Prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Thursday, called for a coroner’s inquest into the demise of a six-year-old girl-child, Modadeoluwa Lawal, who died at the Start Rite School in Abuja.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement described the death of the pupil as reprehensible and unfortunate just as the Rights group affirmed that the tragic death of this girl child if proven to be as a result of negligence in her school as alleged is yet again another sad occurrence that showed that careless and negligent school administrators are yet to learn from the many avoidable deaths of pupils/students within their facility. The Rights group said it is even more unfortunate that both the school and the guardians of the Little girl who died in this gruesome manner are offering opposing positions on the cause of the death of the girl child just as the Rights group said the only verifiable and scientifically accurate conclusion on what led to her death can only be obtained in an independent, fair and non-compromised mechanism.
The group commiserated with the family of the deceased and called on federal and state governments to formulate and enforce holistic reforms at schools nationwide to halt preventable cum harrowing deaths of precocious children within the four walls of schools.
On November 2, 2022, Modadeoluwa died on her birthday after she reportedly drowned during a swimming tutorial during school hours. Whilst the family insisted that the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in the school showed that their child died in the pool due to the negligence and dereliction of duty of the swimming instructor, the police disagreed and said that she died as a result of food aspiration asphyxia.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The death of six-year-old Modadeoluwa Lawal is acutely distressing and regretful as it showed that there is no end in sight to avoidable deaths of youngsters in schools.
“The death of a child is an excruciating and traumatic experience that no parent should go through. HURIWA sympathises with the family of the deceased and prayed that God will console and comfort the bereaved at this time.
“It is sad that this kind of tragedy is recorded again in Nigeria. The police should stop defending the indefensible and deal with facts. The police as an institution of the state should avoid tendencies that may be interpreted to mean that it is working for a particular interest. The CCTV footage should be reviewed and an independent Corona inquest conducted to ascertain the pure truth in this matter. There is obviously no need in the to and fro arguments between the Police and the Parents of this little girl who has died in a painful way.
“There must be no cover-ups and the police must not allow itself to be used to circumvent justice. Those culpable should be arrested for interrogation and prosecution with immediate effect. For as long as the law is manipulated, tragedies like this will keep occurring as culprits won’t learn their lessons. Justice must be served in this matter.
“Painfully, Modadeoluwa’s preventable death is one of the many of such tragedies in Nigeria of late. In May 2022, a five-year-old pupil of the Redeemers Nursery and Primary School, Ogba, Lagos State, Chidera Eze, drowned during a swimming lesson organised by the school in the Ikeja area of the state. On November 30, 2021, 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni of Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos died after alleged assault by his colleagues.
“Karen-Happuch Akpagher, 14, of Premiere Academy, Abuja, died in June 2021 after she was allegedly sexually molested. In August 2021, a civil engineer, Kassim Lawani accused the management of Bowen University, Iwo, of attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding the death of his teenage daughter, Precious.
“In December 2020, 11-year-old Don Davies narrowly escaped death at Deeper Life High School, Uyo, when his mother, Deborah Okezie, raised the alarm of alleged sodomy of her son by some senior students.
“None of these cases have been properly investigated and the culprits conclusively prosecuted, obviously because of the alleged romance of the school management with the powers that be or the dearth of competency on the part of the law enforcement agencies to forensically determine exact cause of death. Modadeoluwa’s case must not go this lane. Efficient dispensation of justice will halt the harrowing trend as it could be anybody’s turn tomorrow if we keep quiet as schools have allegedly become slaughters’ slabs where future of promising kids are murdered on the altars of official negligence.
“School administrators must live up to expectations and come up with formidable measures to forestall these avoidable deaths. Federal and state governments must also ensure that schools, where such incidents occur, are shut perpetually and their licenses are withdrawn to serve as a strong deterrent to careless management. The entire educational sector need to be sanitised.”