The management of a private secondary school in Akwa Ibom State has responded to an allegation of child abuse made against one of its staff.

A Facebook user, Celestine Mel took to the platform to share photos of the student identified simply as Udeme, alleging that she was beaten ruthlessly by a staff of the school, King Solomon Secondary School in Uyo.

Mel revealed that the SS3 student is his relation’s daughter and alleged that she got beaten because her “school uniform was too short and goes against the Bible“.

He wrote,

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 ……

#TooMuchIsTooMuch

#JusticeForUdeme

In response to the claim, the school stated that Mel’s account is an exaggeration of what happened. They confirmed that the incident centered on the student wearing “short school uniform“, but accused the student of “rebuffing and muttering offensive words to the staff“.

Their statement read;

“On Monday, January 10, 2022, the resumption day of (the) second term for the 2021/22 session, a female student in SS3 was spotted coming to school with (an) inappropriate dress, a skirt with (an) edge above the knees.

“One of our staff, Mrs Ndifreke Etim, who is a member of the Management Board, accosted her on grounds of the wrong dressing, but the said girl rebuffed, muttering offensive words to the staff, a behaviour that prompted the use of cane on her,” Ubong Akpan said in a statement on Tuesday.”

The school revealed that the girl’s parents were not pleased with the incident, but that its management were already on the matter before it was “overblown and taken to social media”.

The statement added,

“While it is obvious that the version of the story circulated by Mr Mel is an exaggeration of the true state of things, we acknowledge the established grievances of (the) girl’s parents who have remained reliable stakeholders in our school and have taken steps to resolve the issue amicably.

“It should also be known that our school has never condoned child abuse of any kind, or harbour abusers. Our staff are well cultured and our students are bred in line with accepted standards of school administration. The staff in question is one of our best and does not deserve the unpleasant tags on her personality.”

Responding to the claim made by the school, Mel wrote,

RE: THE SORDID COLD-BLOODED ABUSE OF THE GIRL-CHILD IN KING-SOLOMON SECONDARY SCHOOL UYO, AKWA IBOM

Ordinarily, I would not have continued to join issues with the owners, Management and Staff of King Solomon Secondary School – Uyo, over the now-viral case of child torture, abuse and molestation which I painstakingly reported two days ago, and which is attracting the attention of relevant law-enforcement agencies.

I have however been forced out of that self-imposed hiatus to issue this statement, by the hurriedly cobbled self-indicting Press Release, issued by the school today, 12th January 2022, signed by one Obong Ubong Akpan who claims to be the Principal of the school wherein, my name was copiously mentioned.

I have taken time to parse the release and I make bold to state as follows:

1. I do not know the proprietor, staff or owners of King Solomon International School. Not the least Mrs. Ndifreke Etim and so, I have nothing personally, against them.

2. The story of the abuse of girl-child Udeme which I broke, has just been validated by the school as true, by the confessions contained in the said press statement.

3. Specifically, paragraph two of the press statement, reproduced as follows, says it all:

“On Monday, January 10, 2022, the resumption day of second term for the 2021/22 session, a female student in SS3 was spotted coming to school with inappropriate dress, a skirt with edge above the knees. One of our staff, Mrs Ndifreke Etim who is a member of the Management Board accosted her on grounds of the wrong dressing, but the said girl rebuffed, muttering offensive words to the staff; a behavior that prompted the use of cane on her.”

4. The use of cane on her for getting to school with mini-skirt and muttering offensive words against a Management Board member is exactly the unarguable validation of the truth, regarding the culture of coldblooded callous child-abuse, laceration, torture, injury, etc., which the school and her Management have normalized.

5. Their obstinate refusal to understand that the brutality visited on citizen Udeme by them, is against the laws of the land and runs contrary to the UN convention on the rights and protection of the child, Nigeria’s Child Rights Act (CRA) and other laws enacted to protect children from bullying, torture, battery, cruelty and abuse speaks volume about the sort of horror under which children exist in the school and in their minds.

6. More specifically, I wish to remind King Solomon Schools to find time to study the statutes, vis-à-vis their responsibility to the children whom they are paid and licensed to teach. The following clauses in the Child Rights Act (2003) readily come to mind:

NIGERIAN CHILD RIGHTS ACT SECTION 11.

Every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be:

(a) subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse;

(b) subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

(c) subjected to attacks upon his honor or reputation;

NIGERIAN CHILD RIGHTS ACT SECTION 221. Restriction on punishment

(1) No child shall be ordered to be

(a) imprisoned; or

(b) subjected to corporal punishment or

(c) subjected to the death penalty or, have the death penalty recorded against him.

7. By trying to turn the story against me as one Celestine Mel and exonerating the assailant/child abuser – Mrs Ndifreke from blame, whom the statement venerates as one of our best and does not deserve the unpleasant tags on her personality I dare say, King Solomon is still living in the fading illusion that the school and her promoters are above the law and would continue to promote their culture of violence based on so-called high moral standard with zero tolerance for indiscipline without regrets.

8. The physical torture of citizen Udeme, no matter her offense, whom they admittedly and wickedly bruised and scarred, has done more damage to the already dented image of the school than I could possibly do.

9. It is not true that the school took any steps to reach out to the parents of the victim to assuage the hurt and trauma that they visited on their child until I broke the story. Indeed, they started running from pillar to post after it became obvious yesterday that my expose would turn the worlds attention to their reprehensible (and unlawful) modus operandi. They have sent several emissaries to me to pull down the story so as to protect the investment that the late proprietor made in school. I have all the conversations recorded in the clouds and would publish them at the appropriate time if the need arises.

10. What I have nor heart is what they would do to re-orientated their abusive board members on modern child care techniques and penance for the callous brutality on citizen Udeme.

10. The public should note that I reached out to the school on the night of 10th January 2022 (12 hours after the incident) to hear their side of the story for balance, but Mrs. Ndifreke roundly and arrogantly rejected the opportunity and chose rather to threaten me with court action if I dared publish this damming expose. I published this story after I was convinced that they broke the law and were cruel.

11. This entire issue means so much to me (a proud father of tender kids myself and the son of a teacher who was a strict disciplinarian himself) and I would never stand anyone who brutalizes my child the way Mrs. Ndifreke did, no matter the provocation. Torture is not discipline. Hurt is not morality.

Finally, I undertook this project with the intention to spark frank conversation about these accepted abusive practices, to draw global attention to the scourge of child abuse in our environment and to let people know that we have left the barbarian age long ago. Torture and molestation that still exist in our school system is not only injurious to the child, but breeds further violence which metastasizes to create the violent society we all live in today. More so, it is a crime. It is unthinkable that a licensed school would admit publicly (in this century) that it used cane on a 16-year old because she wore skirts above her knees and muttered abusive words to a management staff to the extent of lacerating her body; and is gutsy enough to claim that the public should disregard any publication seeking to discredit our school as it is our continued vision to raise responsible individuals in the society, give value to education system as well as relentlessly advocate for the right of every child. Everyone concerned with this dastardly act must be punished to serve as deterrent to other schools, who make violence against children their go-to pastime. We shall get to the bottom of this.

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