An imam who was called to a Saskatoon school after a kindergarten student died said the Muslim boy’s attendant told him the tragedy happened in seconds.
Ilyas Sidyot, the imam of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, was called to École Dundonald School on Monday after the five-year-old’s death and because the woman who was supervising the child was also Muslim.
She was distraught and 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.”
Ahmedsadiq Elmmi was found in a pond near the school after recess ended and was pronounced dead in hospital.
The boy also attended a nearby daycare, where staff say he was autistic and needed close supervision.
Saskatoon Public Schools said it could not provide information on whether the boy had his own educational assistant at the school, citing privacy reasons.
In an interview with The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, the boy’s father, Hussein Elmmi, said Ahmedsadiq “was full of life.”
“He was always asking me, ‘Let’s go out, Dad. Let’s go and have fun outside.’ That’s what he always asked,” he is quoted in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
Police have said Ahmedsadiq’s death is not suspicious. The coroner’s office is investigating.
Barry MacDougall, director of education for Saskatoon Public Schools, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that he has asked Saskatchewan’s advocate for children and youth to investigate as well.
“This is an extraordinary tragedy, which I believe requires an extraordinary response,” said MacDougall.
“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. We must learn from this tragedy so it never happens again.”
The school is also doing an internal investigation.
MacDougall has previously said the staff-to-student ratio during recess is adequate – eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants assigned to certain children.
The pond was built four years before the public school in 1983 to catch storm water and was converted to hold water permanently in 2005. It’s about 120 metres from the school property line.
Questions have arisen about why there was no fence around either the pond or the school, and about supervision at recess.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre has said it’s too soon to know what led to the death or whether something could have been done to prevent it.
Sidyot, who led the funeral service for the child on Tuesday, says people should not lay blame because school teachers and staff treat children like their own kids.
“I have known many teachers of my children … they are really kind and they are really concerned (for) the children like the parents, so I think we should give them their deserved respect,” said Sidyot.
By Jennifer Graham in Regina