Mahdia COI: Teacher experienced ‘complete body shut down’

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By Sharda Bacchus

Shardabacchus@newsroom.gy

The Deputy Headmistress of the Mahdia Secondary School on Friday last told the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that her entire family is faced with long-term psychiatric setbacks, particularly her son who also taught at the school.

“He had a complete body shut down. They had to medevac him to Georgetown…He is currently still attending the psychiatric clinic at the Georgetown Hospital”.

“The doctors said he was diagnosed with acute stress disorder because the body could only take a certain amount of stress and it was too much for him,” Amanda Peters-Nedd recalled as she broke down in tears.

Peters-Nedd was the first senior official of the Mahdia Secondary School to arrive at the scene when the fire broke out at the female dormitory in May, leaving 20 children dead.

At the time, she was the Deputy Headmistress; she also taught English at the school and was the head of that department. She volunteered her service to the hinterland community after learning about the need for English teachers there.

As such, her family, including her husband and three children, moved to Mahdia where they took up residence at the teachers’ quarters.

When she testified under oath before the CoI, which is chaired by Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh, Peters-Need said she and her husband, who was a part-time dorm father at the male dormitory, rushed to the scene after they heard screams coming from the female dormitory.

Deputy Headmistress, Amanda Peters-Nedd was the first senior official from the Mahdia Secondary school to appear before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Mahdia tragedy. (Photo: News Room/ October 6, 2023)

“Students were coming out of the dormitory. That was through the middle door. And some of them were already out and some were actually screaming but the screaming didn’t last for long,” Peters-Nedd said.

She added, “Some of the girls were black because of the smoke and some of them had no clothes. So I had to run back home to get clothes for them.”

In fact, the deputy headmistress described the scene as “chaotic.”

She said residents had gathered and the Police and officials from the Guyana Fire Service eventually arrived. However, according to Peters-Nedd, firefighters appeared unprepared and untrained.

“It was chaotic because like they (firefighters) weren’t sure what they had to do. They were very much disorderly. I assume like they were not trained to give this quick response because I did not get the response that I expected,” she recalled.

“They got there and like five minutes in, they had little water and they had to leave and it took them a while to come back and then they spent five minutes and they had to leave again.

“In addition to that, they had no tools for us to try to break and enter the building. So when they come the first time, if they had an axe or something and we get into the building, it would have been easier for all the children to be rescued.”

Peters-Nedd’s 19-year-old son was a Mathematics teacher at the school; eight of his students perished in the fire.

“My husband has been greatly affected. He sleeps like two hours, sometimes three hours per night but he is seeing a psychologist at the Georgetown Hospital,” the distraught woman said.

She said her two youngest children still have flashbacks from the fire.

“My son, who is in grade six, there is a house down the street and when he look out the window he would be like ‘look the place is on fire’ and I have my daughter, she is in grade four; well she talks about everything as if it’s a movie because she saw everything, she heard the screams.”

Peters-Nedd and her family have since moved back to their Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo home. Only a part of Peters-Nedd’s testimony was open to the media. The remaining was held in camera.

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