By Segun Tolorunfe Adeoye
But I’ve been thinking about this alleged bullying that led to the death of the young man, Sylvester Oromoni at Dowen College, a private secondary school in Lagos Nigeria. I just remembered that it was by the grace and mercy of God that some of us did not die in Idoani, especially the ones like me with constant tendencies to land into trouble.
I will share some personal experiences that are still very vivid in my thoughts to corroborate my assertion.
I and some friends have survived deliberate electrocution, where the senior (name witheld) asked us to line up, and form a series circuit, each boy holding one another’s hand, and the senior asked us to step barefooted on a pool of water that he deliberately poured on the ground. He then asked the first person on the line to hold a naked live wire. By grace, no life was lost on that day, but such was the unsupervised and unguided power given to a 15-16 year old sadists in the name of seniority in boarding houses.
School Prefects met out punishments based on their evil tendencies and vindictive capabilities. Some would slap you and you’d have the privilege to see your late ancestors in a flash. The only difference was that the prefects were protected by the institution to do those things and are either rewarded or at least get away with them.
We were forced to lie down under a double decker for long periods, only to see poisonous snakes creep out from under the same bed.
These kind of experiences leave a mark on the victims and make them scarred for life. It takes deliberate and conscious effort to forgive and let go, otherwise, you may become what you hate.
One 92 set senior (just a year ahead of me) kicked me violently, without inhibition, and cleared me off my balance from a height of about 6 feet in a veranda of our hostel (to the best of my knowledge, I cannot remember what I did wrong aside that he wanted to exert his authority). I landed hip first and could barely walk. As I was about to regain my balance, he came charging at me with a follow up aggression to continue hitting me.
At the blind spot of that senior was my confused father, who had travelled all the way from Lagos to pay an unplanned and unannounced visit to me. In the middle of the noise my dad was confused and asked what was going on, then the senior converted the aggression to support, while I had his fate in my hands.
A parent finding his son in the middle of a violent bullying act could never have been swept under the carpet.
I managed to stand up, with support from the same wicked senior, I looked into his eyes and told my dad that I slipped while running to the classroom.
Such was my Innocence and forgiving heart. Then my dad told me off and accused me of being too clumsy. Till today, I still ask myself how I was able to forgive in such spontaneous way.
Teachers are now less motivated, schools are now competing for profits, nobody cares about the wellbeing of students. All that we have in most of our secondary schools are self motivated students excelling, with minimal or no support systems to push the others, have little or no capacity to cope, high up.
In all of these and lot more, I thank God that we survived, but I have weaned myself off the ideology of sending my child to boarding schools. It is not what it used to be, and the children are getting more fragile in secondary schools.
Most times, we let our painful experience hinder our destiny nurturing time. Time to learn peace, learn gratitude, learn skills, learn relationship, develop capacity and many destiny enhancing strategies, we focus on bitterness.
My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their loved ones to secondary school bullying. May God console them and heal their wounds.
We do not look like what we have been through, behind our smiles are are hidden scars of battles from within and without.
AYO DADA – PARENTS, PLEASE LISTEN YOUR CHILDREN!
When I read about the Sylvester Oromoni’s unfortunate and avoidable death in the hands of bullies at Dowen College Lagos, my mind raced back to my secondary school days, my experiences, and that of 90% of boarding house students accross schools back then. The culture was that of wickedness, evil behaviors and acts of the senior students against the junior ones, part of which was as a result of the unsupervised boarding system we had then.
The unfortunate chorus from the perpetrators and a few sufferers of extreme bullying then, and now, is ”that’s what made us what we are”, even to this day.
What many parents did not understand then and perhaps now, is the fact that junior students who experienced and are experiencing extreme bullying from their seniors were/are too scared to tell the seriousness of their fates in the hands of the perpetrators to them was/is the fear of retaliation from those seniors which would be almost certainly be joined by other seniors; as the saying goes, “Snitches gets stitches”. The threats were/are real.
It seems many parents, and the society at large, are in denial of the consequences of the evil of wicked hazing in the lives of children.
When the cliche “that was what made us what we are” is to be analyzed against where we really are, it will be hypocritical of anyone to use such line in a society like ours, that is bankrupt from the leaders to the led in every facet of human development.
Parents should listen to their children/wards when they complain of their experiences in these boarding schools, get counselors involved if necessary, and take appropriate actions, remove the child from the school and consider legal actions against the school and the children’s parents and the school.
Ours is a society that will not listen to the lone voice that is suffering amongst us, even sometimes when the evidence is staring us in the face.
Sylvester’s parents need to consider taking civil and criminal legal actions against Dowen and the parents of Michael Keshamu, Ansley Temile, Benjamin Favour, Edward Brown, and Agboro Emmanuel, and anyone involved in the physical assault on Sylvester that took his life.
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