Hamidreza Hajibabayi

Iran’s Education Minister appeared in Parliament to apologize for the recent fire at an elementary school that left 32 students with serious burn injuries.

Last Wednesday, fire broke out in a grade four class at a girls school in Sheenabad, when a malfunctioning kerosene heater was being removed from the class.

Hamidreza Hajibabayi said: “Until eternity, I apologize for any accident that happens within the Education Ministry.”

Some media outlets have interpreted the Education Minister’s apology as “tongue in cheek” but he has rejected such interpretations.

The minister has been blamed for the accident, and his critics have spoken out against the use of kerosene heaters in classes rather than gas heaters and the large numbers of students packed into small classrooms.

In addition to the recent fire, the death of 26 students in a bus accident during a school trip and similar student accidents have triggered widespread criticism of the Education Minister, and some have even called for his impeachment.

Mohammad Damadi, an MP, had criticized the minister for failing to offer even a simple apology for the fatal accident.

The minister has promised that his ministry will provide all necessary care for all the injured students in Sheenabad. He also reported that many are already on the path to recovery.

ISNA reported on Saturday that 10 of the students are still dealing with burns to over 50 percent of their body and remain in critical condition.