The death of a 17-year-old Indian student in a road accident during a school trip to Cambodia has sparked concern among parents about the safety of their children studying at a top international institution in Singapore, a media report said on Tuesday.
Kaira Karmakar died in a road accident on June 1 while on a school trip to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Her death has sparked concern among several parents who want answers and a review of guidelines on overseas excursions, The Straits Times newspaper reported.
She was with a group of classmates, and there were no teachers or adult representatives accompanying them. The United World College of South-east Asia (UWCSEA) was notified at 3.07am the same day. The school declined to say how many students were part of the group.
UWCSEA Dover (Road) head Patrick Hurworth, in an e-mail to parents on June 1, informed them that she had died while in Cambodia for the school’s project week.
The e-mail said students have the option of going on an overseas field trip for project week as part of the grade 11 curriculum, and that it is “designed to support readiness for independent life” after graduation, according to the newspaper.
UWCSEA, a top international school with campuses around the world, has two in Singapore – in Dover Road and Tampines. Grade 11 is similar to the first year in junior college in Singapore.
UWCSEA head of college Nick Alchin, in an e-mail on June 7, said students would break into small groups of four to six and spend up to six months planning their trips. The process is supervised by a teacher who does not go on the trip, he added.
“It is different to all other outdoor education trips because the structure is to use a period of detailed supervised planning to support student travel without an accompanying UWCSEA adult,” Alchin said.
One student in each group is given mandatory first-aid training, and students have access to a 24-hour emergency hotline – provided by security service International SOS – and a list of local contacts and the closest hospitals, he added.
In his e-mail, Alchin said the school is planning to have an external investigation done on the accident as well as project week. The final report, he added, will be submitted to the audit and risk committee of the school’s board of governors – the body responsible for reviewing school processes.
However, one parent said it has been nearly three months and there has been no update on the incident since the June 7 e-mail from Alchin.
“The school has not informed the parents of the outcome of the investigation and obviously expects that this has been forgotten throughout the summer holidays,” said the parent, who asked not to be identified. “As a parent, I feel voiceless and cornered.” The parent also asked why the school would allow students to go on an overseas trip without an adult.
“The tragedy that unfolded as this young lady died in a road accident was entirely preventable. The school should have been aware that teenagers are prone to testing boundaries,” said the parent.
UWCSEA declined to answer queries on the accident or the review of project week guidelines.
It did, however, celebrate Kaira’s life in a joint statement with the Karmakar family.
“Kaira was exceptional, an outstanding student who had already achieved so much in her life and who shared her blessings freely. UWCSEA has named a scholarship in Kaira’s honour, so that a young student of great promise and potential can experience an education at the school she loved,” the statement said.
According to the UWC website, the school has also set up an endowment in Kaira’s name – in a tie-up with the Karmakar family, and the fund will help support UWCSEA scholarships, among other things.
On social media platform TikTok, Kaira’s friends paid tribute to her.
In 2023, more than 300 students from the Dover campus and nearly 240 students from the East campus opted to travel abroad for project week, while about 80 students across both campuses chose to remain in Singapore.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)