Why did Thaqif have to die?

Why did Thaqif have to die?
By Zan Azlee

As parents, we only want our children to be protected, happy, enjoy life and be a good human being. And as a parent, it hurts me to see a child being tortured, abused and eventually dying because that is something we wouldn’t want to happen, ever.

Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gadaffi, the 11-year-old student who was beaten and abused at his religious boarding school, died of his injuries. But not before both legs were amputated, put into an induced coma and almost had to have his arm amputated as well.

It is alleged that Thaqif was beaten with a rubber hose repeatedly. His beatings caused him to get a serious bacterial infection. As for now, his death has been classified as murder and an assistant warden at the school has been detained for investigations.

Thaqif’s mother, Felda Wani Ahmad, had removed him from the school after he complained that he was receiving regular beatings. He had only been at the school for two months and according to his father, Mohd Gaddafi Mat Karim, it was his own decision to attend a madrassah.

I went to a fully residential boarding school (Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Ipoh) and there never were beatings that were dished out by the teachers or wardens. In fact, they actually went out of their way to educate us and make our lives away from our families better. This was about 25 years ago.

I remember my hostel warden, Cikgu Ahmad Zainuddin Ahmad Kamal (affectionately known to us as Zak Kapcai), being one of the particular nice ones who was always spending time with us students at the dormitories on weekdays and weekends.

One time, I had lost my ATM card, couldn’t buy a flight ticket to get home for the holidays and was stranded at the Ipoh airport. Zak Kapcai rode his trusty ‘kapcai’ motorcycle to the airport and lent me money so I could go home.

When I first stepped foot into the hostel, I found it a little hard to adjust to boarding school life. Cikgu P Manoharan, my biology teacher, would take me out for supper and tell me that if I ever needed someone to talk to, or if I ever had any problems and needed advice, he would be there for me.

Although I didn’t go to a religious school or madrassah, that is beside the point. I highly doubt that this has anything to do with religious education. It is just plain irresponsibility and inhumane treatment.

So when news of what the late young Thaqif went through at his boarding school surfaced, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The school has a big and heavy responsibility for the education and well-being of their students and what has happened is unacceptable.

Thaqif’s journal

Sure, now that he has died, more attention is being given. Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar has made a public statement saying that the police would investigate the case as murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has also extended his condolences to Thaqif’s family and prayed that Thaqif would be placed among those who are blessed. He also expressed his wish that the investigation must be fast so that legal action can be taken.

But where were all the probes and investigations before Thaqif’s death? Why weren’t there any of the authorities voicing out before this? What actions did the Education Ministry take when the report first came out about his abuse?

All that came out were reports of how enraged the public and journalists were about what had happened (and rightfully so). But it all fell on deaf ears because, aside from the assistant warden being detained, nothing else seemed to be happening.

Who are the people that schools such as the one Thaqif went to, are recruiting to take care of the children? How are their operations like? What kind of disciplinary measures do they normally take against the students? Are beatings a regular thing there? How are schools regulated?

It was also discovered that the assistant warden who has been detained for investigations is actually someone who has an existing criminal record for theft and had been jailed for 30 months for his crime. Is this considered normal hiring practice for a warden by the school?

What made it even more heart-breaking is the discovery of Thaqif’s journal where it showed that he had been dreading his time in the school for quite a while. As a parent, I feel so hurt hearing about that. And I pray that his parents can find peace and move on.

They had sent their son to the school for an education which they felt would serve him well. They entrusted the school with the well-being of their child and what happened was a complete betrayal of trust and responsibility.

Thaqif was a young boy who had his whole life ahead of him and for no justified and logical reasons, he was treated the way he was. The system that allowed it to happen has to be brought to justice. Poor, poor Thaqif. May God bless his soul.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!


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