All Bassey Sardauna, a teacher at the Government Day Secondary School Model, Jalingo, Taraba State, wanted was for his students to shun vices capable of impacting negatively on their pursuit for a better future.
But his good heart and nature, based on findings, seemed to have earned him hatred among some errant students, eventually leading to his death on November 9.
Following his death, our correspondent on Wednesday, November 22, visited the school where Bassey was stabbed to death by a former student, whom the police have identified as James Williams.
When our reporter got to the school in the morning, no security man or check was put in place, and he drove into the massive compound unchallenged.
Some students were seen at the primary section playing on the field, while others sat on the fence of the porous school located in the heart of the town
In the secondary section, teachers were seen in groups speaking in low tones, possibly about the incident as their late colleague was buried the previous day.
One of the teachers who confided in our correspondent said, “We are working in fear in this school. The psychological effect of Bassey’s tragic death is with us. The road leading to this school has lots of hideouts and we are afraid the bad boys will one day attack the school.
”The memory of the late Bassey still lingers. We were all sitting under this tree that fateful day before he left and was attacked and killed. There is a need for trauma healing for all staff and students who were close to him before his murder.
“We have not seen any seriousness on the part of government and security agencies to address the issue of security in our schools and we are worried” she lamented.
Two other teachers; Musa Tanko and Tarwa Terfa working with Government Science Secondary School Jalingo and Government Day Secondary School Sunkani, respectively, also expressed fears that most schools in the state stand the danger of being attacked due to lack of perimeter fence that makes them porous.
The teachers appealed to the government and community leaders to work towards providing security in schools across the state, even as efforts are being made to address illicit drug use among youth in the state.
A student who was on parade when the late Bassey had an altercation with the former student, while recounting what transpired said, “The late Bassey was on duty on that day and had assembled us according to our classes. We all also lined up according to groups. All four groups in the school were lined up and he was checking to ensure that we were in order when a former student arrived with a friend and walked through the lines to gain access to the administrative block.
“Bassey asked him why he was passing within the students instead of behind the assembly but as he turned to do as the teacher pointed out, his friend asked him not to obey the instruction.
“The late Bassey flogged him with a cane and commotion started. We were told that the former student came to the school because he wanted to sign his Air Force application form and his father had earlier called to ask for assistance from one of the teachers.”
Mr. Roberts Moses, the school principal who resumed duty in the school after the incident told Arewa PUNCH that even though he was transferred to the school a few days after the incident, he was told that when the commotion got to the knowledge of the school authority, they quickly called for the local Vigilante in the area to keep watch over the school until closing time.
“The Vigilante personnel I was told left the school shortly before closing time. When the deceased said he wanted to leave and discovered the boys were outside, the Vice Principals made several calls to get the Vigilante back but did not get a response.
“At closing time, the teacher was escorted out of the gate closer to the main road, not knowing that the hoodlums were hiding somewhere close to the main road. The school was then informed that one of our teachers was attacked, on rushing there he was bleeding seriously and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead by doctors.”
Bassey had premonition of his death – Wife
When our correspondent paid a visit to the family house of the deceased in the Abuja Phase II area of Jalingo, a day after he was buried, the atmosphere was gloomy as grieving family, friends and neighbours sat in clusters.
Bassey’s wife, Mercy, who managed to speak, said her husband had a premonition that danger was lurking and felt quite uneasy, especially before leaving for work on the day of the traffic happening.
She recounted tearfully, “In fact, the signs were there for over two weeks. My husband knew something was wrong and we prayed for God’s protection. Personally, I lost my peace and I was losing weight but felt it had to do with stress from financial issues.
“From Monday of the week he died, he kept saying he was not feeling happy. He went to the hospital with me to see my mother who was on admission. He was to proceed to work afterwards but eventually changed his mind. My mother thought it was because of her health and pleaded with him, but he insisted on not going. He stayed back in the hospital until schools closed when he returned home to check on the children.
“On Wednesday he woke up so weak. I thought it was because we were having pressing issues that required money. He didn’t go to work on Wednesday and when he went on Thursday, around 1:25 pm, I received a call that he was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre. By the time I got to the hospital, he had died.
“He was my friend and always helped me to prepare food and with house chores. He was my friend and my greatest pain now is where do I cope without him?”
The Principal of the school, Mr. Roberts Moses, who described Bassey Sardauna as one of the best teachers in the school said, “He was one of the best here in Model School. He was jovial, communicated with people in a friendly manner and usually encouraged his fellow teachers to dedicate themselves to their duties. We seriously miss him.”
On the security measures being put in place to forestall a reoccurrence, the principal said he has been in touch with the police and that he was assured that soon, police personnel will start manning the gate to provide security.
“The security will regularly search the students, their pockets and places they may likely hide dangerous items or weapons. If that is not done, it will definitely increase the rate of crime.
“We realize that some of them hide some dangerous weapons when coming to school and they use them at will. The security agencies we contacted are giving us positive signals. We will have them in the school once they finish mapping out a schedule for regular posting.
“Plans are also on to ensure that the road leading to the school is manned by policemen. If you look at the road, you will see that there are hideouts. The persons mounting the gate will also be staying closer to the main road to monitor all that is happening till the school closes,” Roberts said.
Reacting to the concern raised by some teachers on likely psychological effects the incident might have on staff and students, the principal said the school was planning to organise an extracurricular activity after the examination, particularly with a special focus on counselling sessions with an expert.
He said, “We are not taking anything to chance. We are going to organise a psychological healing programme for both teachers and students.
“As the students are going on holiday, they will go with the notion of not engaging themselves in crime and also not to have any phobia as regards coming back to school because of what happened.
“The attack is considered a new normal now. If you go around town, you will realise that many students and young people are moving with knives and other weapons. If the teachers work together as a team, they will be able to reduce the rate of crime. The government should ensure that the ban that was placed on the use of machetes, cutlasses, and knives in Taraba State has come to stay. If the youths are properly checked in town, the tendency of them coming to the school with weapons may be limited.”
Corroborating the principal on the issue of school security, Commissioner for Education, Dr Augustina Godwin said the government is bent on bringing the ‘Safe School Project’ to the state, as part of efforts to provide security for the free education policy.
He said, “I already attended a National Summit on ‘Safe Schools For All’ that took place on November 2, 2023, organised by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps at the NAF Conference Centre Abuja.
“The summit was meant to sensitise stakeholders, identify threats and security elements in the implementation of the safe schools project; foster national dialogue and strengthen synergy and collaboration among Stakeholders, and understand the role of the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre in the effective implementation of safe Schools project.”
Meanwhile, as incidents of knife attacks continue to rise in the state with four cases recorded within two weeks in the Jalingo metropolis, Governor Agbu Kefas has directed a ban on weapons such as knives, machetes and daggers.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Digital Communication, Mr Emmanuel Bello made this known in a statement released in Jalingo.
The Police Public Relations Officer, SP Abdullahi Usman, recently said the police had launched a manhunt for the suspect identified as James Williams, with a view to arresting him to face the law.
Efforts made to get the PPRO’s reaction did not yield any result as he did not pick up calls made to his mobile line or respond to text messages.