According to the education minister, at least seven Guinean schoolgirls drowned Sunday after their pirogue (a long wooden vessel) capsized.
The girls were crossing the Niger River in northeastern Guinea, West Africa, in preparation for high school entrance exams, which begin on Monday.
"We are saddened by the news that seven students have died," Guillaume Hawing, the minister of literacy and pre-university education, told journalists during a visit to the region to kick off the exam period.
A security officer, Mamadi Keita, told AFP that his half-sister was among those who drowned.
"She and her classmates went to the other side of the Niger river for the first tests for their entry exam into their seventh year" of school.
"They boarded an overloaded pirogue which sank under the weight of passengers and goods," he said in tears over the telephone.
According to a local source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the death toll is provisional, and the search for more bodies is still ongoing.
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