Was a pupil sexually assaulted by a teacher at Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos Mainland?
This is the puzzle the school is battling to unravel, even as Senior Secondary Three (SSS III) pupils abandoned their mock examination yesterday to protest that such an incident never happened.
Last weekend, Olorisupergal.com, a blog run by Tosin Ajibade, ran the sexual assault story, quoting Chinenye Okoye, who claimed that her daughter, a Junior Secondary Two (JSS II) pupil, was abused by her teacher, Mr Olaseni Oshifala.
The story, which has since gone viral, also claimed that Oshifala, who teaches Integrated Science, was being protected by a vice principal, who allegedly told Okoye that Oshifala “is untouchable.”
The protesting pupils demanded that the school gate be opened for them to go and join another group of protesters who claimed that they were taught by Oshifala.
They described the allegation against him as false.
Workers and Chairperson of the Parent/Teachers Association (PTA) Mrs Beatrice Akhetuamen, also denied the allegation.
The pupils’ protest delayed the Biology paper for the Southwest Zonal Mock examination organised in preparation for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The girls, bore placards with inscriptions: “No Mother, No Child, No Case!”, “Haters at work, free Mr Seni”, “No Seni, no A’s”, “He didn’t do it,” “It is a set up”. They chanted: “No Seni, no biology”.
Their teachers’ efforts to send them back to their classes failed, as they chanted: “Open the gate”; “Open the gate”. They returned to write their examination following a call by Mrs Madueke, a director in the Federal Ministry of Education, who urged the Head Girl, Angel Tony-Ativie, to prevail on her classmates to end the protest.
In an interview with The Nation, Tony-Ativie described the allegation as baseless, saying: “The allegation against our Biology teacher is not true; because most of the facts are baseless. Mr Oshifala does not live in the boarding house; he is not an Integrated Science teacher; he teaches SS1-SS3 Biology. I have known him for six years; he has taught me for three years. He is our chief maintenance officer so the only time he is able to move to the boarding house, with the permission of the principal, is to check if the facilities are functioning. He leaves the boarding house around 9 or 10pm.”
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Another pupil, Unoma Omenyi, president of the Students’ Representative Council, said the story was maliciously generated to create bad publicity for the school.
“This is our teacher; this is someone that taught us for three good years. We have known this man since JSS1 and we know he is not capable of something like this. Every Saturday we have Biology lessons; this is why Queen’s College exist because we can proudly say we can write Biology and have A1 in WAEC.
“I believe this is a publicity stunt to bring down the image of the school and the image of our respected teachers. I just want to say they should leave our school and our teacher alone,” she said.
Omenyi said it was unfair to crucify Oshifala when those accusing him have failed to come forward.
“There is no girl; there is no evidence against him. Because nobody has come up to say, ‘oh, I was raped’, ‘oh, I was molested.’ If there is no girl, there is no mother, then why are we accusing a man falsely when there is no evidence against him?” she queried.
One of the protesters outside the gate, said: “Oshifala was my teacher. I said I did not want to go to school again; he encouraged me.”
Another man said: “Oshifala taught me and today, I am a student of the University of Lagos. They are lying against him.”
Mrs Akhetuamen said Oshifala might have been targeted because of his record.
She said she made repeated calls to the number said to belong to Okoye, but got no response. But, when she used the App, True Caller, the number turned up a different name.
When some reporters called the number, one woman, who gave her name as Tope, picked the call (she was identified by True Caller on another phone as “Toyin Flask”). She said she had no relationship with Queen’s College and had no daughter studying there.
Mrs Akhetuamen said a committee had been set up to investigate the issue. The panel comprises the School Based Management Committee, PTA, senior members of staff and police. She declined claims that the PTA or the college management was not responsive.
She said: “The attention of the PTA has been drawn to online reports of sexual harassment said to have taken place at Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos. Upon hearing the reports, the school authorities swung into action even though we are yet to receive any official report, oral or written from any parent or student to that effect.”
The PTA chair faulted the claim that the alleged victim was molested when she went out of the hostel at night, saying pupils cannot leave the dormitory because the gate is locked and manned by a security guard.
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