROMISED to investigate the matter, but since then the police are yet to give any feedback,” he said, noting that though the Fula Community cannot conclude on the recent incident which took place, as investigation is ongoing, but with facts gathered from previous attacks, they suspect a terroristic attack.

AS CONCERNED LIBERIANS in unison are calling on government to not sweep this national tragedy under the rug, we join all and sundry in petitioning our government to exercise due diligence by conducting a forensic investigation on this matter and other previous alleged attacks on the affected school premises.

WHATEVER OUTCOME THE investigation turns, our schools, whether public or private, must be properly monitored to ensure there is never a repeat of the Tuesday, September 17, 2019 tragedy.

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