x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

School assault girl returns home, frail but healing

Bullying in Abu Dhabi is one of the least in the world, says Abu Dhabi Education Council head.

Adec director general Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili greets Lujain Hussein.
Adec director general Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili greets Lujain Hussein.

ABU DHABI // Lujain Hussein left the hospital yesterday, finally able to go home three weeks after a playground fight left the 11-year-old with a brain haemorrhage.

"They want to move her out," her brother Mahran Hussein had said earlier in the day. "That's what she needs."

In the paediatric ward of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City yesterday, Lujain lifted her knees during physical therapy exercises and smiled and nodded in response to questions.

"Good," Lujain whispered, when asked how she was feeling. She said she enjoyed a visit from friends on Wednesday.

Lujain is recovering, but is still frail.

"It's a big shock for her," Mr Hussein said.

Lujain was beaten by a group of boys at Al Maali International Private School on April 19. She spent weeks in a medically induced coma. Only after she was hospitalised did her family learn she had been bullied, her brother said.

Officials from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) visited Lujain in the hospital yesterday.

The girl shied away from cameras as the Adec director general, Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, shook hands with her family, who are from Iran.

"She is part of the family we have - 300,000 members of our family and she is one of them," Mr Al Khaili said. "And we were so happy yesterday to hear that she is out of intensive care, and we are even happier today to hear that she's going home."

Asked about bullying in schools, Mr Al Khaili said: "The bullying in Abu Dhabi is one of the least in the world."

In a 2010 World Health Organization survey of pupils in the UAE, more than 22 per cent said they had been bullied during the past month. The survey found a comparable level of bullying in Lebanon and much higher levels in Egypt, Algeria and Oman.

However, 46.6 per cent of UAE pupils said they had been in a physical fight with another student during the past year. The survey found similar levels of fighting across the region.

Scans of Lujain's brain revealed that before the assault, she had an underlying congenital condition. She also had a pre-existing aneurysm, an enlarged artery caused by a weakened blood vessel. Doctors believe the fight could have triggered the haemorrhage.

Mr Al Khaili said it is too early to say what might happen to the boys accused of attacking Lujain.

"This is an incident," he said. "So we are going to follow this case and we are working with the police to finalise the investigation. We will take the proper action accordingly."

Adec has "clear procedures" to deal with bullying, he added.

As people streamed in and out of Lujain's room, her father, Hussein Abdullah, sat by her side, pinching her cheek affectionately when she looked overwhelmed.

Lujain's teachers and well-meaning strangers have also visited, her brother said.

"A lot of people who listened about us on the news, everybody, we thank them all, all of them were with us in this situation."

The family is uncertain when Lujain will start school again. Her brother said they have thought about home schooling, at least until her hair grows back, so she is not embarrassed.

"She remembers what happened," he said. "At the beginning, she told us, 'I don't know,' but yesterday when [her friends] started talking ... she remembered it."

vnereim@thenational.ae