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Camden New Journal - By SIMON WROE
Published: 3 April 2008
Zarine at South Camden Community School.
Zarine at South Camden Community School.
‘The school is quiet’: classmates pay tribute to brave friend Zarine

Plans for a memorial to the girl who died facing deportation

A HEAVY silence filled the corridors of South Camden Community School yesterday (Wednesday). Lessons proceeded as normal, but the chorus of playground voices lacked its usual exuberance – and one very important voice.

It has been a week since students at the school in Charrington Road, Somers Town, were told about the death of their friend and classmate Zarine Rentia.
“Now she’s left the whole school is quiet,” said Shamima Akdher, 16.
She and Zarine, 15, had been due to present a fashion show at the school that night. Zarine was going to model saris she had designed and made.
The creative plans were typical of the courageous teenager who bravely battled a crippling condition most people have never heard of.
After a three-year battle with the Home Office over her right to stay in the UK and a lifelong struggle with the ultra-rare disease Fanconi-Bickel Syndrome, Zarine died in her native country of India nearly a fortnight ago.
“She was always one topic ahead of everyone,” said classmate Sahra Sulley, 15. “She would help you with work if you were stressed or behind. Seeing her every day happy and smiling I never thought she had such an illness. I remember seeing her every day in the maths class. Whenever I look over at where she used to sit it’s just an empty space without her beautiful smile.”
Zarine would have been 16 next month and her friends said that for weeks she had been talking excitedly about the NRA (National Record of Achievement), the end of year dance. Her biggest dream was to be a doctor.
Asiya Abdi, 16, said: “She used to joke with me, saying ‘I’m going to be a surgeon doctor and you’re going to be my first patient’. We were best friends and I used to push her wheelchair for her.”
Fathia Omar, 16, chairwoman of the school council, of which Zarine was a member, added: “She wanted to go to medical school to help people with the same problems as her. She just put her problems to the side and focused on what she was doing. It’s really sad that she’s not here any more. We don’t get to deal with death much and it’s hard.”
Gerry Robinson, Zarine’s teacher, agreed: “I never saw Zarine miserable, even when all these bad things were going on in her life. She was an example of how everyone should live their lives. Every challenge she fought to overcome.”
The school is planning a memorial event for May 2, when two cherry trees will be planted outside the front entrance to the school in Zarine’s memory.
The front page of the termly newsletter has been dedicated to her and the school council, who raised funds for Zarine to stay, are planning other ways they can pay tribute.
Among the heartfelt tributes there is also anger at Zarine’s treatment by the Home Office.
Even when she was critically ill in England, immigration officials had impeded her treatment on the NHS, insisting that the duty of care laid abroad. Zarine was lying in a hospital bed when an appeal against deportation was dismissed earlier this year.
Fathia added: “The way the Home Office treated her was really bad. She really wanted to get somewhere in life. I don’t think it’s right whether she’s from the country or not that she should be refused treatment if she’s very ill.”
Teacher Ms Robinson said: “From a personal point of view, I hope that the Home Office will look carefully at what has happened in Zarine’s case and learn from it so that other people are not placed in the same difficult circumstances. To question a child’s entitlement to medical treatment when they are suffering from a rare and terminal disease is inhumane.”

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