Tahfiz school fire: Their deaths are on our hands

Source: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

Tahfiz school fire: Their deaths are on our hands
By Zan Azlee

THE case of the deadly school fire in Malaysia is now closed. This is according to city police chief Amar Singh, after seven individuals aged between 11 and 18 years were arrested for suspected arson.

According to the police, the blaze that killed 23 people was started by the group of teenagers as an act of revenge over a heated exchange of insults with students at the school.

This shocking incident may be an indicator of how we as adults, guardians and educators have failed our younger generation.

Because how could a group of such young boys even think to commit such an act of violence? This is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

I also find it shocking that the authorities are claiming the case is closed when there still remains so many unresolved issues.

It’s not just arson alone involved; there are many other mistakes and failures that must be looked into.

What about the fact that the school did not have an approved fire safety permit for their building?

What about their blatant disregard for the rules when they submitted a different building plan to the authorities than what was actually built?

Are we supposed to just forget everything?

Although rules were clearly broken, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar said there will be no action taken because they have been through enough, with the fire and the deaths.

That is utterly ridiculous! They need to be held accountable for what happened. Even if the cause of the fire is arson, the deaths and injuries could have been prevented if safety rules were followed. So action needs to be taken.

School principal Muhammad Zahid Mahmud even made a totally insensitive statement where he implied that he should be absolved of any blame. He said we should all be comforted and assume that the children died a syahid death as martyrs.

Fact is, the children could have potentially avoided death if he had made sure that an approved fire safety permit had been obtained. It could have been prevented if he had not submitted the wrong building plans to the authorities.

And what about security? Does the school have no security guards or any other security measures that a group of seven individuals could stroll into the compound carrying gas cylinders, set the place on fire, and escape so easily?

How about the responsibility of the authorities? The school had been in operation for three years without any safety approvals. Did they not know this was the case? Why didn’t they monitor and enforce the rules?

And the poor parents who have lost their beloved children. I feel for them. I really do. I have children of my own and I cannot imagine if something like this were to happen to me. I wouldn’t know how to cope.

But did they at any point try to find out if the school they were sending their children to had all the necessary systems in place to ensure their safety? Didn’t they visit the school and the dormitories to check the living conditions?

Reports have shown that in the past two years, there have been more than 200 fire cases involving private religious schools all around Malaysia. This year alone has seen three cases, including this tragedy from last week.

This tragedy shows we have failed on so many levels. So I have to disagree with the authorities when they say the case should now be considered closed. Can we really declare it shut when there’s so much left unanswered?

And now, the school principal says that operations will resume in October with the remaining 18 students who survived the fire. Just like that, with not even a slap on the wrist, this dangerous man is allowed to operate again. I can’t believe it.

How could we so heartlessly end the chapter on the lives of so many young innocents who, if not for the recklessness of those meant to be their protectors, could still be alive and with their families today?

I think it’s time that we take a closer look at ourselves and reevaluate our principles as a society.

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

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


Buy more Fat Bidin books, films and merchandise at The Fat Bidin Store!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s