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Imam says he was told tragedy near Dundonald School happened in seconds
The Canadian Press and CTV Saskatoon
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 5:27PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:44PM CST
An imam who was called to a Saskatoon school after a kindergarten student died says the Muslim boy's attendant told him the tragedy happened in seconds.
Ilyas Sidyot was called to Dundonald School on Monday after the five-year-old's death because the woman who was supervising the child was also Muslim and distraught.
The boy, Ahmedsadiq Elmmi, was found in a pond near the school after recess ended and was pronounced dead in hospital.
Sidyot says the boy's attendant was also taken to hospital in shock.
“She was, I think, really concerned,” Sidyot said Wednesday. “It is not something she could ever expect to happen. In seconds, she says this happened.”
The imam, who led the funeral service for Elmmi on Tuesday, says people should not jump to lay blame because school teachers and staff treat children like their own kids.
The boy’s identity was confirmed Wednesday by Shafii Mohamed, a leader in Saskatoon’s Somali community and a spokesperson for the family.
“No one was expecting this,” Mohamed said.
The boy’s dad described him as a “very outgoing, joyful, playful kid,” according to Mohamed.
“I remember his dad saying he used to ask him always… ‘Dad, let’s go outside. Let’s have fun.’”
The Somali community is heartbroken by the death. The family is struggling.
“They are devastated. They are not in a situation to speak now or do anything,” Mohamed said.
Elmmi’s parents emigrated from Somalia to Canada 17 years ago, according to Saskatoon Open Door Society. The family moved to Saskatoon from Prince Albert, where the boy was born, in July.
A family friend says Elmmi needed extra support while attending school, including one-on-one supervision, and that his speech was delayed for his age.
The city’s public school board said at a news conference the student went missing during recess. Eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants assigned to certain kids, were supervising during the break.
It’s unclear if staff at Dundonald School and Saskatoon's public school board were aware of the boy's needs. The board, citing privacy concerns, has not provided details about any extra care the boy may have needed from staff.
Police do not consider the death suspicious.
The chief coroner’s office is investigating, as is both the Saskatoon public school board and Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate Corey O’Soup.
“It is important that parents and children continue to have comfort in knowing that our schools are a place for children and youth to learn and grow. As the advocate for the children of this province, it is critical to ensure that we know what happened in this case,” O’Soup said in a news release Wednesday.
He expects his investigation to be completed in three to four months. The findings will likely be made public.
The school board requested O’Soup conduct an investigation.
“At Saskatoon Public Schools, we pride ourselves on the ethic of care we provide to every student in order to ensure their safety and well-being. In order to do everything we can to appropriately examine the circumstances of our student’s death, our organization has requested this independent review of our pertinent operations,” education director Barry MacDougall said in a statement.
“We must learn from this tragedy so it never happens again.”
About 500 students attend Dundonald School.
The death has prompted several Saskatoon and area residents to call for the city to install fencing around ponds near schools and parks. A petition on change.org, started Monday, had garnered more than 650 signatures as of early Wednesday evening.
Elmmi’s family is thankful for the support of people in Saskatoon, Mohamed said.
“We feel the pain shared with. We feel cared. We appreciate the larger community.”
A GoFundMe page started Wednesday is aiming to help the family.
--- by The Canadian Press's Jennifer Graham and CTV Saskatoon's Kevin Menz