Anambra based journalist, Karen James has raised the alarm over sudden closure of Blessed Wisdom Model School Housing Estate GRA Onitsha, over a report of brutal flogging of a two-year pupil of the school by a teacher.
She alleged that the school’s closure was done without due diligence, regretting that no fewer than 600 innocent children would be adversely affected by the government’s decision.
In a petition titled: Letter to Governor Charles Soludo part 2, James, an investigative journalist further argued that the best approach would had been imposition of monetary fine to school’s staff as deterrent for their negligence than outright closure of the entire school.
She also said the school’s closure was against plans of Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s who values education more than anything else, stressing that working against such plans would amount to ridiculing his legacies in building better future for school children in the state.
The statement reads in part, “Our investigation into the case of EGBUNIWE DAVIDA IFECHUKWU, a two-year-old pupil of Blessed Wisdom Model School Housing Estate GRA Onitsha, was conducted with the utmost professionalism and integrity.
“We undertook the investigation based on the information that was presented to us, and we reported on our findings objectively and accurately.
“The question that is begging for answers is what is going to be the fate of over 600 now out of school children of BLESSED MODEL SCHOOL OVER closure of the school since 14th July 2023?
“These school children did not sit for their 3rd term examination due to the unending saga orchestrated by unprofessional actions of the elites in the Anambra State education ministry. They decided to suffocate the over 600 students and their parents on this present growing hard economic times in the country.
“Should injury to one, injury to all adage be carried down to the later.? Why excessive display of power to the detriment of over 600 students that may decide to seek a new beginning elsewhere at a very high cost to their parents or simply drops out of school due to high cost of freshers intake fees by schools .
“If actually what was alleged (flogging, bookshelf falling accident, negligence) was true, the best approach would had been imposition of monetary fine to the school management staff as a precaution to deter them from being negligence on duty rather than outright closure of the entire school thereby sending over 600 students to the street and their parents to loan companies and loan apps as we all know what it takes to register a child in a new school, the cost is always higher than the actual school fees.
“If the closure of the school is the best option available to the authorities in the state ministry of education to take without regard to the fate of the children and students in the school then, it’s pertinent to describe it as a vendetta action to depopulate the school and reduce it to rubbles as other interested parties within and around the vicinity might be working in alliance with other stakeholders in the state education ministry to achieve their set out goals of taking the shine off blessed model school.
“This closure of Blessed Wisdom Model school or any other school is highly against the best wishes and plans of our reputable Governor His Excellency Gov. Charles Soludo who values education more than anything else, then why working against this plans and inadvertently ridiculing his strides and legacies in building a better future for school children in the state as he is a product of it himself.
“Pushing out school children to the streets might be taken as a treasonable action against state legacies hence it undermines His Excellency Gov. Charles Soludo legacies of offering better education to children in the state.
“Contrary to claims, we did not seek to distort the facts or intentionally misrepresent the case. Our investigation revealed that the child sustained dislocated elbow injury due to a playground accident and not due to flogging or any other form of physical abuse as was presented though the parents at the Anambra state ministry of education panel changed the story to a bookshelf accidentally falling on the child.
“We stand by our findings, which were based on thorough investigation and the available evidences.
“We take our role as investigative journalists seriously and will always seek to report on the truth, regardless of whom it might offend. We believe that the truth should always come first, and we will not shy away from our responsibility to the public to report on issues that are of public interest.
“We urge the State education ministry to conduct themsey in a professional and ethical manner and refrain from making baseless allegations against our organization and our staff.
“However, it might interest you that, the first story in the news was the flogging of 2 year old child and subsequent closure of the school by Anambra State Government as was reported in various media outlets including state owned radio stations on the 14th of July 2023.
“At the panel at Awka which our staff attended in person, the story was changed to bookshelf falling on the child, now it is negligence on the part of school management for not visiting the child parents. What a fat and disappointed approach to governance.
“Moreover, we ask Ndi Anambra and Nigerians these questions, where in the world will they shut down a public institution be it school , market or church first over an incident ,probably over an unethical behaviour before setting up a kangaroo probe panel to dole out more sanctions against the defendants and to ascertain if actually what they heard or ordered to do really happened. This action only showed that some interested parties be it fellow competitors in the same industry needs to be pleased to the detriment of the accused, and it can only be described as abuse of power by people in the helms of affairs in Anambra State education system .
“This investigation was done as part of our obligations to the journalism profession and especially for the fundamental human rights of people in the society, the women and Children in particular and definitely not about Blessed wisdom school or the child parents or the state education board. We only investigate to unravel truths in crime scenes, make it public and possibly alert the security agents and civil liberty organizations to take actions , that is Pechilly investigative Channel and nothing else.
“It is pertinent to note that little Miss Ifechkwu Egnuniwe incident happened on the 28th of April 2023, at the school premises whereas it was reported in the media on the 14th day of July 2023 due to the closure of the school by Anambra state Ministry of Education , so what took the authorities so long to organize an investigation over the incident ,rather they shut down the school on the 14th day of July through a press release and then ordered a probe panel to investigate an incident they had already melted out punishment on. Their action do not follow due process in addressing issues.”