Tragedy leads to calls for school safety

A firefighter examines the debris of a collapsed wall that killed three students and injured six others at a school in Luzhou, Sichuan province.

CHINA - After the wall of a building collapsed and killed three primary school students and injured six others on Wednesday in Sichuan province, education experts, teachers and parents said not enough is being done to protect schoolchildren.

The fatal incident happened during the demolition of a building directly neighbouring a primary school in Luzhou, Sichuan province, China News Service reported. Before it was torn down, the building was higher than the school's walls.

Several students, most of whom were second-graders between the ages of 7 and 9, were struck by falling debris from the demolition as they were cleaning the school grounds. Local authorities are currently investigating the incident.

In a similar case on Oct 23, the wall of a primary school in Zhenxiong county, Yunnan province, collapsed, killing two students and injuring four.

Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher on education with the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the schoolchildren in both incidents did not get enough protection from adults, including parents, teachers and school authorities.

"Campus security is a broad concept, and for a long time we have concentrated more on the security of school buildings, such as the safety of classrooms and dormitories, and have ignored the children's safety in activities on and around campus," Chu said.

"The tragedies should not have happened if there had been an adult warning these students of nearby dangers and had asked them to stay away from the walls," said Chu, who added that there should have been at least a sign warning students not to come anywhere near the demolition.

Lu Zhongjie, a mother from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, said the safety of children at schools, especially when school buildings are involved, is always a concern of parents.

"I have fresh memories about the (Sichuan) earthquake in 2008, when my daughter was in middle school. I was so scared that the school building would collapse and that my girl would be hurt," she said.

Zhang Ting, a high school teacher in Beijing, said schools and parents should not just pay attention to campus safety. Accidents involving students also occur in areas near the school, she said.

"It is an urban planning issue. In areas near schools, certain types of construction should be prohibited to protect students from being hurt. But in rapidly developing China, many rules have been ignored," she said.

The government, including urban planning and legislative departments, should pay more attention to the issue, she said.

Chu said there are no rules concerning the construction of buildings around schools. He said education departments across the country should consider putting forward such regulations to better protect schoolchildren.