Yearbook joke most likely to offend

By Simon Collins

Howick College has apologised to an Iraqi student who was described in a student yearbook as "most likely to join the army as a bomb".

Rami Al-Rdini, 18, came to New Zealand with his family eight years ago and felt that he got on well in Kiwi society until he saw the book this week.

"If I lived somewhere like America, I would expect a comment like that," he said. "I always thought New Zealand was quite a nice country because I fit in so well."

The yearbook, produced by the year 13 (seventh-form) students, contains photos of all seventh-formers, with their nicknames, birthdays, email addresses, likes and dislikes and future ambitions. One category is "most likely to ..."

"I left it blank," Rami said. "It was fill that in yourself and I didn't know what I'm most likely to do."

But someone filled the gap with "most likely to join the army as a bomb".

The college's associate principal, Sheryll Ofner, has apologised to Rami and to one other student who was offended by what was written about him.

"I cannot condone another yearbook of this sort being produced," she said.

But Mrs Ofner said the publication was produced and paid for by the students themselves.

"It was done on the kids' home computers and printed outside the school."

Rami said he suspected the college's rugby players were behind the prank. "All the football players were picking on me and calling me a terrorist," he said.

"I've got no Arab friends, all my friends are from here - Christians, Hindus, whatever, I've got no problems with that. I've never actually told anyone I was Muslim.

"They take one look at you and assume, because Arabs are all supposed to be Muslim."

Mrs Ofner said the student who edited the book was "extremely upset" that the comment slipped through.

"She's a wonderful student who is just devastated. She has been beside herself, just hugely upset."

Rami, who starts his NCEA exams on Tuesday and plans to start an English degree at Auckland University next year, said he was "really, really angry" when he saw the book, but accepted Mrs Ofner's apology.

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