Benhaffaf twins attend first day of primary school in Co Cork

Hassan and Hussein had separation operation in 2010 after they were born conjoined

The Benhaffaf twins, Hassan and Hussein who were born conjoined in 2009 before being successfully separated the following year, started junior infants at Middleton Educate Together National School, Co.Cork today. Video: Darragh McSweeney/Provision


The Benhaffaf twin boys, who were born conjoined in December 2009 before being successfully separated the following year, started junior infants on Thursday.

Five-year-old Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, were among 76 children who attended junior infants at Midleton Educate Together National School for their first day.

Their mother Angie Benhaffaf and father Azzedine were joined at the school by their two other children Malika (9) and seven year old Iman.

Mrs Benhaffaf said waving the twins off to school was an emotional experience.

She joked she was looking forward to getting reacquainted with her husband in her newfound spare time.

“I can’t wait to have a date with my husband. We have so much catch-up time because usually he is at home with half the family and I am at hospitals with the other half. I can’t wait to have a catch up with him and see how life has been.”

She said it was a happy day for the family but said the boys still face a number of health challenges .

“I’m not blind. I know that surgeries are part of their lives and will never stop. But they are facing in to today with a big smile.”

Hassan and Hussein underwent a 14-hour separation operation at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London in April 2010, led by Irish-born surgeon, Dr Edward Kiely.

The twins’ hearts were not joined, but nearly everything else was, including the liver, gut and bladder all of which had to be separated. The boys now each have a prosthetic leg.

Conjoined twins are identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero.

A rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000 births.

Meanwhile, at Scoil Nioclais in Frankfield, Douglas, Cork, little Lily O’Keeffe received a special good luck note from proud big sister Juliet.

Juliet, who is in sixth class, was very emotional about packing her baby sister off to school for the first time.

Mother Maria Smith said she was proud of Juliet for being thoughtful enough to write a touching note for little Lily.

“Juliet had a letter written to her this morning with €5 in it. It said ‘To the big girl a little fairy told me you were going to school.’ Five euro out of her own money that her nana gave her yesterday.”

Maria said like any mother she had mixed feelings about “cutting the apron strings” and that it was a hard but ultimately proud day as a parent.

Her husband Brian said it was a “landmark” moment for the family.

An emotional Janice Crowley said she “felt like a fool” as she had a little tear about sending her young son Jack off to school for the first time.

“I can’t believe he is four. He will be five in December. It’s just after going by so fast. I think I will go back to my mum’s and have a good coffee and come to terms with him starting school.”

Jack (4) was up since 6am, such was his excitement at enrolling.

His father, Graham, said it felt like Jack was “big all of a sudden overnight”.

“It is the first time you feel like they have grown up. I remember my first day of school in Mahon.

“I was crying separating from my friends. It’s my first memory. Being split from my friend on day one. But it turned out ok as he ended up being best man at my wedding.”

Monika Guzenda, whose little girl Gabriella was starting school for the first day yesterday, echoed the sentiments of parents nationwide when she said she wasn’t quite sure if she would be able to enjoy her first morning of freedom.

“I think I will be waiting at home hoping that she will be alright. That’s what I will spend my morning doing. Hoping she is ok!”