College hit by racism

Al-Taqwa College. (Joe Mastroianni). 211044_02

By Alesha Capone

The principal of a Truganina college linked to 210 coronavirus cases, says the school has been subjected to “hurtful messages” on social media since the outbreak began.

The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to investigate how infections started at Al-Taqwa College but has confirmed there have been no new cases linked with the outbreak since July 29.

College principal Omar Hallak said the wider community had shown it’s support for the college but there had been some backlash on social media. “Sadly, there have been some hurtful messages sent to the school and comments on social media, and some isolated instances of negative treatment of people connected with Al-Taqwa College,” Mr Hallak said.

Tarneit MP Sarah Connolly and Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence have spoken out in support of the college.

After an online meeting with Mr Hallak last month, Ms Spence posted on Facebook that the school community was “experiencing an increase in Islamophobic and racist messages”.

“I assured principal Hallak, as I do to all Victorians, that racism and discrimination have no place in Victoria,” the post stated.

Mr Hallak said that to have the support of the wider community meant “a great deal”.

“Fortunately the good experiences of people and human nature have far outweighed the bad, and our staff and students have shown determination, resilience and real strength of character in dealing with not just the educational challenges of COVID-19, but the social challenges too.

“We are all in this together. COVID-19 does not target people by race, nationality, religion or politics. It targets all of us.”

Mr Hallak said the college had “done everything it can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from the outset of this pandemic”.

“While the college has been closed, it has been deep cleaned and we have just completed further upgrades of our on-site precautions in accordance with Department of Health and Human Services requirements,” he said.

“The local community … can be assured that the college campus itself is safe as far as COVID-19 is concerned.”