Liberia: Visually Impaired Girl, 13, Raped, Impregnated at Christian Association of the Blind
Monrovia – Princess, 13, (not her real name) was born visually impaired. Her grandparents’ last option to give her formal education was enrolling her at the Christian Association of the Blind, Inc, (CAB), a popular school for visually impaired people in Monrovia.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
But when Princess recently returned for a vacation after five months at the school, she was noticed with a protruding stomach – pregnancy.
It all started when Princess was raped by her instructor. The incident became an open secret but her grandparents were never informed by the school administration.
She was again raped, but this time by another person, who is a teenager. She was raped again and again and he became pregnant.
Now, she has given birth to a male child.
Her grandparents, in an interview with FrontPageAfrica, broke down in tears while narrating Princess’ ordeal.
“We feel really bad about the situation. I actually don’t like to talk about the issues because I feel bad and hurt,” the grandmother explains.
Her grandparents recalled how the 13-year-old was taken to CAB, which is owned and operated by Beyan Kota, a prominent visually impaired man and a decorated advocate for people of his community. Mr. Kota runs the school with the help of his wife, Fatu Kota.
When Princess enrolled at the school, her grandparents hired a nurse for three years to cater to her while on campus, an opportunity not many other visually impaired students have at CAB.
Princess was being taught how to learn braille reading and writing. They said though they didn’t pay school fees, they paid for other basic requirements.
When Princess was found pregnant, her grandparents quickly called the campus to ask, “how come?”
“I told her that my granddaughter was pregnant and we were going there to know what happened. We immediately went with the girl.”
At the school, Princess was asked if she could recognize the suspected perpetrator in the presence of Ms. Kota and she mentioned Jonny Karley.
The name of the perpetrator was not strange to Mrs. Kota including other students as she (Mrs. Kota) said the suspect was a resident of the community where the school is located.
Other students also attested that they knew the perpetrator and was residing around the campus and normally go on the campus to fetch water prior to the incident.
Mrs. Kota advised Princess’s grandmother to call the police and the alleged perpetrator was traced and arrested the same night Princess’ grandparents met the school administrators.
Statements were taken by police from Princess’ family, the perpetrator, Kota and some witnesses.
Raped By a Teacher
Prior to the pregnancy, Princess was allegedly raped in the school’s kitchen by one of the instructors identified as Kwame Wreh.
Princess, in her statement to the health counselor, said Mrs. Kota knew about the incident but she asked the minor not to disclose it to anyone. This was to avert the school image from ruining.
According to the grandmother, she was informed by Princess’ dad.
“Fatu is saying you are aware of the teacher raping Princess because she told you, that’s how I told my son to come to get me because I wasn’t with them at the clinic when my grandchild went for examination,” the grandmother said.
When the incident occurred, Princess said the teacher was asked to leave the school.
Her grandmother then questioned the decision by the school to ask the teacher instead of informing the police.
When Princess’ grandparents left the police station, where investigations were conducted, Mrs. Kota texted her: “I was detained and disgraced because of your daughter, remember what you did.”
The grandmother claims Mrs. Kota, who is the caretaker of the kids, has not communicated with her family to know the status of the child. But has been determined to conceal the information from the public.
“We told him we can’t decide and that the matter is already with the court and we cannot compromise rape case so we will wait until the government can do their investigation and come out with something,” she said.
“Maybe before we can sit as a family but right now, we can’t do anything. He said he didn’t want the institution name to spoil.”
Take the Responsibility
Princess’ parents said it was shocking that CAB administrators were concerned about their institution’s reputation instead of her granddaughter’s future.
“Is like they were only concerned about the institution name, from that day when we left, they have not called, only the students sometimes called the girl to check on her.
“I told him that he should understand that whatever that is happening they have a responsibility in it because according to your wife, the first one happened but she didn’t tell us.
“I am a midwife, if you were going to tell us about the first one, we could know what to do but maybe, if you were going to be the first to know that she was pregnant, maybe you were going to abort it.”
Princess’ grandmother accused Mrs. Kota of instructing the students to deny knowing the alleged perpetrator but one of the students willingly took them to his place.
On February 28, Princess gave birth safely to a boy child although she had a tough time, according to her grandmother.
Released Without Victim’s Family Consent
The perpetrator is currently roaming the streets because the Juvenile Court at Temple of Justice released him from Central Prison unknown to the victim’s family.
It was Princess’ dad and officers that escorted the perpetrator to the prison, but she went to the court to inquire in November 2018, and was told that the boy was freed.
Johnny should have spent five months in prison according to Liberia’s juvenile law but he was released prior to that time.
“The court staff told me to wait until he reaches 18 years,” she said.
Princess’ grandmother is holding the school responsible for what happened to her grandchild.
When Princess was taken to the school, the Kotas promised to secure her knowing that she is visually impaired, she said.
“They told us that they had security but the girl was taken out of the campus not one time without anyone protecting her.
“He came on the campus more than once, where were they? The children are vulnerable. What they did didn’t go down well with me. Fatu did not behave like a mother even Beyan Kota.”
No option for Princess’ Schooling
As 13-year-old Princess focuses on breastfeeding her 2-month-old baby, fear looms about her educational sojourn coming to an end.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, her grandmother says she is frustrated about Princess’ future.
Princess had two years to complete CAB before enrolling in a regular academic school.
“Where will we send her? We don’t have money to send her out of the country and she has a child. She is breastfeeding,” her grandmother laments with teary eyes, calling for the prosecution or shutdown until a sexual policy is put in place at the school.
“The students are not protected. Mr. and Mrs. Kota need to protect the children because with their disability they are vulnerable. Looking at her condition, we wanted her to learn. Not to be begging in the streets like we can see others around here doing, so I am feeling really bad,” the grandfather added.
Mr. Kota in response to FPA inquiry, requested that he be given “some time to talk with Princess’ grandparents because I don’t have the full detail on the issue”.
However, Mr. Kota said the school has benefitted many blind children and that a report about sexual offense could damage its reputation.
“You have to understand that blind people are diverse; this is not one breed of people, you also have to understand that the humanity of blind people is diverse,” Kota said.
He asked our reporter to look at the level in which people living with blindness have changed at the institution instead of reporting the sexual offense story.
“Go ahead and report, you won’t be doing it to me but the many blind children. You know the number of blind children that are happy, the report will be taking away the happiness of the blind people,” he said. “Let’s be careful how we report, I am not saying don’t report if you think that is your obligation and that is the right way to serve and to serve your conscious and country, fine, report, when we get the details we will respond.”