Archive for July, 2007

Published July 12th, 2007 by Mliesie


Tuesday morning 18 June.

2 Students are missing in my class and nobody knows where they are. Suddenly, during the short break, they come in to the classroom and they do not look happy…. They were out by the reservoir since 6 o’clock this morning; why? I can’t believe what they tell me next, 2 boys, sophomores from the English Department, drowned there. A third one couldn’t swim and was therefore unable to rescue them… I really don’t know what to say, I’m speechless……

After we move to another classroom, I ask my class if they want to continue or talk about it. They decide they want to continue class, it will take their mind off things. As I cannot let this pass by without saying anything, I feel the need to somewhat comfort them, tell them it’s okay to be sad, its’ okay to cry but also tell them that they should take this as a warning. Don’t go swimming if you cannot swim! It’s something I’ve had so many discussions about with SC and some other students. They tell me stories about students who have drowned in the reservoir, even though they could swim. When I ask them what happened, the situation doesn’t seem serious enough for an avid swimmer to drown and that’s just the problem…..many of them think thay can swim whereas they can’t!! No one here has ever had swimming lessons, no money, no need, as long as you can keep your head above water or just stay out of the water. But then you go to College and it is so hot and dry and the water in the reservoir is so tempting and your friends are with you………

After class I had a talk with ‘my’ 2 boys, they were completely overwhelmed by what had happened. What worried me most though, was that they were called in by the College to go to the reservoir, together with some monitors, the class teacher, the vice-dean and the dean to help with getting the boys out of the water! What is the College thinking?! That’s not THEIR job, that should be done by the police or God knows who, but not by College boys. It’s traumatic enough to hear that your friends, classmates, or whatever they were to them have drowned. You shouldn’t have to watch their dead bodies and help getting them out! You should get the opportunity to talk about it, with other students or a councellor, but NO! I am worried about them, I tell them they can always come to me and talk about it or that they should find someone else to talk to IF they feel the need. I wonder……..

Meanwhile, the College has to pay big bucks to the parents because they are responsible. I ask HM if there will be a memorial for the students, but it seems that that is not done. It would probably do harm to the College (more the opposite in Holland I guess) and that is something we do not want to happen. So far, none of the colleagues (except for 1), the vice-dean, the dean or even my waiban talk about what has happened. All I know, I have heard from my students and only for about a day or 3. After that it seems the world has gone silent and the boys are forgotten……..

Many things about the above have made me sad and angry and have raised questions with me. Perhaps I should start giving swimming lessons, although I do not think the College will let me do that in the reservoir. Maybe just promoting swimming lessons would already be a good thing. Perhaps I should ask the College whether or not they have written in the school regulations that students are not allowed to swim in the reservoir, in that way the parents cannot claim money. Perhaps I should ask the College whether or not they are insured for ‘accidents’ like this, but maybe that’s so very Dutch…. Perhaps I should try to talk to my students about this after summer holiday and have them write down their feelings or a goodbye letter or whatever they want to write about this, this……’accident’. Perhaps I should let go and accept the way they handle this at our College, but that is so not me. Perhaps……….