'I could have died... I thought I was dying' - Stabbed teacher's call for action over knife crime in schools

Teacher Vincent Uzomah, turning his back on an unruly student to write on the board, was stabbed in the side with a six-inch kitchen knife.
Dr Vincent UzomahDr Vincent Uzomah
Dr Vincent Uzomah

It was an unprovoked, pre-planned attack by a 14-year-old boy believed to have hidden the knife in his bag for two days. Dr Uzomah, it emerged, had been stabbed because he is black.

Meeting the dignified doctor, now a university lecturer, in a coffee-shop in Leeds, it’s hard to imagine the horrors he faced.

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He is soft-spoken, unassuming. A father of three, he smiles when he talks about his eldest daughter’s sporting success, and laughs at the trials of a daily commute.

It’s been two and a half years since he was left in his classroom to die, crawling to the school’s reception desk for help and whispering final messages to be passed to his wife.

He was broken by what happened to him, he says. By the physical act, but also by the knowledge that it had been a child that wielded the weapon.

“It was a horrifying experience,” he said. “To know that the kids, the ones you are trying to educate, could turn around and try and kill you.

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“I could have died. I actually thought I was dying. All I could think of was all the things I wanted to do. My wife, my kids, my little one. That I didn’t say goodbye to my family.”

Dr Uzomah, 52 and from Leeds, had been working as a supply teacher at Dixons Kings Academy as he finished his PhD. On June 11 as he was preparing his class for the day, he had been disrupted by a pupil shouting in the corridor.

When he told the boy to sit down, he took out his phone. When he told him to put it away, the boy started to walk to the door. Turning to the board, he felt a sharp pain in his side.

“He came at me from behind, and stabbed me. A hand hit me, very hard, in my tummy. As he held his hand out I saw he was holding a knife, six inches long, stained with my blood.

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“Later, in court, his friends said it was because I was black.

“I have a right to be alive. Even if you don’t like me, I have the right to live. Kids should be taught to respect one another, and to respect our differences.”

Dr Uzomah was saved that day by the efforts of paramedics and the medical team that worked on him. But he was off work for months, frightened to return to the classroom. His wife, also a teacher in Leeds, became afraid and, when a boy in her own school was caught with a knife, found she was too frightened to teach him.

“My family could feel it,” he said. “My children know that their dad had been stabbed by a 14-year-old. My son was 13, nearly 14 himself. I wonder, in the future, what impact that will have on them. Financially, everybody washed their hands of us. I lost wages, I wasn’t going to work. I have lost, in all aspects.

“We suffered alone. That emotional impact is still there.

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“I find it hard to trust people. Sometimes, when I park my car in a lonely place, I’m afraid to get out. When I see kids, in the park, wearing hoodies.

“I’m gradually coming out of it, trying to move on. But the thought is always there, the flashbacks.

“I can’t just walk away. That’s something I have to live with.”

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed an 11-year extended sentence after he admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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He had used a racial slur just before the attack, a court was later told, and boasted of his actions on Facebook.

“I’m a Christian,” said Dr Uzomah. “For that purpose, I forgive him. I’m grateful for my life. I survived. If I didn’t forgive, the pain would weigh heavy in my heart.”

Dr Uzomah has forced himself to take steps away from what happened. To get back into the classroom, now as a university lecturer, to teach civil engineering.

“I have tried to calm my mind, to deal with that mental torture,” he said. “I love teaching. I couldn’t stop.”

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