A life snuffed in its infancy

A life snuffed in its infancy

MASERU – LEETO Lemena stands before the tiny coffin of his three-year-old great grandson, sighing and so choked that words fail him.
“God gave and God has taken away,” Lemena says, quoting from the Book of Job in the Bible.
In the coffin lies his great grandson, whose death has sparked bitter debate in Maseru, with hundreds of people on social media accusing the school he attended for being responsible for his death.
Gray-haired Lemena, an old man who naturally expects his grandchildren to stand beside his coffin instead of him reading their epitaphs, cannot hold his tears for long.
The old man breaks down, and his granddaughter, the child’s mother who is sitting in a nearby tent, weeps.
There are a few sighs among the scores of mourners.

Many have come a long way from Maseru to Roma to bury little Bohlokoa Qhobosheane.
The three-year-old died a day after he allegedly fell from a desk at Tiny Tots Pre-School in Maseru West on his sixth day at the school.
The incident has caught so much attention that an online petition has been trending.

When thepost visited the family on Monday, after the funeral, officials from the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD) department were at the house on a fact-finding mission.
The ECCD had earlier visited the pre-school on a similar mission after the child’s death went viral on social media.
’Mabohlokoa Qhobosheane, the boy’s mother, says she received a call from the school on January 14 requesting her to rush to the school because her son had fallen and looked hurt.
She drove to the school, at the same time calling her husband to inform him of the news.

The husband, Nkeeane Qhobosheane, could not make it to the school because he was still at work.
When she arrived at the school she was immediately met by a teacher who came carrying the child handing him and started explaining what had happened to Bohlokoa.
The first thing that ’Mabohlokoa noticed was a swollen forehead and traces of blood on the lips and in the nose of her child.
“I was more surprised at the many bruises on his head because it couldn’t have been that he fell once and had so many bruises,” she says.
The teacher explained to her that Bohlokoa fell from a desk and bit his lips.

Qhobosheane says she rushed the boy to the Naleli Clinic at Metcash, along Kingsway Road in Maseru, just less than three kilometres from the school.
A doctor attended to the boy, gave some medication and referred them to Maseru Private Hospital for a scan.
At the Maseru Private Hospital, they were told that the scan was not working and were advised to return the following day.
After the scan the following day, the boy was looking “much better when I left them for work and I was certain that he was healing,” according to the father Nkeeane Qhobosheane, with teary eyes.
But within a short time they noticed that Bohlokoa had started breathing hard and Nkeeane was asked to bring water.
“When I arrived with the bottle of water, he had started foaming in the mouth and I could see he was having difficulties breathing,” the bereaved father says.
They rushed back to Maseru Private where doctors quickly attended to him and later a doctor brought them bad news.
“They told us that our child had died,” Nkeeane says.
“,” he says.

The family says the school explained that Bohlokoa was standing on the table and was already on the edge when a teacher approached him and he fell.
“She told us that Bohlokoa fell before she could reach him,” Nkeeane says.
However, in an earlier explanation, the school had allegedly told ’Mabohlokoa that her child was lying on the table when he fell.
Later the school told the family that there was an allergy outbreak at the school and they suspected that Bohlokoa had been affected.
“When they called me to get Bohlokoa they asked if Bohlokoa was allergic to anything and I told them I did not know of any,” ’Mabohlokoa says.
Another explanation allegedly from the school was that Bohlokoa had autism.

“I asked them to bring the doctor who had evaluated my child and given a diagnosis that he was autistic because I had never received news from our doctor that he was autistic,” Nkeeane says.
“I know he was slow in speech, which I had communicated with the school when I enrolled him,” he says.
The family says the school was unable to explain why the child had multiple bumps on the head and bruises on his back.
“We were also told that the scratches on the face could have been caused by other students because they sometimes accidentally scratch each other. Their explanations were all over the place,” ’Mabohlokoa says.
“I could have seen the bruises because I am the one who bathes him every day.”

The school did not even attend the funeral last Saturday despite receiving official communication from the family and promising to attend, the boy’s father said.
The funeral director called the school to offer condolences but no one from the school came to the podium.
“They said they wanted to be around during the autopsy and we didn’t deny at first,” one family member tells thepost.

Two representatives from the school went to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital for the autopsy but the family sent them away after overhearing them “discussing the accident and sharing their thoughts on the issue”.
The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was internal bleeding to the brain because of the skull being in contact with a hard surface or a hard object hitting the head.
“We asked about other bruises on the body but we were told that what was being investigated was the cause of death, not other bruises on the body,” a family member says.
’Mabohlokoa blames the school for not rushing the boy to hospital immediately after the alleged accident instead of waiting for her to come and pick him.
She says this is inherent in a contract signed with the school.

“We are not accusing anyone of anything. All we want to know is the truth of what led to Bohlokoa’s death,” she says.
“We want to know what happened so that we heal. We won’t stop until we have the whole truth.”
The family has reported the case to the police, who have started investigations.

Many parents who spoke on condition that they were not named blamed the school authorities for the child’s death.
One parent said parents protested last November after a child was beaten up.
“It is very wrong. There are so many ways to discipline a child. We pay a lot of money as parents and we do not expect this kind of behaviour,” she says.
Another parent said the teacher should be suspended pending investigations.

She says after the Bohlokoa incident “every day I have to check whether (my boy) has no bruises because he is still a toddler, he doesn’t know how to speak”.
A group of women have applied for a permit to protest against the school next Friday.
The school principal declined to comment.

The Ministry of Education’s Principal Secretary for Basic Education, Dr. Neo Liphoto, says the school claimed that “the child was rolling on the table and he almost fell”.
He says the teacher “stopped him from falling”.
“By the time the child was stopped, the teacher realised a wound on his mouth and a bruise on his head that looked like he hit something,” Dr. Liphoto says.
“As a ministry we cannot say a child was beaten because the clarification from the school says otherwise. We are still looking into the allegations,” Dr. Liphoto says.
Added Dr. Liphoto: “We are so much interested to take drastic measures as this is a registered school. We have opened our eyes and ears carefully so as to find out what really transpired other than what the school said,” he says.

He confirms that there is a report about one of the teachers who beat up children.
“We were working on the issues but in the process we learnt that the teacher resigned. We are still looking for him so that he will pay for what he did.”

Rose Moremoholo & ‘Mapule Motsopa

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