I told myself that I would refrain from discussing building construction in Barbados. However, the recent earthquake China, especially the deaths of thousands of students and their teachers in the 6,900 school buildings that were destroyed is heartbreaking. Listen to Lin Qiang, the Deputy Inspector of the Sichuan Education Department:
“I have witnessed an appalling tragedy this time. It has had an enormous impact on my soul. From that moment on, I can not bear any buck-passing on the protection of life. With so many young lives taken away, so many families broken, we wouldn’t be qualified to be human beings, not to mention educators, if we didn’t value life over politics and bureacracy, if we officials still tried to avoid responsibility and protect ourselves.”
Lin Qiang first arrived at Beichuan Middle School a day after it collapsed in the earthquake. He saw a parent crying over the body of her child buried under the rubble.
“There was no relief personnel. The mother had watched her child’s life going away bit by bit, but could do nothing about it. The child died four hours before I arrived there. The parent had been crying, mumbling that her child was very good at school.”
Lin wanted to give her all the money he brought with him, but she refused, saying that it was useless.
“I felt guilty. Although I held no direct responsibility for the tragedy, I felt guilty from the bottom of my heart towards that child, and towards the parent, ” Lin said.
He refused to regard the earthquake as just a natural disaster.
“It is a natural disaster. But natural disasters wouldn’t necessarily cause human tragedies. It’s morally lazy to blame nature for human tragedies. The child could have survived. The school building could have stood upright. Not a single student died at another school just a half mile away, because its building didn’t collapse.”
The reason is simple – that school was donated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and had the donor supervise its construction quality. Such a supervision mechanism was missing in most schools that collapsed during the earthquake. He urged his colleagues to think hard about the tragedies.
“If we education administrators had fulfilled our duties and guarded against corruption, our school buildings would have stood firm and the teachers and children wouldn’t have died for no good reason. So much tragedy could have been avoided. It’s a shame that we were not able to protect our vulnerable kids from danger. We should think about it. We should not shrink from our responsibilities and glorify ourselves with a few teachers’ heroic deeds in the earthquake.”
“We have not yet studied systematically the reasons behind the collapse of school buildings till this day. We have not yet actively looked for evidence and conducted an investigation into the tragedies. We have not yet apologized to the family members of the dead. It shows that it doesn’t weigh much upon our minds to value life and to take active measures to ensure its safety.”
“The parents who have lost their children in the earthquake are staying in the ruins of collapsed schools with tears in their eyes day and night, looking for construction materials which could serve as evidence of malpractice. They want their children to rest in peace in heaven, but also want to prevent similar tragedies from happening to tens of thousands of children in the future.”
“As teachers and civil servants, we should be grateful for their effort. We should respect them and support their work. However, very few people in the education departments are willing to think this way and make such efforts. I understand that people are now very busy with various reconstruction work… However, justice needs to be done for the spirits of the deceased children, to their parents and to the whole community. If we don’t have any contemplation over such a tremendous tragedy, if we put our own honour and career success above children’s lives, how could it be possible for us to elevate our souls and reconstruct our institutions? How could we make sure similar tragedies never take place again?”
Lin Qiang has requested to hand over his opportunity to be a torchbearer for the Beijing Olympic Games as part of his redemption effort. He also suggested that the ceremonies of the Games should be adjusted against the backdrop of the earthquake.
Next Article: The structural condition of Barbados’ schools.