MADINAH – Taibah Children Village for orphan girls, a center known for its feats and achievements in the past seven years of its running, is reportedly declining in its operations.
The present management of the center has been accused of not caring for the orphans and picking up fights with the girls.
People who know the realities inside the Village have declared the project to be a failure. Police and members of the Human Rights Commission have intervened to end the rift between the management and the orphans after the center resorted to punitive measures against the girls.
A female supervisor at the Village, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the inside story. She attributed the shortcomings to the excessive turnover of staff.
“The former management was successful because it applied a strict policy to examine applicants before appointing them as staff. Male and female job applicants were subjected to rigorous tests in various subjects including management, psychology, and educational administration to check their suitability for the job.
“Their success was proven by the fact that many had stayed for a number of years in office and helped the Village grow. Staff members came with the required professional and practical experiences. They embraced the orphans and dealt with them like their own children. They knew that orphans needed love, care and good treatment.
“If the orphan did not receive a correct religious and social upbringing, he or she might be a threat to the society in the future,” she explained. Two years ago a new management board was appointed to administer the Village.
“The new staff members included girls who were hardly 20 years in age. They had no education beyond the intermediate stage and they all lacked experience. The new staff members were also not qualified to deal with teenagers,” she said.
She said many restrictions were placed on the orphan girls under fresh policies of the new management.
“The girls were only being criticized by the new supervisors. This affected and bothered them deeply and many started escaping from the Village,” she said.
Matters took a bad turn in the Village and the situation developed into physical conflicts between the girls and the staff including the principal. “There was actual fighting following which the case was taken to the police and the girls were detained at the Al-Khalidiyyah police station for interrogation,” she recalled.
The supervisor said the girls were finally taken to court which condemned them for being involved in fighting and sentenced them to be whipped. “Five orphans girls aged between 12-18 years were whipped,” she said.
The supervisor said few days ago a problem cropped up again after the bus driver refused to wait for all the girls until they came out of the school.
An orphan, who identified herself as S.M., said she was talking to a friend inside the school after the school and was delayed by a few minutes only. “The driver refused to wait for me. It was as if he was punishing me for a mistake I did not commit,” she said.
The girl said the driver called the Village management and told them that I had escaped. “The management lost no time informing the police that I had escaped so as to include my name in the list of runaway girls,” she said questioning the real intention of the management toward her. “If a girl living with her parents is delayed at the school for one reason or the other, will the father or mother report her to the police?” she wondered.
“If we commit similar mistakes: is it not better and wiser if we received a family punishment behind closed doors in our village which we consider our home rather than being scandalized with the police and in the media?” she asked. The girl felt that the management behaved inhumanely when it escalated the case and took it to the police.
Two other girls, who referred to themselves as A.N. and F.N., said a great escape was planned and orchestrated by 10 of their colleagues who jumped over the Village fence.
“The management did not hesitate to inform the police who sent search patrols after them. The girls were finally found staying together in an apartment in which they said to have lived their best days,” she said.
The girl said the runaways only agreed to go to the Village after the management promised to fulfill all their demands. “Unfortunately this did not happen. Our trust in the management was shaken and we had no other option but to escape again,” she said.
Iman Fallatah, chairperson of the Taibah Women Welfare Society and the Village principal, declined to comment on the incident declaring that the issue of the orphan girls was very sensitive and should not be discussed in public.
Fatima Al-Okbi, director of social supervision at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Madinah, confirmed that all the runaway girls had returned to the Village with the exception of one girl who would be sent to a correctional home in Riyadh after the school examinations.
“The girl was said to have issues with the management. We wrote to the ministry about her case and will send her to Riyadh,” she said without identifying the girl.