•I did not cane him to death—Teacher, Emeka Nwodo
By Festus Ahon
What led to the unexpected death of the 19-months old boy and pupil of Arise and Shine Nursery and Primary School, Asaba, Delta State, Obinna Udeze who was purportedly flogged 31 strokes of the cane by his teacher may not be unconnected with the challenges of single parenthood.
The 19-months old Obinna Udeze was taken to school on Monday 7th February full of life by his mother with his lunch bag, biscuits, water and yoghurt without him or his mother knowing that may be his last day in the school.
While one wonders what the offence of a 19-months old lad could be to be flogged 31 strokes of the cane, it is a complete act of wickedness for anyone with his or her right senses to use the cane on such a tender child.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the child was barely two weeks old in the school where he was registered by his mother in the daycare unit. After battling at the hospital, little Obinna Udeze breathed his last on Saturday at the Federal Medical Centre after being referred from a private hospital where he was first treated.
Amidst tears, the mother, Gift Ohanazoeze Uju who spoke to our Correspondent on why she sent little Obinna to school at that age, said: “I don’t work, I am a single mom, I barely feed, I had to wait for him to be a year and six months before I sent him to that school. He was in daycare, not even nursery or primary, so I would go and drop him and pick him up by 3 pm every day.
“I needed to find a means to feed both of us and to get accommodation. I am staying with my grandmother which is not convenient, that was why I had to put him in that school to enable me to look for means of livelihood. The boy’s father lives in Anambra state, we are not staying together because we had issues.
“I don’t know whether the school was approved by the government or not but from the little inquiry that I made, I learnt that the school was four years old and that they have another branch in Anambra but I didn’t even meet the proprietress of the school on the day I went there, it was the Head Mistress who registered him. My child had been in the school for a week and three days.
“On the day of the incident, immediately I came back that very day, they said when they were about to bath him, they saw cane bruises all over his body. I had to bring him close, checked his body and see it myself.
“I saw bruises all over his body but I never knew he was tied until I got to the school and heard it from other children in the school. I carried him back to the school because the owner of the school stays in the school compound.
“When I got there I saw the proprietress, because she was the one I handed over Obina to that very morning, alongside his school bag and lunch box because Obina’s teacher said she was going for screening on Monday which was that very day.
“When I got there I asked her, ‘mummy I gave you this child in the morning why would you people flog him? The woman’s response was, ‘do you know the gravity of your son’s offence?’ I now said ‘okay, what was the offence of a child of a year and seven months? I want to know who flogged him let me ask the person what his crime was’. She said I should go and come back the next day, so I left and came back the next day.
When I asked why they beat my son, the woman said, my son was just disturbing her, that he was crying, she didn’t say any other thing. So people who were there then said, if the child was crying, you could have called the mother to come and pick him up, but the woman said my son was just stubborn.
“As she was talking, pupils from the school, said Obinna brought his lunch box to the proprietress, which means he was hungry because he couldn’t talk, and the proprietress took it from him and returned it to the chair where they used to keep their lunch box and asked them to tie my son and they were now flogging Obinna like goat, that was the children’s exact statement.
“Obinna’s food was untouched. His golden morn was untouched, his yoghurt which he doesn’t joke with Obinna did not take even one out of the two I gave to him, the rice that I put in the cooler was untouched, even his drinking water was untouched. Meaning that they starved him till he came back.
“I took the food back to them, even the four digestive biscuits, I took it back to them that day I went, people, there could testify to that. I asked the woman, did you feed this child? She said no, that he refused to eat. What about biscuits? She said he refused, I said even yoghurt, even if he refused everything he would not refuse yoghurt, she said she gave him yoghurt, that maybe it was another child’s yoghurt that she gave Obinna. I said ‘you mean you took another pupil’s food and gave it to my son? What will the pupil now eat? She was silent.
So Obinna did not eat anything from the school that day which I believed made him to start crying and as a child who doesn’t talk, once he was hungry he would start crying. And I explained to that woman that very Monday, that ‘Obina does not talk and once he starts crying and brings his bag, they should know that he is hungry’. She said ‘yes, I know that is how children behave, I have had kids’, that was her response before this incident occurred”.
Uju further explained that she and her mother took the child to the hospital and that when she told the proprietress about it, she said she should go and treat her son and bring the bill to her to pay to say,
‘whatever the amount, I will give to you people’.
According to Uju, “that was her word, that was what she told me, my mum then said okay, let’s go together, she said that she is busy in the school. That we should go and treat the child, and bring the bill. She did not even show her face in my house until the day her son was arrested, being on Thursday evening, she now came to me begging that I should release the son and we should start treating Obinna. By that time the boy’s condition had deteriorated to something else”.
On whether she carried out an autopsy to find out the cause of death, she said: “I can’t do an autopsy, I don’t have much money; I spent the little I had on him at the hospital. I want to beg the government to do it to prove if I am lying, Obinna’s body is still in the mortuary. Even the hospital where he was rushed to, can testify because I remembered the doctor telling me in the presence of his colleagues and other staff that with the bruises he saw on the child’s body, if it was his own child, he would first kill the person before judgement”.
Uju also said, she had contacted Obina’s father, who said he was waiting for the Delta state government to ensure justice for his son but if nothing happens, he would then involve the Anambra state government where he hails from.
“Obinna was a child that everyone would love to know, some of his teachers described him as hyperactive, very playful. Every man is a daddy and every lady is a mummy. He was a child who would not bite, ask anybody, you can go do your own investigation. He didn’t know how to say anything outside mummy, daddy. He was just a child every parent would dream and hope for”, Uju said of her late son.
The teacher, Mr Emeka Nwogbo, who was arrested by the Police over allegations of flogging the late Obinna Udeze to death, however, denied the allegation. Nwogbo who spoke to journalists on Tuesday alleged that there must be other underlying issues that killed Udeze, claiming that the child didn’t die while he was being punished.
He said: “I did not cane the child to death, I flogged him as I’m supposed to flog a child. I flogged him as little as I can, I did not kill the child. I am not responsible for his death. They should go and check this thing very well. I flogged the child because he pushed another child and hit the other child’s head.”