When the class two pupil, I choose to call Abena [not her real name]decided to go for extra classes that fateful day, it was in pursuit of her academic laurels. It was that same zeal that made her agree to follow her class teacher who took her to another classroom under the guise of teaching her. But her class teacher who also doubles as a pastor, Mr. Morrison only succeeded in putting her on the path of jeopardy.
The nine-year-old girl was incapacitated for four months after she hit her pelvic bone against a desk in the classroom. She fell off a table as she tried to flee from Mr. Morrison Broni who was inserting his fingers in her vagina.
It is September 5, 2018. The sun is out in its full glory. Many of the children at Kasoa-Ofaakor are at home-some of them playing around in Abena’s house. One hundred meters away from where they are gathered is a parked trotro (commercial vehicle). The trotro conveyed eight family members of Abena to the Kasoa Polyclinic where she had been receiving treatment.
A referral form to the Winneba Government Hospital dated 20th August 2018, stated “patient presented with inability to walk after her teacher inserted his finger in vagina. Medical examination showed a partially perforated hymen with no tears or lacerations. Patient, still unable to walk despite pain medication”. The victim was treated for pelvic fracture and urinary tract infection.
Abena’s family members are seated discussing their next line of action. Very close to them, is the victim seated in a plastic chair, covered with a cloth. There is a pillow supporting her back with her two legs resting on a kitchen stool. As she stretches in the chair, tears begin to flow; a little girl in pain. She later mustered the courage to narrate her nightmarish experience.
“I went to school on Friday and he told us to come to classes on Saturday. I was late together with my younger sibling. There were some children writing there. He sacked all of them and told them their parents were looking for them. I told one of my friends there to wait but the teacher disagreed”, the little girl continued as tears continued to form in her eyes.
“When I started writing, he came closer and rubbed his hands in my hair and said my father said he should provide all my needs. He put me on one of the tables and started inserting his fingers into my genitals. I fell down and later ran home with my younger sister, who was waiting for me outside the classroom. I was scared to tell my mum. I feel sharp pains in my pelvic area,” she added.
Part of the meeting at Abena’s home today is to strategize on how to pile pressure on the police to make the suspect face the full rigours of the law. Abena’s grandfather is particularly not happy with how the Kasoa office of the Domestic Violence and Victim’s Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service is handling the case. The headmaster of Abena’s School is also putting pressure on Abena’s mother to withdraw the case for it to be settled at home. Seated in front of me is the bespectacled grandfather of the victim.
He is wearing a multi-coloured shirt with blue trousers to match. In his hand is a notebook stashed with receipts of all the medication she has bought for Abena, whose health is fast deteriorating. He fumes with anger as he tells me how the suspect has also been pleading for the matter to be settled at home. “I know the guy very well and his wife. He told me that he begs me, I should forgive him…
He does not know exactly what happened to him before he did that, I said what? If he is trying to deny, I will ask him a question, the money you brought to the girl’s mother, what was it for…He wants to destroy the life of the girl. I do not have money that is why I am unable to send her to the Winneba Hospital. At home at the moment, she is not getting medical care. I do not have the money; I have spent all the money” he said as tears begin to well up in his eyes.
We left Abena’s residence with one intention. To find help for her and also push for the prosecution of her class teacher. On 6th September we aired the story on Joy FM and also published the story.
The story caught the attention of one of Ghana’s influential pastors, Apostle General Sam Korankye Ankrah who is the founder of the Royal House Chapel International. During his sermon to thousands of his members, he condemned the act and offered to pay the full medical bills of Abena. On the 12th September, together with her mother, we pulled up at the Children’s unit of the Korlebu Teaching Hospital where she was to commence her treatment for pelvic fracture and other urinary tract infections.
Seven days after Abena was admitted at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and less than two weeks after we broke the story and kept the pressure for action to be taken against the perpetrator, Mr. Morrison was jailed by an Awutu Ofaakor Court presided over by Justice Ebenezer Osei Darko. He was found guilty on the charge of sexual assault. Justice was delivered!!!.
Abena’s recovery took a month but full recovery was in January 2019. She is fine now! It is the morning of 5th March, 2019 and she is walking to school. The anguish and pain are over. Her new school has given her renewed hope to attain her aspirations. Her words are few but her heart abounds with gratitude “I want to be a doctor, so I will be able to take care of my mother. I want to say thanks to all who helped me”. She said with her face beaming with smiles.
More than one thousand children were defiled in Ghana in the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.These are just reported cases as many of these incidents go unreported. Family members sometimes settle for compensation and choose to resolve the matter at home. Abena’s mother faced that pressure too. But her resolve and media attention helped her to surmount it. She is advising parents who find themselves in similar situation not to settle the cases at home for a pittance as compensation. She is admonishing them to demand justice.
“They should not sit at home and try to settle the matter. My daughter’s former headmaster came pleading that if we take the matter to court it will dent the image of his school. He promised to take care of my daughter from her current level to the University. I disagreed, he never came here again. If I had allowed the matter to be settled at home, he would have still not cared about the well-being of my child. I am most grateful to you and all those who helped, but for your help, I do not know what would have been my daughter’s condition” she said as she begins to cry.
The fight to attain goal five of the Sustainable Development Goals “Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls” may be fruitless if issues that militate against the progress of girls on the academic ladder are not eliminated. A safe space has to be created for them to be able to live free from the threats of sexual abuse and violence. Abena’s education threatened as she sustained the life-threatening injuries of pelvic-fracture and spinal injury. Thankfully, she survived it and is back to pursue her dreams. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but there is more satisfaction in going the long haul to pursue justice for victims of sexual abuse. Settling for a pittance as compensation should definitely not be an option. Abena is back in school. LET US SAVE THE VICTIMS AND JAIL THE RAPISTS.