Searchlight On Schools in High-Risk Zones

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About 15 recently-closed private schools were either in hazardous areas or had no authorisation.

Across Douala, schools can be found at any distance from risk zones. Numerous private schools are located in safe and healthy environments.

However, others are located on or are dangerously close to potentially hazardous areas such like marshlands, floodplains, busy highways, railroad tracks, industrial facilities, markets or other hazards that threaten the health and safety of children as well as teachers, administrators and other school personnel.

In Ndogpassi III, last September 16, 2013, a recently-built 6-storey building collapsed. This is not an isolated incident. The collapse of the Dora et Djemba Nursery and Primary School Bonapriso some years back, amongst others, do not just raise questions as to the quality of materials used but also the dangerous closeness of these structures to risky zones.

In line with this fear, the administration in Douala at the beginning of this school year sealed over 15 schools in the Douala II, III and IV Subdivisions, including the St Lawrence Comprehensive College which was sealed in the middle of last school year after warnings for it to quit a marshland in Bali, failed. As if unknown to parents who send children to the schools, metropolitan Douala still hosts a number of them.

Dangerously close to the polluted brook in the "Village" neighbourhood is a lay secondary school. Hundreds of school children face daily threats like poor hygiene, infection and risk of collapse. Among the schools closed by the Wouri Delegate of Secondary Education were several built on areas prone to damaging floods or rising water table. Some Douala inhabitants say it would be more comprehensive if the measure is extended to schools dangerously close to busy highways, railroad tracks, and industrial facilities.

Worthy of note is the fact that in some cases, potential environmental hazards were allowed to be built in close proximity to some schools. Such an experience, they insist, should be the most effective catalyst for administrative action. A proprietor of one of the schools that was closed told CT that the choice of a site is, however, shaped by factors like land availability and cost, location of current and future residential areas and available infrastructure as well as sanity in the application of regulation.