When flogging isn’t just enough

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Caning (Credit: The Conversation)
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By Ima Udott

After an interview which I thought I wasn’t worthy of being picked, I was given the job after all. My new job as a teacher in one of the best private schools in town was hectic, but I had to adjust to it because I signed up for it.

After the assembly, I was introduced by the school Principal to S.S.2 class as their new Literature teacher. They were all happy to see me, except for one student who didn’t smile nor clap as others did. She gave me a look I couldn’t comprehend and went back to fiddling with her pen.

After the Principal left the class, I began my first lecture with them. I asked of their names and got to know that the name of the girl who refused to welcome me was Priscilla.

I also noticed that no matter how I tried to be humorous, Priscilla refused to laugh or be involved in the class activities. She sat alone and obviously had no friend.

What got me really angry with her was that she didn’t do my assignments and when I gave a class work, she either had the least or failed everything. I concluded she wasn’t intelligent.

Priscilla was fond of sleeping in the class. She didn’t talk nor mingle with anyone. During break time, while others rushed out to buy snacks or play, she’d be inside the class, sleeping on her desk.

I developed hatred for her because I disdained dull students. I started flogging her each time she failed the class works I gave them or refused doing her homeworks. But, it didn’t change anything. She was indifferent.

Another thing I noticed about her was her lateness to go home after school. Many times, I had met her asleep in an empty class room, after school. With my cane, I had to wake her up and order her to leave the school premises.

One afternoon, after school was over, the Principal had a meeting with the teachers. We finished the meeting in the evening. I didn’t know why, but I decided to check the S.S.2 classroom before leaving.

I was shocked to see Priscilla resting her head on her desk. I quickly checked my time, it was 4:32pm and school was over since 2:00pm. I marched into the class angrily and was about to whip her with my cane, but then, another idea came to my mind and I decided for the first time to ask her why she was doing all what she did.

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I tapped her on her shoulder and she raised her head up quickly. I realized that she was seriously sobbing. Her eyes were red with tears and her body temperature was high.
She wanted to lower her face down again, but I begged her not to. I brought out my hand towel and began to mop her face. She looked pale and lonely.

I sat beside her and made her rest her head on my shoulder. I assured her that I’d be her friend and would help her if she opened up to me.

She sobbed the more, causing tears to gather in my eyes as well. After much pleas, she began to talk.

“I have been in this school for five years now. I used to be very intelligent in my J.S.S.1 to J.S.S.3 and I never took anything less than first position before. But when I entered S.S.1, things changed. I started deteriorating academically, yet, no teacher cared to know what was wrong with me or why the sudden change.

All they do is flog me when I don’t do my assignments, punish me when I fail my classworks and call me names when I sleep in class, forgetting that there were times I used to be their favorite student. There were times I never slept for once in the class. There were times my assignments and classworks were the best and there were times I was always nominated to represent the entire school in outstanding competitions and always returned as the winner.

But now, none of them care to know why I dropped drastically. They were so fast to choose another representative since I am no longer intelligent. They’ve never cared to ask me why,” Priscilla said, still crying.

“I’m so sorry Priscilla. I should have asked you, but I concluded that you’re one of the dull students and started flogging you without caring to know what you’ve been passing through. Please forgive me,” I said.

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She looked at me for a while, then put her face down and said

“I should have been in the hospital this evening to abort my father’s third child, but I can’t go, because I feel I won’t survive this one. My mother died while I was writing my J.S.S.3 examinations. After her burial, my father started sleeping with me. He threatened to kill me if I opened up to anyone.

I got pregnant the very first time he slept with me and he made me abort it. This automatically affected my academics because I lose interest in reading. I went through pains but pretended to be fine.

When I entered S.S.1, he got me pregnant again. He made me abort the pregnancy and I almost died in the process. My father did not care, he kept sleeping with me. I became very reserved and lose interest in everything because I was dying within me. I needed to talk to someone, but I was too scared. I became scared of going back home, after school because of my father, but no teacher cared to understand, they always shout at me to leave the school premises.

I missed my period last week and I told him about it. He got me a test strip which showed that I was pregnant again. He told me that after school today, he’d be taking me to the usual place for abortion, that is why I am here. I am only telling you because you promised to be my friend and help me, so, I need your help. I don’t want to die,” She concluded, still sobbing.

I was short of words. I then realized that it was God who made me get this job, even though I didn’t merit it, so that I could help the girl and expose her father.

I took her to my apartment, gave her food and drugs to take so that her temperature could return to normality. Then, without wasting time, I took her to a police station and she told the DPO everything she told me.

Without delay, her father was brought to the police station. He happened to be a prominent man in the society. As expected, he denied the accusation, but after enough drilling, he admitted everything his daughter said and added that it was the devil who pushed him to do it.

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Though he was arrested and given a befitting punishment, but Priscilla died in the process of giving birth to her father’s child. The baby died as well. This was because, even though I took care of her the best way I could, she was emotionally drained. The thought of having her father’s child made her have complications during the labour and sadly, she couldn’t make it.

If there was a teacher whom she could confide in, the first time her father started sleeping with her, the situation wouldn’t have been that complicated, perhaps, she would have been saved. But no one cared to know what was going on with her till it became too late.

This is to every teacher out there, your duty isn’t just to teach, but to develop a good relationship between you and your students. Sometimes, flogging them isn’t just the best option. Try talking to them and making them trust you so that they can open up to you. Some children are going through hell.

Observe your students and be their friend, by doing so, you can save a child from an ugly situation. Not just in school, but anywhere you find yourself, try and make friends with children. It’s not everytime that cane can correct, sometimes, your good relationship with them can correct a lot of wrongs that cane cannot correct.

Please, don’t hesitate to open up if you are made to go through an incestuous relationship or any kind of sexual abuse. You have a bright future and shouldn’t let anyone to kill your dreams. Speak up and live, rather than dying in silence.

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