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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Malawian children killed by tree
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC, Blantyre

President Bakili Muluzi
President Muluzi is accused of ignoring education
Two Malawian school children have been killed when a tree they were using to study under fell on them.

Seven others were rushed to hospital after the tragedy in the capital, Lilongwe.

Headmaster Austin Kamzati said: "It was a tragedy of unimaginable proportion... the pupils had no chance."

Parents and teachers from Mkomachi primary school have angrily accused the government of under-funding schools.

Killer bees

Eleven-year-old Lifness Kamlindeni was decapitated while Deliya Kayo, 10, had her stomach ripped apart, the headmaster said.

Of the school's 27 classes, 19 are conducted under trees, with an average of 100 pupils in each group.

We have to deal with the current situation first; everyone is traumatised
Austin Kamzati
Lilongwe City Mayor Charles Chimdzeka immediately ordered all trees in the school to be chopped down.

The accident happened as classes for the day were about to start, the headmaster said.

Rescue efforts to save the trapped pupils were hampered because soon after the tree trunk snapped, killer bees emerged from the hollow space of the tree and started biting everybody, sending the rescuers helter-skelter.

Mr Kamzati said police - who arrived at the scene within minutes - brought in medical personnel who sprayed the bees with chemicals, scaring them away.

Heckled

Classes at the school have been suspended for the rest of the week. "We have to deal with the current situation first; everyone is traumatised," Mr Kamzati said.

There were angry scenes as the mayor and local MP Mary Kaphwereza Banda were being conducted around the school.

A fuming mob comprising teachers and relatives of the victims and other locals, heckled them, accusing government of wasting money on trivia while poor pupils have to make do with learning under trees.

"You just waste money paying for football fans," shouted one of the victims' father apparently referring to President Bakili Muluzi's move last Saturday to buy all the seats in Blantyre's Chichiri Stadium in Blantyre for football fans to watch the Malawi-Zimbabwe Cosafa Cup Final for free.

When Mr Maluzi's UDF took over power in 1994 it made sure its campaign promise of providing universal free primary education a reality.

But critics say that funding has not risen accordingly and so education standards have fallen.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Malawi
03 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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