THE death of a secondary school teacher, Miss Rita Odilinye of Starlight Secondary School, Ogidi, in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State has sent shock waves across the nation. According to reports, Odilinye died when the mother and a relation of one of her students whom she allegedly flogged for not carrying out a class chore engaged her in a scuffle. Until her death, Odilinye taught Igbo in the school. The teacher had reportedly arrived school on the fateful day only to discover that her class had not been swept. Following her inquiries, she was told that one Chinaza Okafor, whose turn it was to sweep the class before going home the previous day, failed to carry out the assignment.
Then, a dastardly drama reportedly played out. Queried by the teacher, Chinasa gave an insolent answer, and her enraged teacher gave her a hiding. As she was being flogged, the apparently athletic Chinasa ran out of the class, scaled the school fence—the gate was under lock and key— and made straight to her home where she reported the matter to her mother. Rather than making attempts to find out from the school authorities if indeed her daughter had been unfairly treated, the mother reportedly stormed the school in a fit of rage, armed with sticks and accompanied by her daughter and a relation, ready to pounce on the errant teacher who flogged her precious daughter. But Odilinye had left the school to attend a meeting of private school administrators. Sadly, the efforts made by other teachers in the school to calm down the aggrieved persons and allow the school authorities to handle the matter reportedly fell on deaf ears.
And when Odilinye eventually showed up at the school gate, the aggrieved mother, her daughter and her relation engaged her in a scuffle. She slumped and was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was confirmed dead. The Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area, Mr. Mark Ijarafu, who confirmed the incident, was quoted as saying: “We have arrested the mother, the daughter and one other person. The corpse of the teacher has been deposited at Iyi-Enu Hospital mortuary, while investigation is ongoing.”
It is indeed difficult to find the right words to describe the killing of Miss Odilinye. The whole episode speaks of callous indiscipline. It is indeed heartbreaking that a mother could accompany her daughter to a school to beat up a teacher, whatever her (the teacher’s) offence was. If Chinasa had been unjustly punished, what a reasonable parent would have done was to report the matter to the school authorities. And in case they failed to do justice in the matter, it would have been perfectly within the parent’s rights to report the matter to the police. However, the light esteem in which teachers are unfortunately held in this clime dictated a different course of action. In this clime, teachers have become objects of ridicule, spite and disdain, and this partly accounted for the ease with which Mrs. Okafor speedily decreed punishment for Rita Odilinye. She was not bothered at all that she was going to humiliate her daughter’s teacher, a person she ordinarily ought to appreciate for trying to assist in moulding her daughter’s character, right before other students and teachers. If this story does not speak to the virtual collapse of the nation’s value system, what else does?
If the nation’s value system was still intact, no student would dare to flog her teacher. Indeed, time was when such a thought would have been clearly subversive. But things have fallen apart and the centre, if there is one, just cannot hold. It is clear from the sad story in Starlight Secondary School, Ogidi, Anambra State, that the nation is breeding a generation of renegade students, and that days of distress lie ahead if urgent surgical operations are not carried out in the relevant sectors, including the home front. It is unthinkable that an entire class preferred to learn in a dirty environment just because one student chose to be irresponsible. Was there no student humble-hearted and dutiful enough to sweep the class on the fateful day in question? Surely, no one can expect students who cannot sweep their class to successfully manage a home in future. In any case, if students have no respect for their teachers, just how can they understand what they are being taught? And how can the education sector improve in such a situation?
The foregoing should not however detract from the need by teachers to exercise caution in dealing with their students. It is for instance clear that Miss Odiliinye could have handled the case of her disobedient student differently. The point must also be admitted that some teachers treat students unfairly, and school administrators must always ensure that they intervene meaningfully in such situations. In the extant case, though, the Anambra State government must ensure that justice is done in this case, and that events of this nature do not recur in the state. We urge the Nigeria Police to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the extant case and ensure that those found to have contravened the laws of the land get their just deserts. This will send a strong signal to those who think that taking the law into their own hands is fun.