By Chinelo Nwangene
The controversy trailing the alleged maltreatment of 11-year-old boy at the Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state raises fresh concern over the abuse of students in some boarding schools owned by religious organizations.
Outrage greeted the recent viral video shared by Mrs Deborah Okezie, exposing the alleged abuse her son, David suffered at the hands of fellow students and management of the school owned by the Deeper Christian Life Ministry which left him emaciated and highly traumatized on his return.
The embattled mother had claimed in a series of video clips posted on the social media that her son was starved as well as sodomised by some senior students of the school.
According to Mrs Okezie, her son was starved because he was owing meal fee and was evicted from junior pupils’ hostel to senior students’ hostel by the principal, Mr Solomon Ndidi for bed-wetting. She also alleged that the senior students molested the boy by pushing their hands and legs into his anus and threatening to kill him if he reported to the principal or his mother. Mrs Okezie said the principal, who promised to return the boy to his original hostel after she complained, failed to do so even as the boy’s ordeal worsened.
The woman disclosed that she was forced to make the video and blow whistle on the incident after being removed from the school parents WhatsApp group for raising the issue there.
The viral video generated mixed reactions on social media with many expressing outrage over the abuse and calling for probe and for justice. Mercy @faittymercy, called for widespread investigation into Deeper Life High Schools to expose and tackle the rots in the system. “Deeper Life High School should be looked into generally. They treat students badly, treat staff worse. I have a brother working in the school and all they do is frustrate teachers. A church school for that matter,” she wrote.
Oluwafunmilayo shared similar experience. She wrote @Funmi_kolz: “My cousin was taken to this same school but after his first year, the parents withdrew him. He was looking like a piece of shit. More like the school was having a negative impact on his life and he was always being bullied too. I just hope this boy gets justice for all these.”
Uncle Salami @Sunnycent also wrote that the 11-year-old boy’s abuse was not an isolated case, hence the need for thorough probe. “It happened in one of its high school campuses. Other students from other campuses said they had a completely different experience. However, that Uyo branch needs to be THOROUGHLY investigated and whoever is guilty should be brought to book. We can’t keep normalizing suffering.”
Nonso Odogwu expressed disgust over the abuse, calling for justice. “Look at how good he looked in the ‘before’ photo. The name is not an assurance that everything goes well there. Everyone involved in this mess should be suspended and arrested at least,” he said.
Following the widespread call for justice, the school slammed suspension on the principal, Mr. Solomon Ndidi, over his role in the scandal. The school management explained in a statement on Monday that the suspension was to pave way for investigation into the case.
“We want to assure the general public that investigations into the case have commenced and no culprits, whether staff or students, will be spared if found culpable at the end of the exercise. As an interim measure and to underscore the seriousness we attach to higher superintending values, the school principal has been suspended summarily even as further investigations continue,” the school said in the statement.
The Akwa Ibom State Government had earlier on Sunday directed the Commissioner for Education “to immediately investigate the complaints and take necessary action”.
Even as the school management and government waded into the crisis, some social commentators had warned parents against blind trust in Christian boarding schools. Chinobi Chris, one of those who claimed that government-owned schools fare better nowadays in terms of moral upbringing of school children, wrote: “I went to a boarding school though it was a federal school. I have friends that attended church-owned schools. And I will tell everybody this. If you must send your child to a boarding school send them to a government-owned one. Not because it’s safe but because there’s nothing like religious backing to evil and inhumane behaviors. Religious schools are very toxic to the health of young children especially those schools designated for only one sex”.