There was outrage in Enugu after a Facebook post showed
pupils of a private nursery and primary school, Early Dew Montessori
Academy, Enugu, aged between four and seven years, in a police van,
purportedly arrested for failing to do their assignments, and also for
wearing dirty uniforms.
The picture, said to have been posted on Facebook by a
parent of one of the pupils in the school, was reportedly captioned
‘Enugu State Government police in conjunction with Early Dew Montessori
Primary School, GRA Enugu, arresting 4 to 7 year-olds and putting them
behind a Hilux – the same place they put dead bodies, and where they
could have jumped out from fearfully, for not doing their assignments’.
The caption suggested that Enugu State Government was
involved in the affair, a development which drew the ire of the Governor
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led administration.
The government immediately moved to correct the impression, and on Monday, February 20, suspended the operations of the school.
The school is currently being threatened with permanent closure.
Commissioner for Education, Professor Uche Eze, who
announced sanctions against the school, described the development as ‘an
embarrassment to the state government and a serious psychological abuse
of the concerned children’.
Besides the suspension, the school management was also
ordered to apologise, in writing, to the state government, parents of
the ‘abused’ children, and the entire people of Enugu State. These
measures have to be carried out before the suspension could be lifted.
Failure to do so, the school will be closed, permanently.
The commissioner said the measures would serve as a warning
to other private schools in the state who adopt ‘unethical practices’ in
the name of corporal punishment.
But the woman in the eye of the storm, the proprietress of
the school, also known as ‘school mummy’, Mrs Ify Okonkwo, has blamed
the entire episode on misunderstanding.
According to her, the ‘invitation’ of the police, the
‘arrest’ of the erring pupils, and their placement in the police van,
were all part of an arranged ‘stunt’ that was meant to discourage
indiscipline, and also instill hardwork and good conduct among pupils in
Okonkwo said she collaborated with some parents to execute
the stunt, adding that she was the one that shared pictures of the
incident on a Whatsap forum she created for parents of pupils in the
Addressing journalists, Okonkwo, who was in company with
parents of some of the pupils in the school, said the incident was
stage, managed, as the pupils were merely told to get on the back of the
van, where they were made to pledge to be of better behaviour.
The proprietress said, “Being an educationist, what happened
in the school on February 16 was to encourage the children to be
focused. I brought the police to come and talk to the children and to
motivate them to read on their own without being pushed.
“In my mind, I thought I was doing it to bring the children
up in a way that they will be attached to their studies. No child was
manhandled neither did they point a gun at any of the children.
“I was the person that took the pictures and we have a group
chat I opened for parents as one family to brief them on the school’s
“When I took this action, I posted it (pictures) on the
platform, with the caption ‘Some children were arrested today for not
doing their homework, for not reading their books, for not behaving
well, but they promised to change’.
“I didn’t mean any harm; I meant well for the kids. If not, I
wouldn’t have made it public – it would have been between me and the
Okonkwo said the parents commended her when she posted pictures of the incident on the Whatsap forum.
“When I uploaded it on the platform, parents were commending
me,” she said, although she added that the particular parent who in
turn posted the pictures on Facebook with the ‘mischievous’ caption, has
issues with the school management.
Insisting that the pupils were not actually arrested, the
proprietress said, “I am aware that those children are still minors and
no offence they committed would warrant an arrest. So how do you think
that those children were arrested? Who will have that kind of heart to
arrest these little children?”
One of the parents, Mrs Jessica Nnamani, corroborated the proprietress’ claims.
Nnamani said she was at the school on the day of the incident, and played a role in the ‘drama’.
She said, “I am one of the parents in the school. On that
day, I came to the school to give my son who is not well his hourly
drug. When I got to the school I saw some kids that morning who were
looking very dirty. When I saw that, I wasn’t happy, as a mother who
would want her kids to look clean and I turned to the school mummy and
asked, ‘Where are those children coming from? Did their parents bring
them here this morning looking this way?’
“I was disappointed.
“She told me that she had a plan on how to deal with people
that come to the school looking dirty, the stubborn ones and those that
are not doing their homework.
“She then told me the drama she wanted to do, that I should help to stage manage it very well.
“She invited police and when they came, all the children
that were dirty, those that were stubborn and those that weren’t doing
their home assignments were brought out at around 9:00 am and they were
told that the police were going to take them to Abuja, unless they
promised to be coming to school clean, to be obedient, and also ready to
do their home assignment.
“I played the intercessory role by begging the ‘school
mummy’ to tamper justice with mercy, promising that they would change. I
said, “School mummy’ please don’t take them away, they will change”. I
then asked them, ‘Okay, are you people promising school mummy that you
will do well from now on?’ They all said yes.”
Continuing, she said, “They (pupils) were rather laughing.
They (police) now took them behind the van – it was then they started
“If I should say, she (proprietress) didn’t mean any harm.
As a parent, I supported what she did. She did it in the interest of the
The woman said she uses a similar approach to discipline her kids.
Nnamani added, “When my child proves stubborn and I drive
them to a police checkpoint, I will bring that one out and ask police to
take him and punish him because he is stubborn, and you will see him
dragging my clothes begging that he will not do such a thing again, that
he will change, and police will tell him “Make sure that your mum
doesn’t bring you here again”.
Be that as it may, the school remains closed, until further notice.
Meanwhile, the school management has apologised to Enugu
State government. The apology was conveyed in a letter addressed to the
commissioner fovr education. ‘’We promise and undertake that such will
never happen again, and appeal mostv humbly that the closure of the
school be lifted so that our children are not affected negatively by the
continued closure of the school,’’ parts of the letter said.