Four students and principal drown on school excursion

Almost two-thirds of Male’ attended the funeral on Friday for the principal of Hiriya School and four female students, who drowned off Huraa in Kaafu Atoll during a school fisheries science trip.

The bodies of grade nine students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and Hiriya Principal Ali Nazim were brought to Male’ in the afternoon.

The group of students left Hiriya School at 5:45am on Friday morning for a fisheries science field trip. A component of the trip involved snorkelling in an area used regularly by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for training exercises.

Students entered the sea around 9:30am, accompanied by the school principal.

Haveeru reported sources as saying that Nazim died trying to single-handedly rescue the students, who were allegedly unable to swim when they were caught in eight feet of water in a lagoon north-east of Huraa. The area is known for having very strong currents.

Sun Online reported that Nazim attempted to rescue eight students who found themselves in trouble, and was able to save four before he died.

Sources at the funeral told Minivan News that the panicked students grabbed the principal when he reached them and he was unable to rescue the remaining children.

Relatives who attended the funeral said that the students were not asked whether they knew how to swim, and blamed the school management. No life jackets were taken on the trip, one source claimed, although this was unverified.

Haveeru reported that eight teachers accompanied the school trip of 32 to Huraa, and staff had the necessary first aid requirements.

The bodies were brought to Male’ in a speedboat around 10:40 from nearby Four Seasons resort. Meanwhile, the rest of the students returned yesterday afternoon and parents were summoned to attend the school.

The bodies were first brought to Aasahara cemetery in Galolhu, but due to the large number of mourners attending the funeral, their bodies were moved to the Islamic Centre.

The bodies were scheduled to be laid to rest after Isha prayer at 7:30pm, but of the large numbers the faces of the deceased were only covered at 10:30pm.

Hiriya school principal Ali Nazim

News of the tragedy quickly spread around Male’ and had a profound impact on the city, with reports of many parents ringing their children and begging them not to go in the water.

President Mohamed Nasheed telephoned the families of the deceased, and later announced that the national flag would be flown at half mast for three days.

Education Minister Shifa Mohamed is returning early from her trip to Australia and is expected to arrive in Male’ tomorrow.

Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh said a joint investigation into the incident had been launched by the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

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32 thoughts on “Four students and principal drown on school excursion”

  1. A tragedy which could have easily been avoided if necessary precautions were taken. Shame on the school and education ministry.

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  2. Guys lets all start fundraising without so much of just going to witness the faces.. You just paid respect by seeying their faces and thats it???
    Comon guys for atleast Nazims family, his wife and kid to compensate for the salary which isnt gonna come again. God pls give courage to the grieved families. Amen

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  3. My condolenses to the parents and loved of the people who passed away.
    It is such a tragedy. I hope when the emotions of this event settle down authorities and the community will develop policies to minimise harm in the sea.

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  4. Very sad incident, my heart goes to the dead and may allah bless their souls. In future i hope schools take safety measures into consideration first in such trip. had the girls worn life jackets when they went in for snorkelling could have helped a lot. Why are our authorities always failing regarding safety measures in every thing. Is it that hard to follow. The school should have thought of such measures before taking students on a trip and out into the sea.

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  5. A very sad incident indeed. May all rest in peace. My prayers are with their bereaving families. May they find the strenght and support to deal with this tragedy.

    Hope lessons would be learnt and new measures would be put in place and implemented in order to avoid such tragedies in the future.

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  6. The principalwas very brave, going in even alone to rescue the girls. Of the rest of the teachers present seems none of them knew how to swim well. When all this is settled hope the relevant authorities make it an obligation to adhere to safety measures. And swimming and first aid should be thought to secondary students, and all those who accompany children on trips like this should atleast know the basics of what to do in a case like this.
    Condolences to the families of the deceased.

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  7. Inna lillaahi wa innaa ilaihi raajioon.

    That said, here's my view on all this. Perhaps at this moment in time, it would be healthier if we all decided not to play the blame game. What's done is done. The best thing we can all do is learn a lesson from this and implement safety measures at a national level. Here are my suggestions:

    1. Re-implement the "Every Child Swims" aka "Konme Kujjakee Fathandhanna Kujje" program across the nation at all schools.

    2. Give basic first aid and life saving skills to all students across the nation, as well as a more advanced level first aid training to police officers. Add to that a small fee based first aid training program for the public on a regular basis.

    3. Implement a law or regulation that requires a trained life guard to be present in every inhabited island and resort in the country. Have designated swimming areas on all islands. Designate a certain time frame when swimming is allowed in terms of a life guard being present, say from 6am to 6pm.

    For the No. 3 to work properly, create a Life Guards Division in the Police Service and have at least two present on every inhabited island for that exclusive purpose. Resorts should be required to hire a certified life guard at all times.

    Civil servants could perhaps be regularly given basic first aid training as well. Or perhaps you could train a certain number of CS's from each office. Also, large corporations like Dhiraagu, STO, MTCC, VILLA, etc. could be encouraged to do the same by training some staff in basic first aid.

    These measures are small steps that would impact the entire country in a positive manner.

    So I say again, let's not play the blame game. Let's play the good policy game.

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  8. A tragedy like this should not take place if the community would like to face and accept a simple fact: we are living surrounded by water. the simple fact to educate our children to stay away from the sea is simple destructive! we all should be able to swim.
    swim courses should be mandatory from the kindergarden age!!!

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  9. An issue is usually highlighted with a disaster in Maldives.

    Look around - there are so many disasters waiting to happen that need urgent action and advance planning. But advance planning can happen in a system which has long term goals. Political appointees cannot and will not think of long term - they know they will not last long so why plan at all.

    From health and safety, food, medicines, road accidents, construction etc.. etc,.. there so many issues that could turn to disasters. But ask a politician - they will simply shrug it off.

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  10. Blaming is a not a game, they have to be blamed when such little things such as life wests or even a simple floating ring was not taken with them on such a trip.
    From the article it seems that at-least 1/3 of the students were in the water with the principle.
    Schools should take responsibility for this incident even 'Huraa Council', as that spot was a regular spot for such school activities.
    If we dont blame then again this is surely going to happen. Punishments should be implemented for such ignorance from the schools side.
    The principles a Hero, this tragedy would have been averted even at-least one rescue floating ring was there on the site. These things happen for a reason, we cant simply be sympathetic and forgive.

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  11. Zayd,,that was well said and a sensible set of suggestions..Can I say that here in the UK all the junior school pupils[5-10yrs]get swimming lessons in a local swimming pool,supervised by qualified swimming instructors...May I also add that my heart goes out to the families of those that were lost...

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  12. Agree Shareefa the swimming course should be part of school curiculum. Especially for girls swimming with clothes takes a lot of practise and cannot be done easily. The simple fact is the biggest accident to life in Maldivs is motorbike and water. You can get rid of motorbike but not the water.

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  13. JJ Robinson and Ahmed Nazeer are u mad..how can u have that picture on u r article. dont u have any respect ???

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  14. Omg!!This is one of the saddest incident happened and may their bodies rest in peace.I couldt sleep from last night i cried a lot!! 🙁

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  15. I have to agree with Zayd on that. Why did the government stop the "Every Child Swims" campaign? We must implement it at once.
    Furthermore, Maldives does not have a "Health and Safety Executive" as in other countries. We need something like this to ensure safety as these" disasters" seem to be now a common thing in Maldives because of lack of safety precautions in most circumstances.

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  16. A similar incident occured in Majeediyya School roughly 20 yrs ago and the school started swimming lessons for all the students. But with time it faded away. We have to understand from such incidents that we need to have a national swimming lesson program in this country. Also we need to take granted for now that just becuase we are born and brought up in a country surrounded by water doesnt mean all of us know swimming or are able to save ourselves from a drowining incident. Keeping in mind this, we need to encourage youngsters to open up with us and tell us if they know swimming or not and if they don't we need to help them learn swimming. Despite efforts or due to some other reasons if they can't learn swimming, we need to always respect them and have special measures of safety ready for them when they go into water. Use of life jackets should be made mandatory in all field trips like these even if the students know swimming and presence of a life guard should accompany all such trips. Its all very simple to keep such health and safety measures if we have the will do them and follow them. The big question lays how many of our authorities would seriously think of allaying all this incidents and implement such guidlines in future.

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  17. @Larry

    Sad fact of the matter is that we in the Maldives lack even swimming pools, be it community based or school based; except of course the swimming pools of the few wealthy people who have enough space in their homes, or the resorts. To be honest, we don't even have a swimming pool for our National Swimming Team to practice in. Such is life. But the program I spoke of, "Every Child Swims" was a good initiative that has disappeared over time. But I've always believed that it should be mandatory for all kids from perhaps Grade 1 onwards, at the least.

    But then again, as one commentator wrote, we in the Maldives ignore a lot of these disasters waiting to happen. Poor planning at it's best, is what it is.

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  18. @Hameed

    "JJ Robinson and Ahmed Nazeer are u mad..how can u have that picture on u r article. dont u have any respect ???"

    In many countries, publish the picture of a decease is very normal.
    Wondering is it offensive in Maldives culture?

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  19. @Jazz, I do agree that a fund raising campaign would be highly appropriate and I'm sure plenty of people will donate if such a fund is setup. Principal Nazim was very brave and I'm sure he'll be rewarded in heaven. Nazim faced an impossible situation as it proved to be. I'm certain Nazim himself knew of that.

    Don't want to start blaming anyone, but can't help the fact that some clever spark decided to dig up a deep hole in a shallow water area and failed to put up any warning signs!

    Most of us are used to the nature of the lagoon around our islands. We usually don't expect a big gaping hole in the middle of a shallow water area! That's not the nature of the sea around our islands. We roughly know where the deep areas are, and of course the reef is there to mark the deeper lagoon or sea.

    Even if you could swim a little, imagine the panic of suddenly finding yourself in deep water; which is what I imagine happened to these poor children. This was a man made trap!

    A lot of lessons need to learned from this. There has been several incidents of tourists drowning at sea recently as well. The sea provides our livelihood, but it can so easiy take our life as well. Our ancestors have known this for thousands of years and we need to pass the necessary skill on to our children.

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  20. We should give due respect the principle

    - but, before rushing to make a human being a hero or a saint, lets also understand that a principle has not exercised his responsibility in this case. Its his mistake too.

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  21. This is a very tragic incident. May Allah bless them all.

    I am deeply saddened by what happened. I wish we could turn back the clock...

    However, I was frustrated and angered what a mullah said on TV. He said, one of the best things about the event was that it happened on Friday. And morning at that. Any lives taken on Friday mornings are blessed more. In next statement the Mullah says, the reason why the lives were taken was to avoid the situation where the girls would grow up and become a big hellish- problem to their parents. And so, the disaster happened to avoid a nightmare for the parents.

    How do these guys know these things!!!

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  22. R.I.P!!!
    Where is the safety measure for children?Why they are swim in place with strong current???????
    Holy Hell !!!it is unacceptable!!! It is result of collaps of education system

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  23. some are says that it was his mistakes, then where was other teachers. they have no responsibility to save their students. don't blame him without knowing anything about this matter. believe or not he was a hero.

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  24. I think we should start raising funds for these victims. We should have telethon, compensation from government, music shows, foot ball matches and all what we do in such occasions. The school must honor the students with names to their class rooms. After the investigations are complete, we should take all appropriate actions to ensure this will never happen again. Proper guidelines must be made clear to all schools.

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  25. I blame the parents to a degree for sending the kids on a trip that clearly and regularly failed safety procedures on a regular basis. These drowning cases happen every 5 years, no lessons are EVER learnt.
    No one is EVER held accountable for these failures. No safety precautions , no lifeguards present nor a safety education is used on these trips.(What brings out is the large number of people who has a morbid fascination with the dead, who crawl over each other to catch a glimpse of the dead and subsequently posting dead photos on social network sites and texts)<–How very normal and divine behavior from the 100% muslim community !
    This recent tragedy is of course a sad day for the victims as it was for every other victim of these drowning trips (which happens every 5 years.)
    Parents in Maldives are known to easily and conveniently forget the cause of tragedies.
    For instance this is just like the stupid parents that still send their beloved , precious kids to the convicted sex offender locally known as "Naseem Sir" for tuition classes. When would the penny drop I wonder ??
    Also about the principal, its truly sad and a huge loss for his young family BUT I have to say…though great he saved 3 girls, he could have avoided this whole thing and saved the lot of them IF he had done his job and made sure there was a clear , precise and coherent safety procedure and a preparation for these eventuality. He could have made sure that given the fact that there was going to be 30 odd students swimming that there was at least enough teachers who was swimming with them , rather then take a bunch of slow moving Srilankan or Indian teachers who by nature shy away from water( check out what they do on rainy days, they hate water on their hair)
    Wonder why common sense is not so common??

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  26. @ Dhun y on Sat, 10th Sep 2011 12:52 PM

    dat area is under youth ministry ... noe ur facts b4 u speak .....

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  27. @ islail saadiq
    music and music shows are forbidden in islam. we should not raise any funds for any victims by holding up music shows. the money would not have any ''barakaaiy''

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  28. Ismail, did a Mullah say such things on a public TV? If so he should be stripped and made to walk the plank.

    I wonder where we find these kind of odious creatures. The TV station should also be slammed.
    How would this Mullah's family feel if he was killed and people come out and say that he died because next month he would be a burden on his family and his country?

    What we all should pray is for Allah to save us from these kinds of mad mullahs.

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  29. Minister of Education should hand in her resignation, take responsibility for this tragedy and enjoy a cucumber at home

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