Parents, educationists and other residents of Rivers State were jolted on Tuesday when irate students of the Federal Government Girls College, Abuloma, Port Harcourt, turned against each other and staff, including a principal, in one of the worst cases of college violence in recent years.
When the dust settled that fateful Tuesday, over a dozen students and the Vice Principal were nursing injuries inflicted on them by other students. A senior academic staff of the institution described the incident as “one of the worst in secondary school violence in this part of the country. It was indeed a sad day for education.”
Nation Evening Express investigations revealed that the crisis had been brewing for several months, before Tuesday’s clash. A member of staff, who volunteered information on condition that her identity would be protected, gave a graphic insight into the bloody clash, which shook the school and the host community, Amadi-Ama.
According to our source, students in the school, especially the finalist (SS3) had been exhibiting unruly behaviours, which the school authority barely condoned because “it was better to manage them as their days as students of FGGC are numbered. We said they would soon pass out, before trouble broke out in the early hours of Tuesday.”
It was gathered that as the final days of the students drew nearer, they became more unruly and disrespectful of constituted authorities, with some of them breaking school rules; going out at unusual hours to parties outside the school. Some of them even brought their boyfriends into the dormitory to sleep with them overnight.”
The source continued: “Usually, when retiring to bed every night, the dormitories are locked for security reasons but these unruly SS3 students have been preventing the guards from locking their dormitory. When the guards approach, the girls in their numbers would strip to their last garment and dare the guards to come further. To avoid getting into trouble or any allegation of attempting to rape the students, the guards would beat hasty retreat and let the students have their way. This had been going on for months now.”
Independent findings by our reporter indicated that the student are averse to the locking of the dormitory gates because it prevents some of their colleagues from going out on night rendezvous with their boyfriends or prevent the very daring ones from bringing in their consorts.
Trouble started Sunday night when an SS1 student, who was beaten up (punished) by SS2 students for alleged disobedience, reported her ordeal to an SS3 elder sister. While the SS3s were mobilizing to deal with the situation, the SS2s moved first to draw the battleline with the angry SS3s. It was gathered that the former invaded the dormitories of the students, urging them to “do their worst”. But the security staff quickly moved in and settled the rift before it degenerated that night.
Yet, it was learnt that the terms of the settlement did not go down well with the final year students. One of the alleged key players, who was later expelled, told our reporter that the SS3 students felt slighted that their juniors could stand up to them in the manner they did. “It has never happened in the history of this school. We (final year students) felt we couldn’t take it without teaching them (SS2 students) some bitter lesson.”
The zero hour to teach the bitter lesson came on Monday night when all dormitories were being locked; the SS3 students, as usual, reportedly stripped and stood menacingly at the gate, to prevent their dormitory being locked. Having scaled that hurdle, they went about amassing weapons. Hoes used for Agric science practicals, bottles of soft drinks, peanuts and others brought by caring families, razor, cutleries and others came in handy in the final hours of preparing. Insecticides became lethal weapons when sprayed into naked fire from hidden matches and lighters, which the smokers among the students tucked away.
At the unholy hour of about 1.00am on Tuesday, they were fully charged and battle-ready. Armed with their weapons, they invaded the SS2 dormitory. The hoe came in handy for breaking the locks. Apparently aware of what was happening, the SS2 students reportedly made telephone calls to cult members from other schools. The invitees wasted no time in joining the fray.
The attack left several students with various injuries – cuts and bruises. An aged Vice Principal in charge of Special Duties was attacked with insecticide. The aged VP was momentarily ‘blinded’ by the attack as he tried to broker a ceasefire. A member of the staff, who witnessed the fracas, said: “These students are something else. They have constantly been harassing this same Vice Principal, who is older than most of their parents, to come and have sex with them in their hostel,” our source further revealed.
Some of the injured students were rushed to Teme Hospital, Mile 1, Diobu, for medical attention at the time of compiling this report. The Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam, who confirmed the incident, dispelled any notion of cultists involvement in the fracas. He said: “Our men have waded into the matter with a team drafted to the school to restore calm. But what happened has nothing to do with cults. It was a misunderstanding between SS2 and SS3 students and investigation is still on.”
But one of the students expelled for her alleged involvement, countered Ugwuegbulam’s assertion, insisting: “The SS2 students invited cult members from other schools who came and joined in the fight.”
Meanwhile, Nation Evening Express also gathered that the SS2/SS3 students involved the disgraceful clash may be ignorant pawns in a dangerous chess game by members of the FGGC board. Specifically, our investigation revealed that there is a no-love-lost relationship between the Principal and other members of the board over the administration of the school and its finance.
It was gathered that the game of wit by the authorities had also seeped into the parents association, necessitating the change of leadership recently after a member of the former executive was accused of conniving with the school authority in a controversial N30million contract expenditure.
Another source said a section of the management has been up against the Principal, Mrs. Edwina Azeh, for some time. “As a Kalabari, an indigene of the host community, they are upset that she allegedly corners every project undertaken by the school. Some inside influence may have instigated the warring factions into a crisis to rubbish her administration. Preliminary investigation into the crisis has pointed to this conspiracy theory in the school war.”
Worried parents besieged the school on Wednesday morning to withdraw their children even though normal academic activities were still going on. One of the panicky parents told our reporter at the school gate that although she wanted her child to have education, “it is better for me to have her alive with me.”
Meanwhile, there were indications yesterday that some aggrieved victims are planning reprisal attacks to even up scores. At a nearby bar, our reporter met some SS3 students who claimed that their SS2 counterparts were planning a reprisal attack. They claimed that their ‘intelligence report’ indicated that the final attack would be launched on the final day of the on-going SSCE examinations.
Ostensibly aware of the impending clash, the school management has sacked all SS3 students from their dormitory. Only those of them writing examination on a given day are allowed entry for the exam hour. But parents remain skeptical. Some of them said the calm that has been restored was too uneasy for comfort on Wednesday.
Already, 16 SS3 students have been expelled in the wake of preliminary investigation into Tuesday’s bloody clash. The expulsion meant that the affected students would miss their outstanding papers in the SSCE. Similarly, Nation Evening Express gathered that the embattled Principal, Mrs. Edwina Azeh, made a quick dash to Abuja on Wednesday, presumably to brief the authorities of the Federal Ministry of Education on the sordid incident that happened in the school under her watch.
Culled from The Nation