A toddler was left behind in a school minivan in a garage by herself for hours on end – and nobody noticed.
The 3-year-old Marija happily went to her second day of primary school in Pieta’ yesterday.
After school, she was meant to go to an after school club that takes care of children whose parents work full-time.
But Marija never ended up at Klabb 3-16 in Ħamrun. Rather than being dropped off there around 2.30pm, she was left behind on the bus in the school garage.
Her mother, Bojana, only found out when she finished work after 4pm. She called the school to inquire as to where her daughter was, and was told not to go to the club as her daughter wasn’t there – but didn’t want to clarify where she had ended up instead.
“How can one child be missing?” Bojana wondered. “I was shocked.”
She waited at the club and called the police about her missing child, and provided them with the driver’s number – but no one called back, and nothing happened.
In the meantime, Bojana didn’t know if her daughter was safe at all.
About half an hour later, Marija was returned to her mum, without explanation. Rather than apologising for the traumatising incident, the person told Bajana: “I’m only delivery” – as if her daughter was a piece of “takeout food’.
For three long and lonely hours on the school bus in a locked garage, the poor girl had been crying and screaming for her mum. “I was very afraid, I started screaming, calling mum, but no one came,” Marija said.
“She was hungry and afraid,” Bojana added.
To make matters worse, the school staff didn’t even acknowledge the issue. “You have nothing to complain about,” Bojona was told. “I brought her back.”
Although Bojana had signed her daughter up for the after school club, they didn’t even know there was a missing child. “They didn’t know she had to come or where she was, and she wasn’t on the list.”
“I just want to know who has responsibility for my child. This is not normal. What happened?”
When Bojana asked the school for an explanation, they told her they didn’t know what had happened. “It’s never happened before,” they said. “We don’t have responsibility for that.”
“They were nice,” Bojana said, “but who has the responsibility? Who cares for our child? School, teachers, parents? What can we do to make sure they are taken care of?”
Marija was traumatised by the incident, having spent three hours screaming and crying for help by herself in a dark and empty garage. “I don’t want to go into the garage,” she told her mum.
“She was so stressed she was vomiting, and didn’t want to go to school again.”
The minivan in question was part of the government-provided free school transport. Besides the driver, a supervisor should have been present, who would be the first to enter and the last to leave the bus, as well as the person responsible for the headcount.
However, no supervisor was present on this van.
The bus driver said Marija was at no point left alone. After the five-minute drive from Pieta’ to Ħamrun, the leaders at the club checked to make sure all the children were there, but Marija was forgotten.
Upon returning to Pieta, the girl was spotted by the driver as soon as the van arrived. “When we were back, we saw the girl in the back of the van, and after her parents were informed she was taken back to the club.”
Lovin Malta has sent questions to the Education Ministry.
Cover photo: Times of Malta
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