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A French teacher who doused herself in petrol and set herself alight in front of students has claimed that God told her to do it.
High school students at a school in the south of France were receiving psychological assistance Friday after their maths teacher set herself on fire in the playground.
France Info radio reported that the woman is in a serious condition with third-degree burns after she doused herself in petrol on Thursday in the town of Béziers, near Montpellier, following a rowdy meeting with students.
The 44-year-old teacher, who had been at the school for 10 years, had been reportedly having problems with several students in her maths class, and the meeting was aimed at resolving some of the issues.
Agence France Presse spoke to several parents and students, who said the teacher had been hostile at a recent parents' evening.
The BBC reported:
She came to the Jean Moulin school on Thursday morning with a jerry can, gave a class at 9am and then, when the morning break came, walked to the Centre of the playground, poured petrol on herself and set herself alight.
One of the students, Karim, described the scene as “a vision of the apocalypse”:
It seemed totally strange and unreal. I saw a body on fire going forward with her hands on her head. Several of us tried to put it out. She kept saying, "No, leave me, I don't need your help. God told me to do this".
Several media reports said the teachers and students responded rapidly, throwing blankets over the woman.
French education minister Luc Chatel, who visited the hospital where the teacher is being treated, said a psychological support unit sent to the school would remain for as long as necessary.
He told French radio the teacher was “in a situation of great fragility", adding that an investigation was under way.
A teacher at the school said teaching was one of the few professions in which the mental health of teachers is not assessed or monitored, while France's 20 Minutes news site said French teacher unions were on Friday calling for improved support structures for teachers.