Schools under fire

10 September 2021
Some of the deadliest school killings in the world.
run hide fight fire

The film Run Hide Fight follows a 17-year-old girl, Zoe Hull, who uses her skills and wits to keep herself alive and protect fellow students during a school shooting. Set in the United States, the film is topically relevant since the U.S, according to the Sandy Hook Promise organisation, has experienced over 1,316 school shootings since 1970.

Worldwide, the highest number of students killed at a school shooting is 385 in Russia’s Beslan school. The school fell under siege to a group of martyrs on 1 September 2004, where a further 783 students were left injured.

We look at three school massacres around the world committed by students.


Kyanguli Fire Tragedy – Kenya (2001)

In March 2001, Davis Onyango Opiyo (16), a Form 3 student, approached Felix Ngumbao to plan an uprising in the school. He wanted to burn down a dorm due to dissatisfaction with the school's new principal. The two boys put together 600 Kenyan shillings on 24 March, and when the rest of the school had attended a school sports event, the two went to a nearby filling station to purchase 15 litres of petrol. Early morning on 25 March, students were woken up by screams when a dorm with the capacity of 130 was in flames. The fire claimed 67 lives and injured many. After a two-year trial, the case was ruled a mistrial and thrown out of court when judge Robert Mutitu; was probed for corruption.

58 of the victims were buried in six mass graves on the school property, and the family of every victim was to be financially compensated.


Virginia Tech Shooting – United States (2007)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, claims the deadliest school shooting since the 2000s with a death toll of 32. A 23-year-old student of South Korean descent, Seung-Hui Cho, opened fire at two locations on the campus. First in a dorm room and then in an academic building across campus, killing 32 and injuring 23 others before turning the gun on himself. Cho had reportedly been autistic and suffered severe depression and selective mutism, which was said to be partly fuelled by bullying.


Kerch Polytechnic attack – Ukraine (2018)

On 17 October 2018, the school was attacked by 18-year-old student Vladislav Roslyakov who shot and killed 20 people and wounding 70 others before committing suicide. Before the incident, close friends claimed that the student had expressed his hatred for the school and teachers, also that he no longer had a purpose in his life. Roslyakok had also been a member of many online communities dedicated to serial killers, giving birth to the idea that he was not alone during the attack.

What measures could parents and school officials take to spot and address potentially volatile students before disaster?


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