Dowen College: Dawn of a tragedy and the corona inquest

dowen college

By Olu Adebayo

I have followed the tragic incident at Dowen College with keen interest. I have also taken the time to read a number of comments on the development.

There is no human being that will not react violently to the tragic passage of Sylvester Oromoni Junior.

Emotions were justifiably high and nobody should be vilified for expressing such emotions. When tragic incidents like this happen, it’s normal that reason and logic will take flight. Who will not be emotional at the death of a young promising boy? Who will not throw caution to the wind reading the gruesome way Oromoni was allegedly killed.

As we mourn this young man, it will be unfair to allow his death to go with the wind. There is a need to look at all the circumstances of his death and draw useful lessons that will help the nation as a whole and also help stakeholders in the education sector.

First, it is gratifying to note that when the incident happened, Dowen College reportedly took some steps in first shutting down the school by itself for two days before the Lagos State government came to the scene and closed it indefinitely pending investigation to the death of Oromoni.

Oromoni Junior according to reports was said to have died after allegedly being tortured by fellow students for refusing to join their cult group. Dowen College refuted the claim.

The two accounts

A statement on Wednesday, December 1st said that one of the school’s hostel officials had informed the management on November 21 that Oromoni Junior was injured while playing football with his colleagues.

The boy’s story was consistent till the last day. He told the same story to the school nurse, the school doctor, the house parents, the Management, his uncle who picked him from school and drove him with his father to Warri, that “he played football and got injured ”

Dowen school also said, “The preliminary investigation showed that there was no fighting, bullying, or any form of attack on the boy.”

The family however released videos and photos of the condition of the student before his death to prove that he was tortured.

The late boy’s father also alleged that his son was constantly being bullied and was fed chemicals by his fellow students who tortured him.

Those two accounts, the school, and the parents are parallel. Many gave ear to the parents’ account. The school soon became the underdog, trying to absorb itself from the alleged murder of the young boy.

From all indications, the school has expressed willingness to get to the root of the death. It has continued to keep the public abreast with development.

The school informed that five of its students: Two  Day Students, two students in the hostel, and one weekly boarder student were taken into custody for further investigation. The school also began the process of the autopsy.

The school’s statement

The statement read, “Dear Parents/Guardians As we continue to commiserate with the entire Oromoni family, we also extend our condolences to our students, parents, staff, and indeed the entire Dowen College family on the demise of our beloved son Slyvester.

“We would also like you to know that we are working together with the relevant authorities and the Oromoni family to ensure that justice is seen and served in this matter. We understand and appreciate the anxiety and support. The school plans to do all needed to ensure that the education and future of our dear children are not mortgaged.”

The statement informed further that, “The school and members of the Oromoni family have met cordially with the Commissioner of Police to discuss the matter and the way forward.

The management promised that the school would re-educate and reinforce its culture and discipline. It promised it would review “its reporting and disciplinary procedures and sanctions for increased safety and accountability. Going forward it will not be business as usual. We solicit for your continued prayers, patience, and understanding,”

It’s gratifying that the school took all these steps without being prodded. Though the Lagos State government has also played critical roles in unearthing the root cause of the alleged incident, the cooperation of the school is an indication that it was ready to get to the root of the incident.

The autopsy is now ready

The autopsy has since been conducted and the results would be made available anytime from now.

It is hoped that the autopsy would finally put an end to the “how” of the death of Oromoni junior. And it is also expected that there will be no sacred cow when the truth is finally revealed.

But wherever the pendulum swings, the bottom line is that a life has been lost. The parents of the dead young boy will for life bear the pain and anguish.

The question is: Could the death of the young man have been averted? What immediate step did the school take? If the school’s early intervention did not yield fruit, what immediate step did the parents take?

It is instructive to note that the school has two resident nurses and a medical doctor. What were the findings of these medical personnel before the boy was taken away?

The video of Oromoni

The video of young Oromoni writhing in pain is, to say the least harrowing. It is unthinkable how a parent could bear the pain of seeing their son in such agony. It is still not clear if the parents took him to the hospital immediately after they came to pick him from school.

The video shows the boy in a room. No medical personnel was with him. There was no indication that he was getting any medication. What we hear is the voice of the boy groaning. His parents on the other hand were around him bemoaning his condition.

What parent would watch his child in pain without going into panic and asking for help? Did the parents of the young man know he was going to die? Who had the liver to record the incident? There is hardly anybody that would watch the video that will not feel a sense of horror.

If the school’s sickbay requested that they take him for further investigation to ascertain the root of his pain. What did the investigation show?

The medical perspective

But then, some have wondered why the parents traveled to Warri with a dying young boy when there are hospitals in Lagos that could have attended to him. Were the parents averse to the hospital?

The case of the late Oromoni brings to memory the baby in 2019 whose parents refused a blood transfusion because they belong to the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

The case was decided by the Supreme Court in Esabunor v Faweya (2019) LPELR-46961 (SC), where a mother refused blood transfusion on her one-month-old anemic child in 1997 because of her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness.

The doctor rejected the mother’s objection and transfused the baby by obtaining a court order to that effect according to reports.

The woman went to court up to the apex court, where the court still held that the doctor was right. The implication of the judgment is that parents of minors could not stop them from medical service because of their faith.

No matter the outcome of the corona inquest in Oromoni’s case, it will be important to look into the role the parents of the late young boy played when they took custody of the boy. Did they seek medical help, or resort to faith healing.? that will go a long way to sound a note to parents who take chances with the health of their wards.

Olu Adebayo wrote in from Lagos

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