Yesterday Aziza Died It could have been your child [Archives:2005/848/Culture]

June 6 2005

By Fahmia Al-Fotih
For the Yemen Times

It was raining cats and dogs in Sana'a city. The students of second shift in most of schools were in their classes. The rain increased and the sound of the thunder filled the atmosphere. In one school particularly Ekhwan Thabit School, students were asked to stay silently in their classes till it stopped raining.

A lightening hit the yard of school strongly and the students were praying and reading Holy Qura'an. The parents were very worried about their young children when they saw the heaviness of the rain. So, most of them came to take their children. They were stopped in front of the school door but they fought the guard and they took their students and caused chaos.

Some students whose their parents did n' t come started to leave the school while the water was unusually full in the street in front of the school, besides there was a big new-built channel that was about more than 9km in depth. There were some drivers and taxies who were offering help to the young students besides the assistance of the schoolteachers. Suddenly, some students fell in that channel and were struggling to survive when some men jumped and saved them but they could not save Aziza.

That was the name of the student that the strong waters dragged away and drowned in that day. Her parents were in panic and started to look for her body and kept searching for her until 2 o'clock after midnight but it was in vain. After two days, they found her body buried with the mud far from her school and the place she used to play with her friends.

However, a rage of anger was aroused among the citizens in that area by hearing rumors that school was responsible for the death of that student. People started gossiping that school should let the students go earlier before the heavy rain as some schools did. Some ignorant people started to claim that the headmistress should be accounted for that accident. Moreover, the chitchat increased and everyone had his own story so that they reported different numbers for the victims of that gloomy day. Some said they were 18 victims. Some ill-mannered people started to accuse the teachers of being careless as if they could prevent that accident and change that fate. As a result, panic and fear spread among the parents and some of them decided not let their daughters to go to any school any more. What exactly happened there? Who aroused the anger among the people and for what? Was the school really responsible for the fatal accident that happened to the student? Many questions pose themselves and waiting answers.

Many local newspapers discussed that accident but they didn't reveal the truth about that day. As one who lives and works in that area and who knows much about the ambiguities of that accident and as a reporter I would like here to divulge to the readers the truth as it is.

We met with the concerned people and who has related to that accident.

Mr. Abdualaziz Mahdi AL-Kumaim, the head of the teachers union in Sana'a, “Actually, one of the school's duties in this case was to call the parents if possible and second was to provide any means to carry the girls from to school to their houses. The investigations showed that the school administration did take the girls to their homes and connect the parents. What happened was that the school was keeping the students in their classes till the rain stopped. However, the parents came, jumped off the wall of the school and fought the guard and took their girls. They made an unusual disorder in school and they didn't give the school a chance to make any kind of communication either by the phones or providing transportations. In spite of all that the school did take most of the students to their houses and gave the others a chance to call their parents. The problem was in the ignorant parents who came and broke into school by force as if there was a big catastrophe in a way that didn't give the school the opportunity to take the appropriate procedures. The school duty is merely educational and stops when the student leaves the door of the school and after that the school is not responsible. In fact we didn't blame the school administration as the parents entered the school randomly and savagely. The little sister of the victim reached home safely with one of the teachers. But Aziza's fate was to die that day. Witnesses said that Aziza was offered the help and asked a number of times to ride but she refused. Then, the school administration capabilities and facilities are limited. There are no special buses for school but the school hardly provided buses at that time. We blame the local councils, which were supposed to find out solutions for the channel that anyone, not only students, could fall in. The local councils are responsible for that accident as they were supposed to suggest building even Steal Bridge, as there are three schools in the same place. Nowadays we have been claiming the ministry of public works and the head of AL-Sabeen Area to hastily establish a bridge or two bridges in this channel as we are going to have much rain in coming months to avoid similar accident. We have nothing in our hands but to contact the ones who have the solutions.

On the other hand, some religious scholars dealt with that case negatively and they accused the school administration represented in Ms. Amat AL-Sallam AL-Kholi. For instance, Al-Naser Mosque was one of these mosques. So we called Mr. Abduallah Thabit, Preacher, and investigated why he negatively preached to the people about what happened in school and asked the people to change the administration, holding the school and the headmistress responsible for what happened. But he confessed of being guilty. So he singed and promised not to preach negatively about anyone in the future. Also we asked him to apologize for the school in his next preach and clarify the truth from the same place he abused to the school.

Mr. Abdualsalam kasem AL-Jabroti, Aziza's father, complained strongly “The state' officials didn't help us in our mishap except some individual such as Mr. Aydh AL-Shamiri, the manager of constructions office, Mr. Ahmed AL-Siwari, the head cleanliness project, Mr. Ahmed Ali, who stayed with us till 1 o'clock after midnight and took part in searching, and Mr. Khalid AL-Shami who was with us from the beginning until we found the body. He called different departments for help but no response. While there was a similar accident in AL-Ramah School but all the state assistance was in the site because that school contains children of wealthy people and officials. But Ekhwan Thabit School contains students belong to simple, and poor people. Ironically, when we called a highly-ranking official telling him about the drown girls he said “it is just a girl” and a police officer was asking us for a death certificate and we were still searching for the body. We stood with bare hands without facilities or devices.

I don't hold the school and its headmistress the responsibility of the accident. My daughter used to walk through the channel way as she hated to pass through the Qat market avoiding harassment. It was her fate and the school is not responsible for her death. But we would like to avoid such accident in future.

Some people came to me and asked me to file a compliant against the headmistress but I refused their offer, as I knew that they had personal purposes and all they wanted to hurt the headmistress and school but actually the school should not be held accountable for the accident, as it was a lethal. All I ask for is a bridge in this channel to avoid any other tragedy and to remove all the constructions that are in front of the school as well as closing the street in front of school or organizing the traffic movement. Besides there are workshops and a pump next to school and it is so noisy for the students in their classes. And there are wedding halls near the school and that is not suitable in educational environment.

Aziza mother who is still in a shock and who could hardly and sadly told us “We have passed in a hard time as we didn't find the body of Aziza earlier. All of us, her sisters and brothers couldn't eat or sleep and they were taken to the hospital. We were scared. We could not bear all the rumors and gossip about our girl. Everyday they were telling us a lie while my daughter was lying in a deep hole. I was with them until we found Aziza body. It was terrified. However, we thank Allah for everything.”

Safa'a Abdualsalam, Aziza sister, who used to go with her late sister Aziza, said about that day “We were together at that day and we were near the channel when my sister asked me to go with her but we couldn't stay together because of the crowd. I thought that my sister went home and teacher Samia took us in a bus with some student to home. When I arrived home I found out she hadn't arrived yet. So, my mother along with my brother went to search about Aziza and asked a lot but they didn't find her. Some people said that Aziza was kidnapped and other said she was in a hospital and we searched in every hospital but in vain.

Ms. Amat AL-Sallam AL-Kholi, the school headmistress, said about the accident and the accusations and threats she has received,” The death of the student was fatal. The rain came from Allah and in a sudden way. But unfortunately people who are ill mannered spread the rumors about the school and particularly about the headmistress of school and they should instead of relieve the situation and the disaster and standing beside the school. So we claim that there should punishment for those troublemakers as they have no consciousness and don't fear God. We are Muslims so when we talk we have to speak the truth with evidence and when we speak, we should speak with good things. Sorrowfully, those people exploited the God houses and misshaped the holiness of these places by compiling lies and wrong accusation against the school without any proofs or facts. Those ill-moral people have personal or political purposes. We have received the threat of death, kidnap and prison. But all I can say that my school is one of the typical schools in Sana'a city which is known for its good reputation and its qualified cadre.”

Ms. AL-Kholi, also strongly stressed, “The accident here has revealed that the teacher law is very weak and there are no enough protection for the teachers. Teachers can be easily bitten or abused.”

Ms. Asma AL-Hakeem, a teacher, commented, “The school has done its duty and the big evidence is that the little students didn't hurt and the victim was 16 years old. So if the school was careless, we would see more victims especially among the little students who study here from the first grade till the eight grade.”..

She added, “The big blame can be directed to the company that started working in that channel without completing its work or put any cautions to protect the people in similar cases. The role of the state is absent too as bridges should be built though which students could safely cross to other side.”

All the people we met stressed on the necessity of building the bridges in the channel to save the people lives and to have a civilized view.

As any one can remarkably see that the Ekhwan Thabit School along with AL-Shami school is on the highway street where many different vehicles are driven in high speed. Many calls have been sent to the Traffic authorities to organize the traffic movement in front of the schools or at least to put some guide signs for the drivers. However, everyone turns a blind eye for this essential issue that concerns thousands lives of innocent students and tragically the number of accidents continues.

If all these sides and authorities don't cooperate to change the current situation in front of Ekhwan Thabit School and other schools, a number of innocent students like Aziza would have the same fate. Only time will tell us.