We suffer from a terrible malady in this nation, where we are seemingly only capable of acknowledging wrongdoings and addressing misconduct after a tragedy or disaster strikes.
It would appear that something truly terrible has to happen before we sit-up and even begin toying with the notion of fixing what was clearly a serious problem in the first place.
An 11-year-old boy died on Wednesday. Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi had his whole life ahead of him and very much to look forward to. Instead he suffered an unnecessary and excruciatingly painful death.
The young boy who loved playing football and harboured dreams of someday memorising the entire Holy Qu’ran spent an agonising eight long days in hospital before his passing.
Thaqif was first admitted to hospital mid-last week after allegedly being brutally abused by an assistant warden at the Kota Tinggi religious school that he attended.
Thaqif fell into a coma not long after both his legs had been amputated by doctors in a bid to prevent the further spread of bacterial infection in his body.
Further surgery was due to be performed to amputate his right arm which had turned necrotic but the procedure was deferred due to the unstable condition of his heart. Thaqif never regained consciousness and finally passed away Wednesday afternoon.
The young boy had allegedly confided in his mother about the beatings on previous occasions. Diary entries written by Thaqif himself detailing his harrowing experience and when it began have also since surfaced, revealing the fear and horrendous abuse he endured in the weeks leading up to his death.
There are many troubling questions that arise from this tragic and needless loss of life but perhaps the most glaring and disturbing of them all lie in the fact that the religious school where Thaqif was a student did not fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education as it was not an institution that was registered with the ministry.
Of equally grave concern is the criminal history of the assistant warden currently being remanded over Thaqif’s death.
Why was a convicted felon who once served time for theft allowed to work with children in the first place?
On what basis and on the strength of which credentials was the 29-year-old employed in a role that is meant to be responsible for the care and safe-guarding of students within an institution?
How could the criminal record of the individual in question go unnoticed or be deemed irrelevant to his appointment to the school’s staff?
In the light of Thaqif’s death, it has been suggested that new guidelines in relation to the hiring of staff, especially those in charge of students’ welfare, be drawn up for such privately run schools.
What a terrible state of affairs we find ourselves in, when it takes a young child’s dire suffering and the subsequent loss of his life in order for such a proposition to come about.
Should such an important, crucial guideline not have been one of the first things implemented before even the said school began its operation?
Should staff working with children not have been vetted more closely and made to prove their qualifications and suitability to the role before being allowed any contact whatsoever with students?
Another child has died and like many before him, he died a cruel, unnecessary death, largely because of the grossly inadequate state of child safety policies and mechanisms that are currently in place.
How many more children must fall victim to abuse and have their young lives callously snatched away because of substandard governance and mismanagement by relevant authorities?
How many more children must suffer in silence because of our inability and reluctance to be their voice and speak up on their behalf? Our shock and outrage, is unfortunately always, too little, too late.
Let us once and for all stop viewing the welfare and care of our young through retrospective lenses. Though it is regrettably too late for us to save Thaqif, let us ensure that no one other child is made to suffer the same tragic fate as him.
Rest in Peace Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi.
Gayatri Unsworth is an FMT columnist.
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