This editorial cartoon by Makkox recalls the tragedy of the boy on the bottom of the sea | Photo: ANSA
This editorial cartoon by Makkox recalls the tragedy of the boy on the bottom of the sea | Photo: ANSA

A series of five memorial "stumbling stones" have been placed at five schools in Rome in memory of a 14-year-old Malian student who died on a boat in the Mediterranean with his report card sewn into his pocket.

The boy from Mali died at sea on April 18, 2015, as Europe's so-called refugee crisis started to gain momentum. He had his last report card from school sewn into his pocket.

The stumbling stones erected in the memory of the 14-year-old memory read: "To the young man from Mali, who died with a report card on his heart. This school would have welcomed him and other people who drowned while trying to cross the sea."

The initiative was launched by schools belonging to the Simonetta Salacone institute – one of the most multiethnic in Rome.

A moving story

The story of the Malian student was first told in the book "Faceless Shipwreck Victims" written by Cristina Cattaneo, the forensic doctor who in recent years has worked on the frontlines of identifying the bodies of migrants who drowned at sea.

An editorial cartoon by the artist Makkox for the Italian daily Il Foglio drew additional attention to the boy's tale on social media: In the cartoon, the boy is shown as sitting underwater while holding on to his report card, as various sea creatures comment on his situation.

'Living' stumbling stones

Marzia Colandrea, a nun working at the Carlo Pisacane school, personally worked with other parents to produce the stumbling stones that were placed before the schools: "We chose to remember this young boy in particular because of the faded report card that was found sewn on his heart," she told the Italian ANSA news agency.

"We imagine that he wanted to reach Italy, that he had placed a lot of hope for a better life into that report card. We would have welcomed him and all those who drowned trying to cross the sea.

"We want to become a stumbling school, stumbling parents. We want these stones to be living stones," Colandrea added.

Following the inauguration of the stumbling stones, Marzia Colandrea said that further initiatives would continue around the schools: "We want to organize ceremonies at each of the five schools on April 18, 2020, in memory of that tragic shipwreck," she said.

Memorial for an 'inclusive school'

The principal of the Salacone institute schools, Rosanna Labalestra, said that the proposal for the stumbling stones had come from parents, and was received favorably from the start. For her, erected the memorial was an extension of the work that the school already prides itself in doing:

"This is a truly inclusive school that works every day with the difficult stories of its students and families," Labalestra said.


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