More than 200 people turned up yesterday to bid a tearful farewell to Muhammad Hambali Sumathi, 12, who died on Monday after a goalpost fell on him during a football game.
The Secondary 1 student at Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) had reportedly reached for the crossbar of the goalpost to do a pull-up when he fell backwards. The structure tipped over and struck his head. He later died in hospital.
Despite the heavy rain yesterday, relatives and friends began waiting from 8am at the void deck of a Eunos Road block to pay their last respects.
Many cried when Hambali's body arrived at around 2pm and was carried to his aunt's home on the second storey.
His classmates and soccer teammates arrived at about 2.30pm in two buses with their teachers, as well as the school principal and vice-principal. A student was seen clutching a small bouquet of flowers.
Safety precautions in place, says MOE
All schools here conduct regular safety reviews, inspections and safety briefings for staff and students, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday.
Asked about Monday's incident in which a 12-year-old student died after a goalpost fell on him as he attempted a pull-up, the MOE told The Straits Times it prioritises safety when providing school equipment and conducting physical activities.
"We work very closely with all schools to establish sound safety procedures for school operations. All schools have internal safety processes to ensure the safety of their students," it added.
A primary school PE teacher, who has taught for almost 20 years, said he rarely gets pupils trying to hang from the crossbar.
"Every PE teacher would be told to keep safety a priority, and we try to keep the learning environment a conducive one. But there may be too many students (to keep an eye on) during PE lessons, when the playing area is so much bigger," he told The Straits Times.
Another PE teacher who has taught in a secondary school for almost a decade said that they have to fill in a risk-assessment form before initiating physical activities.
For example, when students jog along the pavement outside the school, signs are placed as cautionary warnings to vehicles.
Mr Desmund Khusnin, 44, who has coached football at primary and secondary schools for about four years, said that extra safety guidelines should be implemented. While goalposts that are fixed structures are usually stable enough, some foldable ones need to be stabilised.
"I've seen the goalposts lift off the ground when children try to jump and grab the crossbar, so there's a need for more education on this safety aspect," said Mr Khusnin.
Mr Jim Leong, 45, who manages the youth football team that Muhammad Hambali Sumathi was in, said such accidents are rare and difficult to anticipate. Hambali, who was a defender for Youth Guidance Ethos, joined the team about two years ago. Mr Leong added: "For competitive games in our league, the referees do carry out checks on all structures."
Yuen Sin and Ng Huiwen
Form teacher Siti Radziatun Abdul Samat, 35, said the class is "trying to cope" with Hambali's death.
Family hopes to get more details from school
Others who were present included Hambali's friends from kindergarten and primary school, as well as teammates from youth soccer club Youth Guidance Ethos, who all remembered him as a cheerful and caring person.
Nyjel Rosshawn, 13, who first met Hambali in kindergarten, said: "He always knew how to bring a smile to someone's face. I had just met him on Sunday to play soccer. I guess it's all fate."
Even as she buried her son at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery yesterday, Hambali's mother Rajimah Jafar, 49, said she was still struggling to understand how her "happy-go- lucky" child could have died.
The incident happened at around 9.15am during a physical education class. Students who had been playing five-on-five football with Hambali said the boy attempted a pull- up as he felt frustrated when his teammate did not score a goal.
Madam Rajimah, who last saw her son at 6.30am on Monday, said in Malay: "How could the metal fall on him... Why didn't the school consider safety?"
Hambali's oldest sister, local singer Sarah Aqilah, wrote in a Facebook post yesterday that the family hopes to get more details from the school. "For now, we cannot confirm the exact story. It is just questions running through our heads," she wrote.
Among Hambali's things which Madam Rajimah holds dear are two trophies her son displayed in their one-room flat in Aljunied Crescent. She recounted how he had told her some three weeks ago not to throw them away while she was cleaning the flat.
"He had never said this to me, and I told him I would never do so," she said in tears. "Now, without him, my flat will be a little quiet."
Hambali, the fifth of seven siblings, had also previously told her of his ambition to become a police officer, after seeing an older brother, who is serving national service, in a police uniform.
The brother, Mr Mohammad Rizwan Abdullah, 19, said: "It's sad that he never told me. I didn't expect that he would look up to me."