Abu Dhabi: The family members of the four-year-old girl, Nizha Ala, who died yesterday after allegedly being left locked inside her school bus, said they believed the incident could have been averted.
“When I read similar incidents in newspapers in the past, I prayed to God no family may face such a tragedy. I never imagined this would happen to my family,” Cheriyandilakath Nasser, Nisa’s uncle, told Gulf News yesterday.
Nisa, a KG-1 pupil, boarded the school bus of Al Worood Academy Private School near her residence in Khalidiya in the Abu Dhabi yesterday morning, Asghar Ali, 60, her grandfather, said.
“Her parents were asked to reach the school in the afternoon and, on arriving there, the school officials told them the child was left locked in the school bus and found dead,” Ali said.
The girl’s father, Naseer Ahmad, is from Coorg in Karnataka in India and his wife is from Kannur district in Kerala. Nizha’s older sister is a grade one pupil at an Indian school in Musaffah.
“She was a smart girl. She spread happiness everywhere…in our extended families, too. It is unbearable…we can’t face this…” a tearful Nasser said.
He said he and his family cannot comprehend the fact that the little girl was left inside the school bus.. “How come no one checked the bus after dropping all the children at school?” “It seems no one learned from past experiences,” Nasser said.
He was referring to two similar cases in recent years. On April 24, 2008, four-year-old Aathish Shabin from India, a KG-1 pupil at Merryland Kindergarten in Abu Dhabi, died after he was left locked inside the school bus.
On May 14, 2009, Aimen Zeeshan, a kindergarten pupil from Pakistan at the Model School Musaffah, also died in similar circumstances. She died in a private bus arranged by the parents to take her to school.
Since Nisa boarded the school bus around 6.30am yesterday, the family was under the impression that she was enjoying her time at the school, her grandfather told Gulf News. He runs a small business in Abu Dhabi.
After being notified about the incident, he reached school to see the police and ambulance there.
“When I saw my child’s body being taken to the ambulance I ran after it, but I could not see her,” a weeping Ali said.
Ali said he does not know how to console his daughter, Nisa’s mother. “She was given an injection after being hospitalised.”
He said he did not know whether the child fell asleep in the bus. “Even if she slept, someone could have checked the bus properly,” Ali said.
Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) and Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police said on Tuesday investigations into the incident are ongoing and strict action will be taken, if anyone found guilty of negligence. Adec is providing all assistance to the police in their investigations, Engineer Hamed Al Daheri, Executive Director for Private Schools at Adec, said in a statement. The council will change the regulations related to the contract between schools and transportation companies to ensure safety and security of children. Engineer Hussain Al Harithy of Abu Dhabi Police said new rules will be put in place in cooperation with Adec to ensure the safety of children. Adec and the Traffic Directorate expressed their deep condolences to the family of the child.
The school said its preliminary investigations into the incident found that negligence on the part of a school staff and absence of a large number of students on Tuesday just after Eid holidays contributed to the incident. A female attendant in the bus had recorded the child’s name in the list of students boarded the bus but her name was not among the list of students reached the school , a member of the school management board, who did not want to named, told Gulf News on Tuesday evening. It means child was left behind in the bus and the attendant did not find it, she said. The child was left locked in the bus for around four hours-from 8am to 12pm. The kindergarten students leave the school around 12pm, before other students . Then only the attendant noticed the discrepancy in the lists- the child had boarded the bus but did not reach the school. She immediately rushed to the bus and found the child dead in the bus. The school at once informed the police, who reached the spot and took the female attendant and driver into custody.
About the large number of absent children on Tuesday, she said: “We have around 2300 students but around 1000 of them were absent on Tuesday.”
That’s why the attendant and other staff did not bother much about the child’s absence.
“We express our deep condolences to the family of the deceased child. We are cooperating with the investigations being conducted by the Abu Dhabi Police and Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), she said.
With inputs from Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor