A mother, Juliet Okwaraoha, has accused Tots Up School, located in the Shasha area of Lagos State of torturing her seven-year-old daughter over nonpayment of school fees.
Juliet, who insisted she did not owe the school, said her daughter was locked up with a male teacher just because the school thought she had not paid.
According to her, when she confronted the school, security guards in school, staff, and the proprietress, Rukayat Shodeinde, ganged up, beating her black and blue.
Juliet said that she was beaten until she lost consciousness, with her daughter crying and screaming. According to her, when she regained consciousness, she flagged a tricycle and made a beeline for the police station to complain of assault.
The school on the other hand said that Juliet was lying, maintaining that she had changed her story several times.
The school stated that Juliet had initially said that her daughter was beaten and tortured, and then she later claimed the girl was locked up for nonpayment of school fees with only a male teacher, alleging sexual molestation.
Since the matter started, it has been taken to Afonka Police Station and Zone 2, Onikan. Indeed, Lagos State Government officials have visited the school for an investigation.
It has also been taken to the Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network (ACVPN), where the Co-founder/Chief Operating Officer ACVPN, Ebenezer Omejalile, said that investigations will reveal what truly transpired at the school and then justice will be serve.
Juliet said: “My daughter was severely tortured, maltreated, denied access to her studies, and abused by the proprietress, Shodeinde, and the Head Mistress, Mrs. Adewale. I enrolled my child in Tots Up School in September 2021. I paid N135,000 for the whole bill given to me by the proprietress, with the agreement that the school swimming pool would be fixed. I also paid fully in the second term, but the swimming pool was not fixed as promised by the school.”
Juliet explained that on the 13th of May 2022, which was the beginning of the third term, she met with Shodeinde, to explain that she would not be able to pay for all the items in the school bill because she did not have much money.
She narrated: “I didn’t have much money and I didn’t want to stress myself. We reached an agreement that I should pay N60,000, which includes the tuition fees of N45,000 and other necessary things. There and then, I transferred N60,000 to the school account. I left after she got the alert.”
The woman said a week later, she was bathing her daughter when she noticed that the girl would not allow her to wash her ear, cheek, and shoulder. When she questioned her, the child said: “Her teacher beat her, and her HM also punished her severely and they both warned her not to tell me, else they would beat her again. She was scared to tell me. I was shocked and I cried.”
Juliet said after that, her daughter fell sick and could not go to school on Monday and Tuesday.
“On Wednesday, I took her to school to find out from the HM what led to too much beating and punishment, which caused my daughter to fall sick. The HM picked offence and started shouting at me, asking if I was the only mother in the school. She asked the security guards to walk me out of her office. I told her that I would go to Lagos State Government Social welfare to report.
Juliet said that Shodeinde, who was then out of Nigeria, called and pleaded with her to calm down, that everything would be investigated and settled after she returned.
Juliet recounted: “After two weeks, I got a message via WhatsApp from Shodeinde, that she would send my daughter away if I didn’t pay her school fees. I was shocked by the message because I had settled school bill with her since 13th of May 2022. I explained to her that I was not owing. She threatened me that she would send my daughter out of school. It was because her threat was too much that I had to run to the police station to make a report of denying my daughter access to her studies, after paying her tuition.”
She recalled that the Divisional Police Officer, invited the HM, but the school lawyers came to represent.
Juliet said: “The HM agreed at the Police Station that she would surely resolve it as instructed by the Police Officer. I felt everything had been resolved. I took my daughter back to school the following week, Monday and the proprietress removed her from her class and took her to a hall, and locked her up with a male admin officer, Mr. Olajumoke, until closing time. The school did the same thing on Tuesday. My daughter went to school, and they tortured her the same way again, without letting me know that they were denying her access to her studies. The worse was isolating her from her classmates and friends, torturing her emotionally all day. When she got home, she cried and complained to my sister, whom she was staying with. My sister called me and said my daughter came home with a withdrawal letter from the school. I called the proprietress via WhatsApp to ask about my daughter’s being maltreated and tortured. She admitted that she did all that and that she would do more because I had the gut to take her to the police. I decided to go to the school on Wednesday, 22nd of June after my sister had dropped my daughter off at the school. When I got to the school, the security men locked the gate, leaving me outside, and went in to inform the proprietress that I was around. When I got inside, my daughter’s classmates were going for Ballet dance practice. They told me that my child had not been joining them, that the HM and proprietress, had been locking my child up in a lonely hall and they refused them to see her. I saw my daughter coming out of a lonely hall. She was highly traumatised, shaking and crying. She jumped on me and hugged me tightly, begging me to pay her tuition fees, so they would stop maltreating her.”
Juliet further said: “I told the proprietress to explain to me or I would take the matter to a higher authority. She started threatening me. When I brought out my phone to record her threats, she ordered her security men to beat me. They punched and hit me, pushed me to the gate and continued to beat me. I was shouting that I was pregnant. I begged them not to kill my unborn child. I fell hard and lost unconsciousness. When I regained consciousness, my wristwatch, neck chain, and earrings were gone. I rushed to the police station, and the police gave me a report to go straight to the hospital,” said Juliet.
According to her, she went to the Tinubu Health Center at Egbeda, where the doctor referred her to Alimosho General Hospital for proper treatment, because her “waist and legs were swollen, and my chest was heavy and hot.”
Juliet said that she spent nine days at the hospital. When our reporter got to Tots UP School, the proprietress and lawyer Abayomi Animashaun denied allegations of torture, beating, locking up and sexual molestation.
Shodeinde said: “Juliet initially came to our school for employment, but there was no available position. She then later brought her daughter in September. Even though I had a capable HM, she would keep asking to see me. She then wanted her daughter to use the school bus, but then she couldn’t afford it. Another worrisome issue we had with her was leaving the child at school till 5pm and the school was supposed to be empty at the latest 4pm. We can’t leave the school until all the pupils had gone home.”
Shodeinde said that Juliet’s attention was called to this issue. She added: “She comes almost every day to complain of one thing or another. The latest is that her daughter was beaten; we don’t even allow beating in this school. Sometimes Juliet will come into a classroom and start video recording and then share the videos on Instagram. I don’t know why she was always doing that. We repeatedly pleaded with her to stop it. It was not only her child that attends the school or in that classroom.”
Shodeinde said that she travelled and when Juliet’s daughter did not come to school for two days, the HM called to find out if the child was fine.
“Juliet responded that, so the school was just noticing her child’s absence, she then said that she took the girl to the hospital. On Wednesday Juliet came to school to see the HM and when the woman asked her to come in, she complained that she was kept waiting. I was called and the noise from the background was much. I called and pleaded with her, and she told parents had been complaining about the HM,” said Shodeinde.
Speaking about the school fees problem, Shodeinde said: “The daughter had done after-school lessons for two weeks. The initial payment was N91, 200, but after cutting all she didn’t want, we arrived at N76, 200, which was an exception, we usually don’t do that. Moreover, she had just recently completed the balance of the second term, and even at that she short-paid us. She’s still owing the ballerina trainer, who got tired of the issues and asked the school to allow Juliet to go with the money.”
Shodeinde said that she was in the UK when the HM called her, saying that Juliet brought a policewoman to the school premises, and most of the staff had to go to the police station. Shodeinde said she got seriously tired of all the everyday drama and stress and needed Juliet to just leave, debt or not.
“She paid the third term and short paid us again. So, I told her to take the child away if she did not balance. The fact remains that we must pay full-time and part-time teachers and these sets of people do not care whether parents have paid school fees or not. On the 19th the school sent letters to all parents owing to pay up, including Juliet. But she went to the police and the police pleaded that the school should allow the child to stay until I returned from the UK. I returned on the 17th and by then I was tired of her lies and ranting, including lies that her daughter was beaten. Juliet had been stressing everyone. At a point, we pleaded with her to just leave and go with the money she owed us. We sent a letter of withdrawal, but she disregarded it, instead, her daughter came to school very early the following day, which was unusual. The daughter was just a child, and it was not her fault that her mom was owing or stressing everyone. The school couldn’t just march the child out of the school. So, we kept her at the admin office. The office is always open, and she sat on the executive seat there. Contrary to what Juliet said, the child was not alone and was not locked up with a male staff,” narrated Shodeinde.
Shodeinde said that on the third day of the drama, she instructed that the pupil should be allowed back into her class. The school also agreed to allow the pupil to write the final exams. She noted that the pupil was upstairs in the class with her mates, eating, when Juliet arrived, and all hell broke loose.
Shodeinde said: “She queried my bill; however, I must state here that enrolling a child in a particular school is optional. There are other schools. She suddenly brought out her phone and started recording, shouting that she would report the school to Alausa, which she did and Alausa officials have been here and spent three hours going round the school.”
Our reporter also spoke with the security guard at the gate, asking if he was on duty on the day that Juliet was beaten.
He replied: “Yes, I was here on that day. When I saw her heading towards the gate, I rushed to open it, but she must have thought I wanted to lock it because she pushed me with such force that I had to grab hold of the gate. If not, I would have hit my head on this concrete floor.”
Shodeinde added: “The old man was trying to open the gate, and the way she pushed him caused me to scream. She went to the police and the police called and invited us over. When we got to ShaSha Police Station, I was shocked to see her crying profusely, claiming that we beat her and that her arm was broken. We got there at 11am and left at 7pm. The police asked what she wanted, she insisted that they should lock up Baba (guard). I was detained behind the counter. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) was not around on that day. I was forced to remove my earrings and other items; they were planning to put me in the cell.”
Shodeinde further said that Juliet had gone as far as poisoning the minds of parents on the WhatsApp parents’ forum, created only for parents of the school.
Shodeinde’s lawyer, Animashaun, said: “It was even shocking that policemen from Shasha Police Station never bothered to investigate her allegations. She has changed her allegation on different occasions. She first claimed the child was locked up, beaten, and tortured, then when we got to Zone 2, she said her daughter was molested. If your child was molested, you should be harping on it, but she never did. She said that three security guards beat her up, but it was only Baba that was on duty. She claimed that she lost consciousness and that she regained consciousness, walked through the estate down to the road to take transportation, to the police station, instead of a hospital, come on!”
Our reporter also tried to find out what transpired at ShaSha Police Station before the case was transferred to Zone 2 Police.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Benjamin Hundeyin said: “It was a case of a school sending home a pupil that had not completed payment of school fees. The mom of the pupil went to the school to confront the school authority, claiming she had paid the complete fees, and that it was sports fees she owed. She became so confrontational, that the security guard had to get her out of the premises. She said that she was severely beaten. She was given a medical form to take to the hospital so that doctors could examine and ensure there were no injuries. She was also asked to come back with the result, but since then, she has not returned to the station.”
Hundeyin said the Shasha Police Station concluded to charge the security guard for assault and charged the matter to court, but Juliet needed to be on the ground for the matter to be charged to court.
“She has practically stalled the investigation and prosecution,” Hundeyin said. “It was confirmed that the child was not assaulted, molested, or defiled. Nothing happened to the child.”
Our reporter also went to Zone 2 Police, where the case is currently being investigated and the spokesperson, Superintendent of Police (SP) Hauwa Idris-Adamu, said that according to a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Abbey Bamgbose, lead officer of the investigation, Juliet was not attacked, and her daughter was not molested. Idris-Adamu added that Juliet’s daughter was not locked up with a male staff as alleged but kept in an open office.
Earlier, before our reporter’s visit to Zone 2 Police, Juliet had complained about CSP Bamgbose, insisting that he was hostile and never gave her room to have her say during interview between parties.
She said: “He tried to intimidate me, saying I had no case, that what the school did to my daughter was normal punishment, that when he was young, they also used to beat and lock him up. He said that if I couldn’t discipline my daughter, I should allow the school to do it. He asked me to show my injuries or bleeding. He then said that during his university days if he didn’t pay school fees, the school usually didn’t allow him to attend lectures.”
On the day our reporter met with Juliet for this interview, she asked to hear her side of the story, but Juliet stated that our reporter never told her that she might want to speak with the child.