Recent case of a young girl whose life was cut short by a complete mindless student teacher at Akingbile Oluana Memorial School, Moniya, Ibadan, Oyo State prompted this post. Esther Oyeleke was 14 years old, pride of her family, I bet. On Jan 27th 2014, she was among three students that their teacher beat with a cane for not paying attention in class. Few days later Esther was showing signs of ill health, her whole body had swollen up, she was rushed to Osoko Maternity Hospital in Ibadan where she was pronounced dead on January 30th, three days after she was flogged by her teacher. Here
This is where I don’t understand my people and this is why it makes me so sad (decided not to be angry anymore). Esther is dead. And people are beating around the bush about who was responsible? I have read about the fact that it must have been the devil’s work – no surprises with that one.
Esther’s medical condition could have showed up in months, years time, and could have been treated and she might have survived, grow up to lead a happy healthy life.
What is ironic in our schools was that nine out of 10 times pupils get beating, it has nothing to do with learning. I was once a victim of such teacher, Mrs Oshobi. I have no idea how she managed to be principal of a school or even teacher of any level, the woman was sad and mad all of the time.
One morning in the assembly, I was at the front of the row, one of the teachers led the prayers and we were supposed to say amen which I did religiously. Out of curiosity as any normal 16years would, I opened one eye momentarily out of boredom. A couple of seconds later Mrs Oshobi – our new principal hit my head with her callous fingers so hard I staggered sideways. I cried for most of that day not necessarily for the constant throb of aches on my temple but because I had no idea what I did wrong. It was her first week in my school, we have heard about her wickedness weeks beforehand so we called her Mrs Oso (wizard) and I promised myself never to cross her path, I was wrong.
Another time I was late to school by 5 minutes. This day I had to run back home midway to school because I left my biro at home while doing my homework, so by the time I got back to school at 7.50am, the school gate had closed. Mrs Oshobi only gives three stokes of cane, not on your hands, not on the buttocks and not across your back. She gives it vertically on the spine! This is true.
Three strokes could end up being 10 if you dared move. In front was a chair that you held on to, the 5 foot monster, whom I am sure God has a special place for in hell would flog us from behind, she had no heart, not even a small one so The Grinch was a saint.
She didn’t want to know reasons behind any lateness and there were absolutely no logic to her punishment. When I went to the village on the weekend and told my mother I needed two pens so one could be in my bag always just in case I left one at home, I showed the scars on my back to her, like many mothers would ‘God will punish her.’ she said with empathy and that motherly aching heart.
See, Oshobi’s beats me mercilessly because I was late for assembly that I have attended hundreds of times and it was the same old story. I was a good student and was rarely late for school. My first lesson for the day was 8am, I missed that lesson because of the school principal irrational behaviour.
Like any other situation in Nigeria, it’s all about survival, hustle we say. You find a way to ride the tide otherwise there were just too many forces about that were there just to swallow one up. They don’t know nor cared for your personal story. They were just really bad and sad public figures who were supposed to educate but will take their frustrations on the innocent young ones around them ignoring we all had stories to tell.
Having read enough about Mrs Oshobi, you would be pleased to know that the day she got into a car accident 1 mile away from my school, she was chasing students around town. My school gate closes at 7.45am during her torturing years so if you were not in before this time you were doomed. On this fateful day, she was so focused on running after students who were supposed to been in school but choose to wander around town in uniforms instead, so she lost concentration of her driving and drove straight into a sharp bend, lost control of her car and the car turned over, she was lucky to be alive. That was her last day at my school, she left after few weeks at the hospital and we were happy.
See, Mrs Oshobi was chasing students that chose not to learn, she left those who really wanted to learn behind and when she was actually at school, she just had to pick on something to beat us for.
To come back to the original story, this student teacher who triggered whatever health problem Esther Oyeleke had that eventually lead to the poor girl’s untimely death deserves to face the consequences otherwise how could anyone learn that there are other ways to engage students than flogging them.
On a more positive note, I recently ran into one of my high school teachers -Mrs Ayandike at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Museum. It was over two decades ago she taught me, I jumped into her, she was one of the many teachers who made me believe there’s still hope for decent education in the country. Very beautiful woman, she taught me English Literature, I had huge problem understanding Shakespeare’s play – Macbeth, she made tremendous efforts without intimidating us – her students. If you think teaching any subject in Nigeria is hard, imagine an Ibo lady teaching English Literature to a group of Yoruba students… ha, not uncommon, but super confusing, everyone was, trust me! But Mrs Ayandike managed to carry us along. So when I saw her years later, I had the utmost respect for her strength and perseverance, she now has a school of her own somewhere on Road Seven in Ife, she told me, I was happy for her, she was that great of an educator.
Esther Oyeleke’s murderous teacher: punished or not would live the rest of her live with huge guilt hanging over her head.