CAIRO: “I received a phone call telling me that my son died after the school’s gate fell on him,” said Sultan Zaki, the father of 7-year-old Youssef, who was killed Sunday in Marsa Matrouh by what was reported by media as “negligence” at schools.
Youssef’s death raised concerns and fears among parents, according to media outlets, as a separate but similar incident has already been reported this school year.
On Sunday, Zaki headed to the school to find his son laying beside the gate that struck him on the head and killed him instantly, Zaki told the “10 O’clock” TV show Sunday.
The gate needed maintenance, “and we (the parents of students) had contributed and collected 400 EGP ($55) to fix the gate last year, but it broke down again this year,” he said.
Negligence and lack of maintenance at Egyptian schools was admitted by Ministry of Education spokesperson Hani Kamal to Youm7 Monday, as he referred to a “large legacy of disasters and 50,000 dilapidated schools that cannot be repaired overnight.”
Also, Ministry of Education Matrouh Deputy Safey el-Din al-Mawhoub said in a phone call to “10 O’clock” that there are about 565 schools in the governorate, and many of them need full maintenance, “but money allocated for this is only sufficient for seven schools.”
Mawhoub continued, saying, “The wind was too strong that day, and blew the gate.” This justification provoked presenter Wael al-Ibrashy, who commented sarcastically, “The prosecution will blame the air in this incident.”
Following the incident, Matrouh governor Badr Tantawy was reported to have suspended a number of officials, including the school principal and the head of the educational directorate in the governorate, where investigations are being carried out against them over severe negligence, according to Al-Akhbar Monday.
Al-Akhbar also reported that Mawhoub himself was suspended from his job due to his failure in fulfilling his duty and following up on the maintenance of the schools in the governorate.
Youssef’s case, in fact, was not the first of its kind, as another incident of a student dying due to lack of maintenance at schools occurred earlier in the same month. Student Youssef Mohamed had his throat slit by the glass of his classroom window on Oct. 13.
Mohamed was trying to open the window next to him when it cracked and fell, cutting off the blood vessels in his neck at his school in Matariya in Dakahlia governorate. The student died after excessive blood loss when two hospitals refused to receive him due to his critical condition.
Consequently, the parents of the students organized a protest outside the school demanding accountability. Al-Dostor newspaper quoted Mohamed Abbas, the father of the victim, as saying, “What is the guilt of this child who was killed because of the negligence of the school?”
Abbas also expressed his fears for his other children, adding, “I should have registered them at a private school.”
The Ministry of Education announced on Oct. 16 it will pay 30,000 EGP ($4,200) to the Abbas family from the student insurance fund.
Also, following the two incidents, some media outlets have called for the suspension of Minister of Education Mahmoud Abou el-Nasr.
Additional reporting by Mahmoud Taha Hussein