Sunday, 24 February 2013

I’m yet to know the teacher that sent my daughter to her death — Mother of pupil crushed by truck

The mother, Mrs. Obala and late Kemi
More than a week after Kemi Obala, a pupil of Lafenwa Comprehensive High School, Ota, Ogun State, was crushed to death by a truck while on a teacher’s errand, her parents are yet to know the identity of the teacher linked to their daughter’s death.
The signs of grief and pain were obvious at the home of the Obalas as they are yet to come to terms with the loss of their daughter, Kemi, a former pupil of Lafenwa Comprehensive High School, Ota, Ogun State, who was crushed to death by a lorry.
However, a major twist in the circumstances leading to the girl’s death still exists as the parents and school differ on the time and event that lead to Kemi’s death.
On Tuesday, Kemi’s mother, Elizabeth Obala, was still in tears and apparent disbelief, as she narrated toSUNDAY PUNCH the circumstances that lead to her 15-year-old daughter’s death.
“I still don’t believe that Kemi is dead. I feel as if she has only travelled. We still talk as if she hasn’t left us. It’s only when I return home from work and there is nobody to give me a lovely hug that I miss her. She was such a sweet girl.
“She was my companion, my special Kemi. I gave her the name because her birth was peaceful. I initially didn’t want to have another child after my fourth child, but I found myself pregnant and Kemi was born,” she said.
The news came as a shock to the family and the community but while they are trying hard to accept the unfortunate incident, Obala’s heart is made heavier by the mystery, surrounding the death of her daughter. She said the family in the dark on the actual event leading to Kemi’s death and the role played by one of the teachers in the death.
“My family woke up early that morning to have morning devotion. While we were praying, Kemi tapped me and asked what time it was, I told her it was 6am. She then took permission from the exercise in order to prepare breakfast for the family.
“After my children left for school, I had my bath and went to sit outside, but my spirit felt troubled. I kept pacing up and down outside the house and didn’t feel like going to work. My neighbours were also worried about my strange behaviour,” she stated.
Obala’s fears were confirmed when neighbours brought the news about Kemi’s death.
“Later that day, a commercial motorcyclist came to the house asking if I had a child attending Lafenwa School. He said Kemi had just been hit by a truck. I said that couldn’t be my child because my daughter couldn’t be out on the streets by 11am when she should be in the classroom,” said the mother of five.
There was a brief moment of relief for her on the way to the hospital when she overheard the doctor talking to her daughter.
“On our way, we called the hospital and in the background, I heard the doctor asking my daughter to confirm her identity,” she added. But that soon changed as Kemi did not survive after losing her left arm and leg.
“My eldest daughter who was already at the hospital said she had seen Kemi’s state and that it would be better she died than to endure such pains. At that moment, I kept asking God why it had to be my daughter. But I just had to console myself.  And I said God knows why it happened and that God who brought her to me had demanded she returned to Him,” she said.
Asked if she had met the teacher who sent her daughter on the errand, Mrs. Obala said there must have been a mutual trust between Kemi and the teacher.
“I can’t blame the teacher for my daughter’s death. However, the school is protecting the teacher,” she said.
Asked if she believed the school’s version that Kemi was sent to buy some materials to be used in a home economics class, Obada vehemently rejected the story.
“No!  That’s not true. People said they saw Ofada rice at the scene of the incident.”
Kemi’s father, Peter Obala, confirmed the family’s position that his daughter was sent to buy food by a teacher at the time she was hit by the truck. He based his opinion on the account of eye witnesses.
“I was informed that Kemi and another pupil from the school were on their way back from an errand when she was hit. I heard that the other pupil crossed the road, but by the time my daughter was about to cross the road, she didn’t know that a truck was so close,” he said.
When our correspondent visited the school on Tuesday, the members of staff  refused to speak about the incident and even when SUNDAY PUNCH requested to see the teacher linked to the death, the teachers said she had gone home.
They held on to their position that Kemi was not sent on an errand during school hours and that no teacher asked her to buy food. They also said the school was not protecting the teacher involved. They further denied the allegation that rice was found at the scene of the accident.
When our correspondent requested to know more about Kemi’s personality as a pupil in the school, they expressed anger at being probed. The teachers added that the school principal who would have spoken at length over the incident, was not available.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Segun Odubela, stated that the school told him that Kemi’s death happened after school hours, adding that it was unlikely that the state would start an investigation.
“I was informed that the incident happened after school hours. Based on the information we have, the incident didn’t happen during school hours,” he told our correspondent on the telephone.
A member at St. Peters Catholic Church where the Obalas worship, Veronica Odoemenem, described Kemi as a child filled with joy.
“She was always happy. She was a committed member in the church’s choir and dance group. After her death, both groups suspended activities for about one week. Every member of the group was in a sad mood. Her friends sobbed for days,” Odoemenem said.
Meanwhile, the owner of the truck that killed the girl, Mr.Hakeem, said he was sorry about the incident. “I’ve apologised to the family and they requested that I help them out in any possible way, which I’ve done,”he said.

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