• France edition
 

Teacher sets herself on fire in school playground

Published: 13 Oct 2011 13:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Oct 2011 18:07 GMT+02:00

A depressed French maths teacher set herself on fire in a high school playground on Thursday, officials said, but she is expected to survive after pupils and fellow teachers rushed to her aid.

The 44-year-old doused herself in petrol during the morning break and set herself alight, one day after a stormy meeting with children in her class who found her teaching methods too strict, witnesses said.

"She should pull through," said state prosecutor Patrick Mathe, who added that the woman was suffering from depression and was seen as having tried to commit suicide. "It was a desperate act... there was no crime."

The teacher suffered third-degree burns in the incident at the Jean Moulin secondary school in Beziers, southern France, and was taken by helicopter to a specialist unit in the city of Montpellier's university teaching hospital.

Parents and pupils who spoke to AFP at the scene said the teacher had a difficult relationship with several pupils in her maths class and that a meeting with them to clear the air on Wednesday had become rowdy.

They said she came to school on Thursday morning with a jerry can, gave a class at 9.00am then, when the morning break came, walked to the centre of the yard, poured petrol on herself and set herself alight.

"I saw her body on fire, walking forward with her hands on her head," said one student witness, Karim. "Several people tried to put her out. She said 'No, leave me alone. I don't need help. God told me to do this'."

"The teachers put a blanket over her, her clothes had melted," Karim said.  

Ten days previously, parents said, she had been hostile at a parent-teacher evening at the school, refusing to address their concerns about her methods.

Four parents, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the teacher had refused to help out struggling pupils, preferring to kick them out of class and concentrate on helping the stronger children progress.

They noted that she had appeared at the parents' evening with unexplained cuts and bruises. Some said the same teacher had suffered a nervous breakdown the year before and had been in trouble with school authorities.

The school -- a huge institution housing 3,000 students and 280 teachers -- sent all of its pupils home after the incident, and a crisis cell was set up to deal with its aftermath.

Education Minister Luc Chatel headed to Beziers to meet school officials.

"The minister shares the shock and sadness of the staff and students of the school. He asked for all information to try to understand what could have driven this teacher to carry out this act," the ministry said in a statement.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc'
Brigitte Bardot thinks Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc. Photo: Wikicommons/AFP

'Marine Le Pen is the 21st century Joan of Arc'

In a new interview one-time French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot has likened the head of France’s anti-immigration National Front party to the iconic French historical figure of Joan of Arc. READ  

France armed Syrian rebels 'months ago'
Freance says it armed Syrian rebels "months ago". Photo: AFP

France armed Syrian rebels 'months ago'

France supplied arms to rebels fighting the government in Syria "months ago", French President François Hollande said on Thursday. READ  

France's mussel growers gripped by ongoing crisis
In future France may be forced to import more and more mussels to satisfy demand. Photo: Ming-Yen Hsu/flickr

France's mussel growers gripped by ongoing crisis

In future “les moules” you eat in France may longer be homegrown after mussel producers in the west of the country have reported an "unprecedented" crisis due to poor harvests. They are demanding the state hand out emergency aid. READ  

Fruit and veg prices tumble in France
Nice weather has caused Fruit and veg prices to drop in France. Photo: David Flores/Flickr

Fruit and veg prices tumble in France

Good weather and weak demand have sent fruit and vegetable prices tumbling in France this summer. However, one of France’s favorite edibles is poised to spike in cost. READ  

Camel bites baby's head at circus in France
A circus camel in France has left a baby with "multiple fractures" after it bit him on the head. Photo: Toni Paya/Flickr

Camel bites baby's head at circus in France

A four-month-old baby boy is in hospital after a circus camel bit his head leaving him with multiple fractures, French police said on Thursday. The incident comes just weeks after a lion wounded a toddler at another French circus. READ  

VIDEO: New horror movie set in Paris catacombs
A new horror flick takes place in Paris's catacombs. Photo: Screengrab/Youtube

VIDEO: New horror movie set in Paris catacombs

The Paris catacombs, known to its fans as the "kingdom of the dead", has provided the setting for a brand new horror flick that hit cinemas in France this week. Check out the trailer, though it may make you hesitate about heading below ground ever again. READ  

JobTalk France - 'Best place to work'
South west France voted 'best place to work'
Bordeaux is the favoured place of French people when it comes to work. Photo: Shutterstock

South west France voted 'best place to work'

While most expats may dream of living and working in Paris or on the Riviera, the French on the other hand believe the cities of the south west are the ideal place to work, especially Bordeaux. READ  

Australian, 70, breaks record for Channel swim
Cyril Baldock, who has become the oldest person to swim the Channel. Photo: Twitter/Age Concern

Australian, 70, breaks record for Channel swim

A 70-year-old Australian grandfather has become the oldest person to swim the English Channel. Cyril Baldock swam the 34 km from England to France in 12 hours 45 minutes and celebrated his feat with a couple of beers. READ  

French villagers come to aid of British couple
Retired British citizens Faith Dyson (R) and husband John Dyson pose in their house in Brugairolles. Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP

French villagers come to aid of British couple

Residents in a French village have united behind an elderly British couple after their dream of a quiet retirement in southern France turned into a nightmare when their neighbours - also from the UK - walled them into their home. READ  

France pushes Middle East to fight Isis fighters
France has called on Middle East nations to battle Islamic State fighters. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP

France pushes Middle East to fight Isis fighters

France urged Middle East nations to take a stand against the Islamic State fighters operating nearly unchecked in Syria and Iraq. The French president also plans to set up an international summit to craft a response to the extremists. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Gallery
Don't make a faux pas! Ten things not to do when working in France
Health
Ebola: What is the risk of it coming to France?
Health
Are the French really a nation of smokers?
Culture
Frightened by the prospect of long French dinners? You're not alone
National
'Stay in Paris in August? You'd have to be crazy'
International
Calais migrant crisis: 'People will be killed if nothing is done'
Culture
Paris is closed for August, but will it always be like that?
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se