Over 100 students injured in Yaounde school stampede

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

Emergency services are responding to victims of a stampede that occurred at a government secondary school in the Cameroon capital, Yaounde on Monday January 22.

The unfortunate incident at the Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Etoug-Ebe, one of the biggest government-run secondary schools in the nation’s capital, left 106 students injured, according to the Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie.

“The 106 students who were injured are currently receiving care free of charge in our hospitals, following our health emergency protocols and are stable,” Dr Manaouda said in a tweet. He added that: “A mental health team has been made available to families”.

Main entrance into GBHS Etoug-Ebe, Yaounde usually reserved for staff members

The principal of the school, Catherine Batcha Foju explained that the incident occurred as students were scrambling to enter the school campus after the usual Monday morning assembly. They had come late for the 7 – 7:15am (GMT+1) assembly that usually features the hoisting of the flag and singing of the national anthem. So, the school gate was already closed.

“After the assembly we had to go and talk to the students who came late and appeal to their conscience to come to early, not to accumulate hours of absences that may cause them to be expelled at the end of the academic year,” the principal told journalists in her office.

After talking to the students, Mrs Foju said they opened one side of the gate and students asked to enter “in an orderly manner, with a separate line for girls and another for boys”. Sadly, the students suddenly started pushing those who were in front, and forced open the other side of the gate.

“As everybody wanted to get in at the same time, they got stuck at the gate that could not contain the number at that time. So, some of them fell and incurred some bruises,” Mrs Foju explained admitting the number of latecomers was more than those who were on time.

Parents and guardians swamped the school campus as news of the stampede circulated especially on the social media with some reporting fatalities. Security was also heightened with a heavy deployment of forces of law and order in and around the school campus.

The Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) for Mfoundi, Emmanuel Mariel Djikdent, the first administrative authority who visited the school had also declared that no student died in the unfortunate incident, though he gave a far smaller number of those who were injured compared to that of the Minister of Public Health.

Security was immediately heightened on GBHS Etoug-Ebe campus following stampede

Though authorities say the GBHS Etoug-Ebe incident has been promptly contained and classes will resume on Tuesday January 23, 2024, the stampede has however opened a broader conversation about security and safeguarding measures at school in the country.

Efficient safety protocols, and effective crowd management tips for administrative and teaching staff, including having more than just one gate for students in a densely populated school like GBHS Etoug-Ebe could prevent a repeat of such in the future.

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