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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 27 January 2022

Teacher immolates herself in French school playground

The maths teacher died after deliberately setting herself ablaze following a reported confrontation with pupils.

The entrace to the school where the teacher set herself alight
The entrace to the school where the teacher set herself alight
Image: Google Maps

A MATHS TEACHER in southern France has died after deliberately setting herself alight in the playground of her school.

The 44-year-old woman sprayed herself with a flammable product and set herself alight in the schoolyard during recess Thursday, France’s education minister said.

The motives behind the incident, which took place early yesterday in the Mediterranean city of Beziers, were not immediately clear. However, witnesses apparently said she had clashed recently with pupils and their parents.

The teacher, whose name has not been released, was flown via helicopter to nearby Montpellier, but died of her burns, AFP reports.

“I saw a person who was running and on fire. It was a human torch,” said Dolores Roques, a fellow teacher at the school, on France-Info radio. “I didn’t believe my eyes. It seemed unreal. The students were screaming everywhere.”

One student told the BBC: “I saw her body on fire, walking forward with her hands on her head. Several people tried to put her out. She said ‘No, leave me alone. I don’t need help. God told me to do this.’”

Education minister Luc Chatel visited the hospital, and said a psychological support unit would be set up in the school.

Chatel said her health “is extremely worrying.” Speaking on RTL radio, he described her as a “teacher who is in a situation of great fragility” who has been undergoing medical and professional help and that an investigation would help determine the reasons for her “desperate act.”

- Additional reporting from AP

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Michael Freeman

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