The school report card was carefully folded and sewn into his pocket so as not to lose him: maybe it was just a matter of pride, maybe (and think this hurts) would be the “evidence” that the 14-year-old would arrive with good intentions. Now it is useless: its owner, little more than a child, was found dead in the Mediterranean waters. The school report card was found by Cristina Cattaneo, a medical examiner, during his autopsy. The 14-year-old came from Mali seeking a better life in Europe. His story (or what little we can imagine about it) is told in ” Shipwrecked Without a Face ” (Cortina Editore), recently published by the doctor.
The teenager was on the boat from which hundreds disappeared: it is estimated that the victims were between 700 and 900. His body immediately attracted the doctor’s attention: “he weighed less than the others,” Cattaneo explains. “From the analysis of the bones of the wrist we came to the conclusion that we are a little more than a child.” The bones are formed by the union of different smaller parts that, during the growth, merge. “In this case, the bones of the wrists leaded us to under the age of 14: was the youngest of them all”.
The surprise in the pocket: a school report card.
When the doctors started taking off his clothes, came up the surprise. “While I took off the jacket, I felt an hard and square thing. I cut inside out to try to recover, without damaging, whatever it was. I found in my hands a small piece of paper made of several layers. I tried to unfold without breaking them and then I read: Bulletin Scolaire. Below, could read a few faded words: mathematics, physical sciences… It was a school report card: ” school report card,” we repeated, disbelief, loudly.
“We all thought the same: what expectations did this young Malian teenager had to hide so carefully a document so precious to his future that it demonstrates his efforts, his study skills, and that he thought he would open some door to a school Italian or European, now reduced to a few faded and water-soaked pages? “, says Cattaneo. Perhaps it is just the confirmation of a bitter reality: a merciless world in which a 14-year-old knows he has to prove himself “good” for be listened to and maybe, minimally, helped.
The sad reality of deaths in the Mediterranean
Not even this was enough for that boy, who died at sea when sought for help. Just last year, about 2,297 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean, according to data from the International Organization for Migration. (Detail: these are the number of bodies rescued, not the total number of victims, impossible to calculate). The IOM estimates that there have been about 30,000 deaths in the last 15 years in the called “Mediterranean Cemetery” and 60% of people who die trying to reach Europe (escaping from wars, ethnic/religious persecution and serious humanitarian crises) remain nameless.
A child, a school report card and a dream: to be able to study and build a better future. How many more will needed sink their hopes into the sad waters of European indifference?