School in Africa to honor boy killed in St. Paul park landslide
ST. PAUL -- The parents of a boy killed two years ago in the Lilydale Regional Park landslide in St. Paul are raising money to establish a school in the Republic of Guinea in western Africa. Lancine and Madosu Fofana of Brooklyn Center already ha...
ST. PAUL -- The parents of a boy killed two years ago in the Lilydale Regional Park landslide in St. Paul are raising money to establish a school in the Republic of Guinea in western Africa.
Lancine and Madosu Fofana of Brooklyn Center already have put part of a legal settlement toward the school, which will be named for their son Mohamed. The school will be in Lancine Fofana’s hometown of Siguiri, which Mohamed visited in 2009.
“This idea came from Mohamed himself,” his father said. “When he was doing his vacation time in Guinea, he was asking his mom why those kids don’t go to school, why they don’t wear shoes. This idea came from right there.”
Mohamed was so impressed by the need that he included it when he wrote “My Life Book” as a school project. He wrote that he planned to become a professional soccer player and build a school and soccer field in Siguiri.
He never got the chance. Ten-year-old Mohamed died May 22, 2013, along with fourth-grade classmate Haysem Sani, 9, when a bluff collapsed on them as they searched for fossils as part of a school field trip to Lilydale Regional Park, in the Mississippi River bluffs just southwest of downtown St. Paul. Two other children were injured, one seriously.
Mohamed enjoyed his days at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, his father said, and he enjoyed playing with the children he met in Siguiri. He felt they should have the same opportunity to learn that he had.
The problem is that there is little opportunity in the part of Siguiri where the Fofanas are building their school.
“Children of that area have to go to town to live with somebody so they can go to school,” Lancine Fofana said. “When we have this school in place, those children will have the chance to live with their parents and go to school. That’s why we chose that place.”
Fofana was in Siguiri last week helping lay the cornerstone for the new school, which was designed by volunteers with the Twin Cities chapter of Architecture for Humanity.
He said they hope to open the Mohamed Fofana Memorial School by fall 2016. It will be run by the Mohamed Fofana Memorial Foundation, which has a board of directors in Minnesota and is in the process of applying for nonprofit status. The school, serving 350 students, will be staffed by qualified teachers from Guinea, Fofana said.
Minnesota-based crowd-funding website Barnraisings.com has taken up the cause and launched a fundraising campaign with a goal of $30,000 in the next 30 days.
In the largest legal settlement in its history, the city of St. Paul agreed to pay more than $1 million to the families of the children who died or were hurt in the landslide. As part of the settlement, the city did not admit fault.
Investigators determined that rain-sodden sand and broken shale collapsed on top of the children in an area that had previously been excavated as part of a defunct brick-manufacturing operation. The excavation helped expose fossils.
Parts of the park deemed unsafe after the landslide remain closed.
The city plans to reopen the Brickyard Trail from the top of the bluffs into the park this spring or summer after stabilization improvements are done.
This fall, the city will begin allowing school groups to tour fossil site No. 1. Three fossil sites within the Brickyard area will remain off-limits, as will three man-made clay pits and the Vento View Overlook.