A school in Charleroi has come under fire for observing a minute's silence in memory of their recently-deceased teacher who committed suicide after murdering his ex-wife and her partner.
On September 19, tragedy beset Institut Notre-Dame and Collège Sacré-Coeur, two Charleroi schools within walking distance of one another.
Carl Manzanares, a gym teacher at both schools shot dead his ex-wife Delphine Kulcsar, herself a history teacher at Collège Sacré-Coeur, and her new boyfriend Jean-Pierre Henskens.
The breakup between the teachers had been described as 'violent' with Manzanares seemingly unable to accept the end of the relationship. Police gave this as the motive for the murder-suicide.
The next day, when pupils of Institut Notre-Dame (where Manzanares worked) arrived at school, teachers encouraged them to maintain a positive image of him and not to read what the media was saying, RTBF reports.
A minute's silence was held in the teacher's memory, with the school's head teacher stating only that "tragic circumstances" led to his death but not mentioning either of his two victims.
'Lynched by the media'
RTBF also contacted Institut Notre-Dame's head teacher Willy Kersdag who stated that it was extremely difficult for his staff to reconcile "the great colleague who had worked with us for 30 years and the acts he committed."
When asked about the phrasing of "tragic circumstances", Kersdag explained that at the time of his announcement he was not aware of the whole situation. He claimed that he had spoken generally of the "victims" when holding the minute of silence.
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However, Kersdag criticised what he called a "media lynching" that Manzanares was subjected to after his death. He went further, stating that the episode might serve as a lesson in critical thinking, showing pupils that "they could read anything in the media, even if it doesn't fit with what we knew about our colleague."
"He was lynched by the media... A man and a father died but for them (the media), it is as if he did not exist."
Educating people on femicides
Fatima Ben Moulay, head of the Vie Féminine association in Charleroi, stated that the incident could be an opportunity to raise the issue of femicide for school pupils, insisting on the importance of addressing what happened within the school.
"Violence against women occurs in all environments," she stated, asserting that femicides are not a private, individual matter but a problem that affects everyone.
She regretted that her association had not been invited to talk about the subject at the teachers' schools. As a result, she called for "femicide to be included in the penal code," which would allow better training for teaching staff.
This follows a call from PS (French-speaking socialists) in late September for the creation of a Belgian observatory so that official figures and a legal definition of 'femicide' can be established.