writes about a 10-year-old pupil who was allegedly starved of food for
three days as punishment by the owner of a Lagos-based private school
for reportedly cheating in a class test.
she bargained for when she resumed in a new private school two terms
ago. A bright new chapter was supposed to have been opened in her life;
meeting new friends and learning in a new environment conducive to
The 10-year-old orphan never expected to go through an ordeal that may
leave her scarred for a long time in her growing up years.
four) pupil was ordered by the proprietress of Daniella Montessori
School, Mrs. Chichi Ishoka, to stay back after the normal school period.
cheated during a French class work/test. And staying with the
proprietress was supposed to be the punishment to ‘teach her a lesson.’
Elizabeth Sanda, the 10-year-old was allowed to be disciplined by Ishoka
because they felt she would help to mould the girl’s character.
mother that Ezumezu was in safe hands with a fellow woman like her and
also one she regarded as a family friend.
because during her forced stay with the owner of the school, Ezumezu
said she was starved for three consecutive days – between Wednesday and
Friday – two weeks ago, and subjected to severe punishment.
more than three days if not for the intervention of a concerned person,
who informed the girl’s guardian about her sorry condition before she
was returned home.
‘‘They said I copied the work from my textbook. When she (proprietress)
said I was not going home because of that, I thought she was joking.
She kept me in her house and said I should not eat. I kept my load in
the room, and sometimes I slept on the corridor. I stayed there for
about two weeks. But on some particular days, I went hungry because I
was not given any food.
locked me in a room and said I should read my books. But I was hungry
and I was looking for something to eat. That was when I saw a box
containing biscuits. I opened it and ate one of the biscuits. Later in
the night, she asked who took it and I said I was the one. She then said
I should go on a dry fasting and that I would not drink water.
bath, they should tell someone to look after me, so that I would not
drink water from the tap while bathing and the person should report me
to her if I did. After bathing, I went back to the corridor and did some
house chores till we were ready for school.
I stole a sausage roll. When they asked me who took it, I couldn’t say I
was the one because I was scared of what she (proprietress) would do to
me. That was when she took me to the backyard and pulled off my clothe
and punished me,” she added.
filled it with water, then turned me upside down and put my head inside
the bucket of water. She did that three or four times until I said I was
the one who stole the snack. One teacher saw her from the first floor
of the school and cautioned her. She asked her to stop torturing me.
Then, she ordered me to sit down. I didn’t eat from Wednesday to Friday
until I was brought back home,” she added.
school, on Wednesday, in the Abule Egba area of Lagos State, Ishoka
denied starving the pupil for days or ordering her torture.
was only kept in a special boarding facility in the school, like other
pupils during her stay there.
boarding facility, which has up to five pupils. We place boys and girls
in separate places to correct erring children and help them improve on
their academics. I never starved her. I fed her well and never ordered
that she should be punished.
called her from the school and informed her of the condition Ezumezu was
subjected to in the school.
shed tears when I saw Mary that Friday when I got back home. I never
expected that Mrs. Ishoka would do such to her. We were told she cheated
in school during a French test, but the little girl only had the
textbook on her desk. What does a little girl know about cheating? I
also heard that she operated a boarding school and she had also done the
same (keeping pupil back in school) to another pupil who couldn’t write
well, but that pupil only stayed with her for one day before the pupil
was allowed to go home.
first three days and was allowed to see her. But after then, each time
we went to visit, we were not allowed to see her. They claimed that we
would be distracting her from her school work. My son’s children also
attend the school; she is like one of our own children.’’
when Ishoka insisted on visiting the home of the Sandas to confront
them on the girl’s allegation against her.
visited the school for the second time, the personal assistant to Ishoka
denied ever forcing Ezumezu’s head into a bucket filled with water.
not to go ahead with the story. She said she may not have fed Ezumezu
with enough food as she was used to during those days, but didn’t
temper, the only thing I did to the pupil was pour water on her face. I
did not force her head into a bucket of water.”
Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection, Betty Abah,
said she was shocked that in the name of punishment, a 10-year old girl
was enslaved and kept in dehumanisating conditions.
character like Ishoka would be allowed to run a school of young,
impressionable minds in this age, with the allegations of cruelty and
sheer dehumanisation of the pupil under her. They made her sleep outside
with no bed or bedspread, starved her and ask her to be punished in the
worst form, obviously taking advantage of her vulnerable condition of
not having her mother around her.
in this way? How many more could have been permanently scarred either
physically or psychologically? The brazen wickedness and impunity is
simply mind-boggling. She was meant to ensure they are taught, not
tortured, for whatever reason. This is not even corporal punishment.’’
ensure that justice was served in the case, adding, “We look up to the
police to investigate this case. We expect the Lagos State Government to
do what is right and ensure that more children do not have to endure
this suffering in the hands of this woman or any other within Lagos
State, and indeed Nigeria.”
Public Relations Officer, WAPA, Mr. Femi Ogun, said the ministry would
be on the case and take swift action on it.