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BY: Celestine Mel
When a relation of mine forwarded disturbing images, regarding the bestial brutality visited on her daughter, who is an SS3 student of King Solomon Secondary School, a privately owned co-educational institution in Uyo – Akwa Ibom by Mrs. Ndifreke Etim Asuquo, the daughter of the proprietress, who also doubles as the school’s admissions officer to me today, I was initially hesitant to believe my eyes. The gravity and beastliness of the sight scared daylight out of me. It was a Monday morning, and I was busy at work. I needed to focus on my to-do list and the many Monday meetings. So, I let it be.
Try as I could, my mind did not depart from those scorching pictures. I kept prancing between Microsoft Projects Office Suit, (which is my primary work tool), and the WhatsApp webpage which I used to archive the ghoulish pictures. Each visit to WhatsApp haunted me like a bad dream. I started hating myself and my environment. I was feeling tormented, raped and brutalized. I scoffed at the lack of empathy and grace, that could have provoke such violence by whomsoever, on my friend – Udeme. Some of unsightly videos are too graphic to share. Whodunnit?
Upon returning home this night, I demanded for and got the phone number of the beastly child-abuser. A woman for real? I was filled with more rage; too bitter to ring her up, to ask why she defiled this little angel so cruelly. As the adrenaline rushed down my veins, I summoned the courage to dial her. I needed to hear her side of the story. To be fair to her. And my conscience. I needed to convince myself that it was a dream.
At the second ring, she answered. The following dialogue ensured:
“Hello, my name is Celestine Mel, calling from the FCT. I’m I speaking to Madam Ndifreke of King Solomon School – Ewet Housing Estate Uyo?” I asked.
“Yes, this is Ndifreke”. She answered.
“Dear madam Ndi, I got this disturbing information regarding an incident in your school today, 10th January 2022, wherein you have been accused of beating your student – Udeme and causing serious bodily injury to her. I want to hear your own side of the story. What happened?” I asked.
“I cannot speak on the matter. I will sue you for intruding into my privacy. I am a mother, a wife and a woman. I did not act alone. I acted on behalf of the school. The school would respond officially. Bla..bla..bla.” Ndifreke answered. Then the phone went blank. I continued to hear crackling noises at the other end…. Then I hanged up.
From her tone, it was very easy to deduce that I just spoke to a wickedly cruel monstrous and unapologetically merciless child bully. I could not imagine myself caught up in this sort of story, akin to the recent shenanigans in Dowen College-Lagos. Or the Deeper Life High School Uyo. I needed to get to the root of this. I called up my relations and asked them if they would wish to tell this story to the world. They consented and sat down with me to bare it all…
Ndifreke accosted Udeme this morning at school, accusing her of violating the school’s dress code. The charge was that her school uniform was too short, and goes against the Bible, which (according to Ndifreke) forms the moral pillar of the school. She wanted to strip the child down. She does it to other students. The child tried to run away. Ndifreke descended on her, using every weapon within her reach: cane, stick, planks, etc. From the head to her back, shoulder, thighs, legs, etc. There were bumps, blood and bruises. She looked like a lucky survivor, out from a bombed-out rubble in a war zone. The head bulged out. The eyes blood-shot. He skin peeled here and there, lacerated and bleeding. She left the school by foot and in pains, and walked home by foot, several kilometers away. Alone. With no mercy. Or money. Or pity.
The mother who dropped her off only a few minutes earlier, could not understand the turn of events. She literally ran mad. My child? Who? How? Why? Questions. More questions. No answer….
I am told that King Solomon Secondary is a notorious haven for child abuse. I am told that stories abound in the schools’ WhatsApp group of similar outrageous incidents, wrought on female students by the belligerent Mrs. Ndifreke, who operates above and beyond the law, and whose conduct goes unchallenged. I could visualize her cold-heartedness from my little phone encounter with her this night. She was neither remorseful nor contrite. She sounded bellicose and haughty. She must have gulped from the forbidden jar of intoxicating raw naked power, luxuriating with the self-assurance that the authorities which should regulate the conduct of schools, are too impotent and too lethargic to act. She loathes the idea that she broke the Child’s Right Act by physically harming a child that was left under her paid-care, on the first day at school. After the Christmas break – the symbolism of love itself.
I will let the pictures and videos that follow, do the rest of the talking. I know that the parents of Udeme, reported the abuse to Ewet Housing Police Station, which issued an extract for medical assistance to the victim. I am adding my voice to condemn this unconscionable act of disproportionate violence by yet another school, on the body and flesh of the girl child. I call on the authorities, especially the government of Akwa Ibom State to swing into action, arrest and prosecute all those involved in this crime and take every action necessary, towards saving our schools from continuing to serve as slaughterhouses for our children.
I know I have supported the use of strong disciplinary methods in schools in the past, to help mold the character of the child. But I never supported any form of bodily injury or breaking of the law to harm somebody’s and anybody’s child in the name of discipline. It happened to my own very dear and precious friend, Udeme, as she spends this night in the hospital. Today ……
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