How distant is dawn for little Zana

The home and family of "little Zana" whose father was beaten to death while they looked on helplessly

Little Zana, Nizam and Niyar were playing in front of their 'house -a shack made of up of planks and zink sheets. This structure has provided shelter to Zana and her 12 brothers and sisters for over 15 years. Recently however their lives took a turn for the worse in the aftermath of the gruesome killing of their father Jiffrey who was beaten to death before their eyes. Today despite the trauma of their father's death, Zana and her family are putting up a bold effort to survive amidst all manner of obstacles. Fathima Zana (11) and her two brothers Nisam (12) and Niyar (13) are grade 6 students at C. Rathanapala Vidyalaya. Her youngest brother Safran (8) is a student in grade 3.
Even though she has no way of ironing her uniforms, little Zana says she loves to go to school and enjoys the time shes spends with her school friends. Explaining the reason why three of her siblings study in the same grade, Fathia Ziyana (27), Zana's eldest sister said that she had never been to school as their parents never had the capacity to send them to school. "Today with support from the 'Samurdhi movement' the young ones are now able to do so."
She said that as they were unable to gain admission to school in time most of the children are in lower grades.Ziyana lamented that this was causing her siblings to drop out from school as well. Nisam who suffered severe burns by accidentally knocking on the table lamp was hospitalised for 3 months and ever since, he has been reluctant to go to school. Jaira (14) stopped schooling while she was in Grade 5 complaining that she was unable to study with younger students in grades lower than she normally she have been in. Fathima Faruk, Zana's mother said the family was unable to send the children to school as they did not possess sufficient resources to send their children to school.
"All the schools ask for money and we didn't have money", she explained. However, most of the children dropped out from school to help support the family income. Jazzar, who is now 16, dropped out of school after grade 5 as the family needed economic support.
"We facing a life and death struggle daily, especially after the tragic death of my husband", the mother said. Ziyana said her father was killed on the 17th of October. She said the incident occured while they were watching a quarrel which had taken place at a wedding house in the vicinity.
"A large crowd had gathered at the "watta" to watch what was happening when suddenly two people came and caught my father by the collar and began beating him. Subsequently more people began to assault my father. My brother Jazaar and I went to rescue him but they attacked us too", she explained.
"We were unable to rescue him until the police arrived around an hour later. By then he was unconscious and died without opening his eyes again" Ziyana said. The police arrested 4 people in the group that assaulted Jiffrey, but the two prime suspects named Nanda and Padme have not yet been arrested.
After the sudden death of their father the family had no proper income until the third son Mohamad Nazaar (18) found a job in a garment factory recently. The second son, Mohammad Sali (21) recently hired a three-wheeler, but said his income was low as he had to pay Rs.300/- to the owner of the three-wheeler as a daily rent. The fourth son Jazaar (16) works as a casual domestic labourer at houses in the area.
"People who are directed to us by the mosque are the only support we have presently", Fathima said explaining that she was unable to contribute toward the family economy as she has to remain indoors to perform Iddah, -Muslim widows staying inside their homes for 4 months 10 days after the death of their husbands.
The problems of the family are further compounded by the fact that they have to pay Rs, 1,000/- rent for the "house" they live in. Though they light only 2 bulbs, the family has to cough up another Rs. 1,000/- for the electricity connection they have received from a neighbouring house.
Jazaar, the fourth son lamented that their supply of electricity had been cut off as they couldn't pay the Rs.1000/-. He said the owner of the house from where they got the electricity connection had promised to reconnect their supply once the money was paid. "We were asked to leave the house as well as we couldn't pay the house rent. They asked us to go even before a week passed after my father died", he said.
Fatima Riyana (17), the fourth daughter is allegedly a victim of a wrong injection given to her at the Lady Ridgeway Children's Hospital when admitted for Hepatitis. She has been disabled ever since. While she is able to talk and behaves normally her legs have been disabled. The three elder children are married and live separately but are unable to support the family. Devastated by the fact that her elder children are unable to offer help, Fathima Faruk lamented that her position was become worse than ever.