Investigating conflicting narratives over allegation that Abuja teacher beat female student to coma with iron rod

… Parents, school, FCTA give conflicting accounts of incident

IN June, an online blog and a national newspaper reported how a teacher at the Government Science Girls Secondary School, Kuje, Abuja evaded arrest by the Police after allegedly beating a student into a coma with an iron rod. The ICIR’s Marcus FATUNMOLE and Theophilus ADEDOKUN investigated what transpired and presented their findings in this report. 


CHRISTABEL Mimi Henry was preparing for her next West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) paper on Friday, June 2, when one of her male teachers, David Yusuf, walked into the classroom she and her classmates used for prep.

The 16-year-old was boarding at the Government Science Girls Secondary School, Kuje, Abuja.

Yusuf entered the classroom at about 7:30 p.m. to charge his phone.

According to Christabel’s classmates interviewed by The ICIR, the teacher plugged his phone and left the class. 

The following day was the school’s visiting day. The students said they were singing ‘No hunger strike,’ which meant they would have much food and other gifts from their parents when they visited.

The noise attracted Yusuf, and he dashed to the class. He ordered everyone to kneel, including Christabel.

“He gave each of us a number and sent someone to bring a cane for him from outside. The person could not find a cane. He looked around and found one of the rods that broke from one of our iron chairs and used it to flog the first girl close to him.

“Christabel was sitting far from him; she sat close to a window. When Christabel saw our teacher using the rod to beat the student, she shouted, ‘Jesus!’

“It was the shout of Jesus that put Christabel in trouble, even though Mr Yusuf is a Christian,” one of the students told The ICIR reporters. She spoke on behalf of her colleagues in their class, pointing at a similar metal rod on a damaged chair used on the victim.

Government Girls Science Secondary School Kuje
Photo credit: Marcus Fatunmole/The ICIR

Her classmates claimed the teacher moved towards Christabel and hit her repeatedly with the rod, causing her to faint and have a cut on her hand. The hand bled, they added. 

The school rushed the girl to the Kuje General Hospital, where nurses and other workers on duty attended to her. The school also informed her parents of her condition that night.

Christabel’s father’s account and petition to Police Commissioner, others

Christabel’s father, Henry Terseer Iortim, reported the incident at the Kuje Police Station. He wanted Yusuf, who had worked in the school for 11 years, arrested and prosecuted.

The Police sent officers to the school to arrest the teacher, but the school principal, Sabina Agbuedu, shielded him, the father alleged.

Peeved by the Police’s inability to apprehend the teacher, Christabel’s father petitioned the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police.

In the petition, he claimed his daughter went into a coma and was revived by the Kuje General Hospital, where the school rushed her after her teacher ‘battered’ her ‘mercilessly’ with a rod.

He said the beating made her bleed profusely, adding that the teacher attempted to murder his daughter.

However, he wrote in the petition that the school principal told him his daughter provoked the teacher by slapping him.

He copied the National Human Rights Commission, Director-General, Department of State Services, Federal Ministry of Education, Minister of Women Affairs, the FCT Minister, and the Chairman of the Abuja-based human rights radio magazine programme, Brekete, with the petition.

Part of the petition reads, “Upon gaining consciousness, my daughter told me that Mr David Yusuf entered the class while they were reading during the evening preps. He made his way to a charging point and plugged his hair clipper. He suddenly turned and said a child talked about him, and others laughed. 

“He then ordered them to kneel down. He reached out for an iron rod and hit the first victim. Because my daughter exclaimed by shouting Jesus Christ, the teacher rushed and hit her with the rod severally, slapped and beat her mercilessly and pushed her. She fell, landing her head on a wooden chair, and she did not know any other thing that happened until she noticed she was in the hospital. Sir, this is an attempt by Mr David Yusuf to murder my daughter without any cogent reason deliberately.”

The Kuje General Hospital, Abuja. Photo: Marcus Fatunmole/The ICIR

No picture to support Iortim’s claims

Iortim did not provide any picture to support his claims.  Henry, a journalist, said he forgot to take photographs of his daughter at the hospital as his utmost priority at the period was his daughter’s safety.

He had withdrawn the girl from school but allowed her to come from home to continue her WASSCE examination, her school principal and classmates claimed. 

The ICIR requested the girl’s medical record; Iortim said the Kuje General Hospital refused to release it, allegedly on the order of the Federal Capital Territory Department of Science and Technical and Innovation, which supervises all science secondary schools in the nation’s capital. 

He claimed the hospital’s medical director, Osideko Olufemi, conspired with his daughter’s school and refused to release the record. The ICIR reports that Olufemi died a few days after Christabel was brought to the facility. He had been sick, workers at the hospital said.

Efforts by The ICIR reporters to see Christabel to enable her to tell her story failed. Her father refused to make her available but referred this reporter to the victim’s mother for further clarification.

This organisation reports that Iortim’s account of the incident tallies with what his wife said in a publication.

Father has no proof that his child was beaten – school principal

The ICIR reporters visited the school on Wednesday, June 21. It was another open day. Many students met were in a happy mood because they were able to see their parents or guardians. 

Addressing the reporters in her office, the school principal said Christabel’s father had no evidence to substantiate his claim that any teacher in the school beat her daughter.

She challenged Iortim to provide proof that the teacher beat Christabel as he claimed.

“How can your child be beaten into a coma as a journalist that you won’t have a picture to back your allegation? 

“Even if there is no wound, there will be swelling. If the place is healed, it will show a mark. There be must a scar.”

A section of the Government Science Secondary School Kuje Abuja. Photo: Marcus Fatunmole/The ICIR

She challenged the father to allow an independent check on the child by a competent authority to verify if his claims were genuine.

She said the father did not allow the school to conduct any investigation into the matter but chose to write to the Police Commissioner and other organisations “because he is a journalist.”

She alleged that the father gave a 2012 picture of another teacher and students in the school to a media house which reported the incident.

“One of the students in that picture is a teacher in this school today,” said the principal, adding, “What if the teacher in the picture goes ahead to sue him for libel?”

 Besides, she said she knew nothing about how the hospital denied Iortim access to his child’s medical report.

The ICIR reporters urged the principal to allow them to speak to the teacher who hit Christabel; she declined and repeatedly said the father had agreed to peacefully resolve the case. When questioned further, she ordered the reporters out of her office.

Meanwhile, the father told the reporters that the school must meet two conditions before he would let go of the case. First, the school must write his family an apology letter. Second, the school must foot his daughter’s medical bill. The principal said the school had paid the bill.

Iortim later changed his mind and told The ICIR on Sunday, June 25, that the Police must charge the teacher in court. 

Christabel insulted me, my directors in my office – FCT Education Chief

The Director of the Federal Capital Territory Department of Science and Technical and Innovation, Olobashola Kolawole, said: “Christabel slapped her teacher, which made the teacher beat her.” 

He argued that he established from the school principal that Christabel left her seat, rushed towards the teacher, and attempted to grab the rod he used to beat another student.

Petition by Christabel’s father to the Commissioner of Police. FCT Command, others

He, however, said the teacher’s action contravened the education law, which makes it an offence for a male teacher to give a female student corporal punishment – caning or flogging.

He said when invited with her parents to his office, Christabel abused him and his five directors before her parents.

“You people conspired against me. Yes, you are conspiring against me,” he quoted the girl to have shouted at his team.

Kolawole said the FCT administration did not condole indiscipline from teachers and students.

According to him, the first thing he did was to establish that there were no sexual advances from the teacher to the girl.

He said because the teacher flogged the girl (against education law), he recommended to the FCT Permanent Secretary that the teacher’s salary be stopped pending when an investigation into the incident would complete.

The Director requested Christabel’s medical record from the hospital and said he confirmed that the beating caused no marks or damage to her body.

One of the directors in Kolawole’s office, allegedly insulted by Christabel, was a former Commissioner for Education in Nasarawa State, Ramotu Abu. She heads the Department of Science and Technology at the organisation.

Abu wondered why Christabel’s father did not allow the FCT education authority to thoroughly probe the issue before taking it to the media.

“I’ve been a teacher for 21 years. We handle these children like our children. Christabel jumped from where she sat to hold the rod in the teacher’s hand and slapped him. That is rudeness.”

According to her, the punishment for slapping a teacher is expulsion. What kind of impression are you giving the rest of the students? When the issue came here, we just said she should continue to write her exam.”

Why we refuse to release Christabel’s medical record – Kuje Hospital

The picture of the Medical Director (Osideko Olufemi) sat on a table at the hospital’s entrance, flanked by about a dozen candles with glowing lights.

Olufemi died on Friday, June 16. 

His death brought gloom to many workers’ faces and patients who saw the picture of a doctor who could be less than 50 years!

The ICIR reporters sympathised with the workers in the MD’s office. They stated why they were at the facility – to ask why the hospital did not release Christabel’s medical record to her parents, given that she is a child at 16 and her parents have the right to such document.

The most senior official in the office, a man, said the hospital did not release it because “it is a Police case.”

The official declined to give his name and said only the Police could authorise the hospital to release the report. 

He said had Christabel’s father not involved the Police, he would have had access to the report.

The second page of the petition written by Christabel’s-father

Police react

An officer at the Kuje Police Station, Adewale Oluwaseun, who declined to give his rank, said the parties had settled the matter. 

He said the Iortim, the school principal and the Police met at the station on Tuesday, June 20, and resolved the matter through an ADR (alternative dispute resolution).

He promised to convince the girl’s father to let go of the incident.

“I will call him. If he has any challenges, he should tell me. We don’t want the girl to go into trauma. At her age, we don’t need to be exposing her. We should allow her to concentrate on her examination,” said the officer.

Experts reaction

A lawyer working with Tabitha Empowerment Centre, a non-governmental organisation working to combat violence against women and children, Gladys Emmanuel, shared her view on the case.

She argued that the lack of structures to checkmate the form of punishments meted out by teachers to students played a role in the incident. 

She added that the failure to exercise emotional intelligence, understand people relations, and keep personal problems aside in a professional environment could also be a factor.

“It’s unfortunate that we have incidents of this nature in our educational institutions. Students being assaulted by teachers is not alien to schools, as we have teachers and staff abusing powers bestowed upon them by their positions.”

Emmanuel urged authorities in the education sector to regulate the punishments teachers mete out on students.

She frowned at Chritabel’s principal for allegedly shielding the teacher from arrest.

“The claim as to whether or not the female student slapped the teacher is yet to be verified. But if it occurred, it is wrong as the law frowns at any assault.”

She added: “There are punishments. For the student, the school or educational board would have internal structures to tackle cases of students who have erred. For the teacher, he wouldn’t be subject to internal measures as he would most likely be charged under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP ) 2015, considering the series of events that led to the student going into a coma.”

Last page of the petition written by Christabel’s father

Founder and chief executive officer, Children’s Rights Advocate Foundation, Olayide Shonubi, said it was wrong for any student to slap a teacher if the allegation against Christabel was true.

“As a retired teacher, I don’t think a child has any right to slap a teacher. But the teacher should not have beaten her with an iron rod. 

“I’m sure he did that out of anger. He shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know the relationship between the teacher and the student that will make the student slap the teacher.”

She said the student had a right to slap the teacher if he proposed a romantic relationship to her.

She argued that while NGOs like hers fight for the rights of children, they do some things that conflict with societal values.






     

     

    “If parents don’t train these children at home, people will train them outside. It’s good to protect them, but we should not make them to be indisciplined. That is the problem we have today in Nigeria. 

    “We copy the West. When I travelled to the US, the youth on the bus would get up for me. In Nigeria, if I board BRT buses, the youth on the bus would not care whether I have a seat. When we want to copy the West, we copy the wrong things and will say they will not do that in America.”

    Shonubi emphasised that children have their rights, but they should not misuse them. 

    She said she would not support any child that slapped a teacher, except if the teacher wanted a relationship with her. She also stressed that the government would not support the child for slapping her teacher.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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