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Massacre victims mourned

Article | Published in TES Newspaper on 3 May, 2002 | By: Yojana Sharma

GERMANY.

Thousands of wreaths laid in tribute to the 16 shot in school, reports Yojana Sharma.

PUPILS and teachers returned to Gutenberg grammar school to pay tribute to the 16 people gunned down by Robert Steinhaeuser last Friday. Children from more than 1,000 schools were present to remember the 12 teachers, two pupils, secretary and policeman who lost their lives.

The grounds of the school in Erfurt were turned into a massive memorial, carpeted with wreaths, flowers and candles.

Juergen Reichardt, head of the Erfurt schools authority, said teachers should not rush to start normal lessons, but must allow pupils the opportunity to talk through the massacre.

"We can't go back to the day-to-day routine and act as if nothing had happened," said Jochen Leitze, head of another Erfurt school. "We have to think about what must change."

Traumatised pupils were able to go to Erfut town hall to grieve together. "I cannot even imagine a normal life. The teachers who died are heroes. They made us what we are," said sixth-former Michaela Seidel, 18. "We were one big family."

Gutenberg will be closed until August to allow evidence of the carnage to be cleaned away. The 750 pupils will temporarily attend another school where lessons will resume on Monday.

The pupils themselves had rejected a proposal to scatter them throughout schools in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia in the former East Germany. "There was a clear desire to stay together," mayor Manfred Ruger said.

The state's education minister Michael Krapp has called an emergency meeting of Germany's 16 state education ministers today to discuss the Gutenberg pupils' school-leaving exam (the Abitur).

Pupils were sitting their Abitur maths exam when Robert Steinhauser burst in with a pistol and a pump-action gun.

"There is no way we can think of exams," said Ms Seidel who had finished her maths paper and left 10 minutes before Steinhauser ran amok.

Speaking on behalf of the sixth form she said: "It is unbelievable that we would have to do this exam again. I will never be able to sit another exam in my life. Imagine sitting down and thinking of equations and formulae when the only thing that we will be able to think about is the awful events."

Dr Krapp said at the education ministers' coordination conference he would seek "a solution" so that the Gutenberg sixth-formers could secure a "fully recognised" Abitur.

Last week he said the authorities would not be able to "just hand out" certificates, amid uproar from parents and pupils.

A spokeswoman for the ministers said given the emotional reaction to the massacre in Germany, it was unlikely they would oppose a move to treat the Gutenberg sixth-formers as a special case.

Abitur exams will continue on Friday at other schools, although the authorities said they would allow flexibility for those who did not wish to sit exams now to do so later.

Dr Krapp has also defended the Thuringia education system, which, unlike that of other states, leaves pupils without any intermediary qualification if they fail their Abitur twice.

Critics say this creates too much stress and could have been the reason why Steinhauser went on the rampage after being expelled in January for playing truant and faking sick notes.

"This man was psychologically ill. He rebelled because he had been rejected by the system and had nothing to look forward to," said Graf Polier, father of a 17-year-old Gutenberg pupil.

Dr Krapp has come under pressure to reform the system. However he said in a statement: "Anyone completing 10 years of schooling in Thuringia has the option to go to a vocational school to get a qualification."

In memoriam

Yvonne Fulsche-Baer (38) a French teacher, mother of two, who had only been teaching at Gutenberg since January.

Heidrun Baumbach (56) taught German and history. One son.

Monika Burghardt (49) German teacher. Three children.

Birgit Dettke (41) taught art. One child.

Rosemarie Hajna (54) deputy head.

Gabriele Clement (43) taught German and art. Two daughters.

Carla Pott (27) trainee teacher.

Heidemarie Sicker (59) responsible for pastoral care.

Hans Lippe (44) biology and chemistry teacher. Two children - both pupils at Gutenberg.

Helmut Schwarzer (54) maths and physics teacher.

Hans-Joachim Schwert-Feger (44) head of the upper school and part of the school management team.

Peter Wolf (60) maths and physics teacher. Two grown children.

Anneliese Schwertner (39) school secretary.

Susann Hartung (14) 8th grade pupil.

Ronny Moeckel (15) 8th grade pupil.

Andreas Gorski (39) policeman, the first to arrive on the scene. A teenage son and daughter.


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