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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Blessed Model School and Other Stories: An Open Letter to Governor Soludo (Part 2)

 

By Karen James
(Pechilly Investigative Channel)

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 following the 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 m
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 on the school management staff as a precaution to deter them from being negligent to their 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 today. The cost is always higher than the actual school fees.

If the closure of the school was 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’s 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. So, 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 by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, in her reaction to our report, 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 themselves in a professional and ethical manner and refrain from making baseless allegations against our organization and our staff.

It might interest you to know 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 nstitution 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, need to be pleased at 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’s 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 Ifechukwu Egbuniwe 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 into 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 does not follow due process in addressing issues.
Our staff was at the panel sitting held at Anambra State Ministry of Education secretariat, Awka as an undercover reporter for detailed reportage of facts, hence cannot disclose her identity to anyone for parties to speak freely and not to be concerned about press presence within their midst.

Pechilly Investigative Channel is with detailed evidences to support its investigative works which will be made public. We do have a reputation to protect.

As a representative of Pechilly Investigative Channel, I must set the record straight with regards to the allegations made in the media. Karen James has been a professional journalist for over 12 years, and her work has been published in reputable media outlets both locally and internationally.

As an organization, our standards for reporting are high, and we make every effort to ensure our work is factual, balanced, and responsible.

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