The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) has called for strict actions amid a fire outbreak which led to the death of six children at the Bilal Boarding School for Quranic Memorisation in Yaram Bamba, Old Yundum.
The fire was believed to have started around 2am last Sunday. Eighteen children were said to be in the room at the time of the incident. Five of the victims were found dead in the room during rescue operations whilst six others were severely injured.
Six children were rescued according to teachers at the facility. One of the injured was pronounced dead at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital on Monday. Three others remain in critical conditions there whilst two others are responding to treatment at Serekunda General Hospital.
Details surrounding the cause of the fire are still scanty, however, the head of the school is currently helping police with investigations.
It must be noted that in February this year, the CPA National Coordinator spearheaded an unannounced monitoring visit of boarding facilities, with the Directorate of Children Affairs because of reported cases of child abuse, through the application of severe forms of punishment and the poor accommodation and sanitary facilities. After the visit, concrete recommendations were made to that effect, which were geared towards improving the accommodation, sanitary and electrical facilities to avoid such incidents as in this case.
Therefore, we considered the incident total negligence from the management of the boarding facility. To this end, CPA demands the immediate closure of the boarding facility, whilst thorough investigation into the matter continues. The authorities are urged to take strict action to deter reoccurrences of such incidents.
We equally demand that the Directorate of Children Affairs act in accordance with Section 199 of the Children’s Act which mandated the Directorate to inspect childcare facilities at least every six months with the powers to suspend operations of such facilities where they fall short of meeting the minimum standards. This includes all Quranic memorisation centres, orphanages, and care homes across the country.
Meanwhile, parents are urged to frequent such facilities to check the conditions of their children.
“They must not relent in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their children while pursuing any form of education,” CPA said.
The CPA want to reiterate that it is the responsibility of every person to report any incident of child rights violations to the appropriate authorities. All cases of Child abuse or Gender Based Violence could be reported through the free toll numbers 199 or 1313.