On the 20th of December, 2020, in a video that went viral on social media, Deborah Okezie, the mother of Don Davis, an 11-year-old JSS1 student of Deeper Life High School, Uyo, narrated how her son was allegedly starved, sexually molested and assaulted in the school.
As one who went to a Boarding School, the story hit me differently. I instantly recalled the constant fear of being a junior student in a Catholic Boarding School, many years ago. There was not a single day that we didn’t live in mortal fear of our seniors in those days. And I can bet you that our Rector knew next to nothing about the acute level of bullying and sexual molestation that was prevalent in many hostels at the time. If that was happening in a Minor Seminary, how much more a secular Boarding School?
Those who passed through Boarding School unscathed can thank their stars. They were the lucky few. The majority went through life changing traumatic experiences that still haunt them till date.
We must understand therefore that Don Davis’s story isn’t about Deeper Life, or any other denomination that owns and/or runs a Boarding School, for that matter. It’s about gross irresponsibility, and failure to meet the terms of a social contract.
A certain parent paid money to a certain school authority in exchange for care and education for her child. Along the line, this contract was breached, and the said child was starved, beaten, sexually assaulted, and left in acute trauma. This ‘breach of contract’ is what should concern us more, while seeking ways to ensure that such breaches do not continue to occur.
Not every parent can be as vocal as Deborah Okezie. And as the days go by, we see reasons why those other parents often choose SILENCE.
Since the onset of this saga, Deborah Okezie has been called names, abused serially on social media, threatened by higher authorities, and her Facebook account has been suspended. But the woman has chosen resilience and courage over fear and cowardice. She is determined to seek justice for her abused child.
I’ve always said that children should be allowed to stay by their parents for as long as possible. I am not a fan of Boarding Schools. Yes please! Feel feel to quote me.
I don’t know why parents insist on sending their children to Boarding Schools. If I had my way, I would demand the immediate investigation of all Boarding Facilities in the country, and get well trained child-psychologists to conduct social surveys among students across selected boarding schools.
The results from their investigations will determine whether or not certain boarding schools can stay open. We must be most concerned about how we raise our children, and the quality of the environments we raise them in.
I personally think that many of our Boarding Schools aren’t remotely prepared to raise children. There are no well trained guidance and counselors, with specialty in child care. House masters are usually ill mannered, and too few; compared to the overall number of students. There’s usually more emphasis on academic performance than on the physical/emotional maturity of the child, and the love and compassion needed to raise children is often lacking.
Some days ago, a child raised his voice in an irritatingly loud cry, inside our Church, during Mass. The way his grandfather rough handled him, in an attempt to get him to be quiet, shook me. If a grandfather could be that rough with his grandson, how much more someone else?
I’ve often seen parents run out of patience with their kids, and berate them mercilessly. Sometimes, kids can frustrate their parents to the point of desperation. At that point, it’s only ‘tough love’ that prevents such parents from literally snuffing the life out of their kids.
I dare say therefore that in normal circumstances, parenting isn’t a job for house masters, nannies, or any other care givers for that matter. If parents have proven to be sometimes bad at parenting, how much more, those who aren’t biological parents?
This is a clarion call to all those who own and/or run Boarding Schools to revamp their entire systems, and make needed changes where possible. It is also a clarion call to parents to think well about the decision to send their children off to Boarding Schools.
If the authorities at Deeper Life High School, Uyo are found guilty as charged, they must be made to face the full wrath of the Law. The question of who owns the Church shouldn’t even matter in these circumstances.
The least we expect is for the concerned authorities to make adequate reparation, rather than try to snowball Deborah into silence.
In the meantime, our hearts go out to the young Davis who is unfortunate enough to be in the midst of all this brouhaha. I pray he finds the much needed psychological and spiritual help during these trying times.
© Oselumhense Anetor, 2021.