Friday, October 23, 2009

Pupils are missing as Guinea school reopens

On 28 September, Guinean troops opened fire on a mass opposition rally at a stadium in the capital Conakry.

The Guinean Human Rights Organisation said 157 were killed in the violence and over 1200 injured. The military government put the death toll at 57. In the weeks since the massacre, this head teacher has been struggling to reopen his school. Here is his account of school life since 28 September: Schools across the country were due to reopen on the day of the massacre

Lessons resumed a few days ago with just 65 of 400 pupils present [less than 20% of the school]. We are still trying to discover whether any of their pupils were among the victims of the massacre. The school is directly affected: significant numbers of my students have left the country, and others had gone into hiding. We have teachers who had fled to Sierra Leone and they are very skeptical of coming back to Guinea.

Our school in Conakry is a few miles from the national stadium where crowds converged to protest against the Military leader on Monday September 28, 2009. We were to start classes the day the incident took place - but had to call off and I was at the school campus with a few teachers to send kids home and give parents information. Our area was calm, though there were sporadic gun shots just few a miles from us. The streets were very tense with military convoys armed to the teeth.

At around noon, the news spread about the massacre that took place at the stadium. The streets became completely empty, and everyone is murmuring the numbers and wondering what next? I managed to come close to the stadium the next day, Tuesday, but it was no go zone. We proceeded to the hospital which is a mile from the stadium and the numbers of victims at hospitals were overwhelming. There were people crying, others are desperately looking for their loves one but couldn't find them. The atmosphere in the hospital is very, very shocking. I left the hospital without seeing any sign of my students, teachers and parents among the victims. We will do whatever we can to support our pupils.

Education means everything to my students. They come to school even on weekends. Each child is bright light of promise for the family. I have never seen kids who are so eager to learn.

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