Keren-Happuch’s death: The unasked questions

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By Alfred Okedara

Let me first of all commiserate with the grieving parents and family of late Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher, the 14-year-old SS1 student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, who died on June 22.

I also share in the grief of  her classmates, fellow students, owners, management and staff of the school, who are also mourning her demise. May God give them comfort and fortitude to bear the loss.

Keren’s mysterious death on 22 June, 2021 has generated some tension and controversy. Not because she died as a teenager, but for the unclear circumstances that surrounded her unfortunate death. Her death is one puzzle that Nigerians are interested in how it is solved. With no clear answer as to who could have been responsible for her demise yet, the blame is now being tossed between Premiere Academy, the family and the health facility where she eventually died.

Her mother, Mrs. Vlhimga Vivien Akpagher, had alleged that Keren-Happuch, who was diabetic, died of infection and sepsis caused by a condom, allegedly left inside her private part by an unknown person(s), while in the care of the school.

She had said that the condom was discovered by doctors at Queen’s Hospital, a private health facility in Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, where Keren was hospitalised when she took ill. Further, Mrs. Akpagher  alleged that her daughter might have been sexually molested in the school. She died at Queen’s Hospital after going into a coma.

Some commentators however, disagreed with the claims by the Akpagher family. Some have said that condom is a latex material that is not likely to decay, contrary to the claim by the family. Secondly, if the condom had stuck in her private part for days, the sperm cells which the medical examination by Queen’s Hospital, Wuse, allegedly revealed, should not have been found in her urine. This opinion is not sacrosanct, as only medical experts and a scientific investigation can confirm or dispute this assertion. 

Keren-Happuch’s demise is indeed one knotty issue that the Nigerian Police has commenced investigations on. Some officials of the school have been interrogated based on Mrs. Akpagher’s allegation of sexual molestation. The school management has equally assured of its commitment to continue to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies to ensure thorough investigations and the unravelling of the cause of the teenager’s death.

An autopsy to determine the real cause of death was initially scheduled for Saturday, July 3, but it has yet to be held.

As the controversy rages on amidst the police investigations, it is important at this juncture to draw attention to some pertinent questions that may be helpful to the law enforcement agencies in their efforts to get to the root of the matter.

The first question is, was Keren-Happuch sexually molested  in the school as alleged by her family? If she was, who could have done it? Could it have been a teacher, or a non-teaching staff member who possibly had access to where Karen was at the time of the molestation? 

Could it be a fellow male student? If the culprit was a male student, what could have been the relationship between Keren and the male student? The world will be interested in unravelling this puzzle. 

Another question to ask is, did Keren ever discuss with her friends and confidants within her circle of friends if she was in a relationship with any male friend?

The school is supposed to be a safe abode and a second home to students; could it be that Keren sneaked out of school at a particular time, and she was possibly sexually molested? 

One key issue that has left the public disturbed is the likelihood of how sexual assault or acitivity will go unoticed in a school with over 52 CCTV points and good monitoring system and protocol in place. I strongly doubt if such an act can ever happen under the watch of the school. 

Furthermore, the use of a condom further confuses the situation. It is improbable that a stranger would have sexually assaulted Keren using a condom.  Is there a  probability that the sexual offender is a familiar face to her? Or, is the offender seen by Keren as too powerful to report to her mother, a trusted friend and school authorities? Or, is the person someone she has affection for?

These and many more posers are critical areas that the Nigerian Police and any other law enforcement agency that are tasked with the duty of getting under the skin of this matter, should beam their searchlight. Possibly they could provide the lead necessary to break the ice as per the investigations into the unfortunate death of citizen Keren. 

Providing answers to these salient questions is indeed, expedient – to preserve the integrity of the nation’s education system, especially in the private sector where similar cases have been recorded, restore confidence in the boarding school system, and most importantly, to ensure Keren-Happuch gets justice. 

Okedara, a social worker, writes from Lagos.

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