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School stampede raises many questions

China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-24 07:49

A STAMPEDE AT A PRIMARY SCHOOL in Puyang county, Central China's Henan province, on Wednesday morning resulted in the death of one student, and left more than 20 pupils injured. Beijing News commented on Thursday:

The principal of the primary school was removed hours after the incident, which happened at about 8:30 am as students rushed to the toilet during a 10-minute break, according to reports. The students were reportedly preparing for their monthly examinations scheduled later in the morning.

It is laudable that the school and local officials reacted quickly to the tragedy by sending the injured to hospital and launching a thorough investigation into the cause of the tragedy. But there are questions that need to be answered now.

First of all: Why did the school still set monthly tests, which apparently contradicts the central government's efforts to reduce the burden on students? The Ministry of Education has issued a guideline that explicitly forbids elementary and middle schools from imposing excessive tests on students.

However, pupils at the school have to not only take the usual mid-term and final examinations, but also monthly tests.

Insufficient school facilities also had a lot to do with the stampede. Home to more than 1,700 students, the Puyang No 3 Experimental Primary School simply does not have enough toilets for them. Did the school over-enroll students or misappropriate money allocated for its facilities?

Although educational authorities at all levels have repeatedly called on schools to "provide a safe environment for students" and teach the children what to do in an emergency, it seems that the school did not carry out this instruction. Nor have the staff at the school been instructed how to evacuate students in an emergency. No adults were there to guide the crowd of students as they rushed to classrooms when the bell was about to ring.

The absence of an accountability mechanism and the security-related education has led to the death of one student. Had preemptive measures been taken and security checks conducted, the tragedy would probably not have happened.

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