By Michael West
December 10, 2021
And the boy died in agony!
His mouth was sore swollen, writhing in pains all over his boyish body frame, unable to stand on his feet neither was he able to walk. He was crushed, dehumanized and tortured to his untimely grave. A Nigerian future leader was cut short. His bright future was shattered. His parents became bereaved in broad daylight. While other parents came to pick up their children back home from the school, the innocent soul was committed to Mother Earth in grief! What an irrecoverable loss! That was the fate that befell Master Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year-old student of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, who died last week due to injuries he sustained from brutal treatments allegedly meted to him by a gang of bullying senior students for no reason other than rascality and nuisance.
Many years ago, precisely in the 1960s/70s, boarding schools were a developmental hub for students of post primary schools. About than 70 percent of secondary school students resided in the boarding facilities of their various schools. Summer holidays otherwise known as long vacation or end of academic session break had always been periods students mingled and enjoyed the warmth of their parents. Discipline, not abuse, was the hallmark of seniority in schools. Parents gleefully endeavour to meet up with school requirements for boarding students.
Nothing excites a parent like seeing her baby growing to become an adult and ultimately emerge successful in life. In this part of the world, education is a priority. Back in time, morals, discipline and culture were learned from home while the school deepened those virtues and complement these with academic and vocational training. Agriculture, handcrafts, sports and devotion at periods dedicated to worship were fully built into extra curricular activities in schools. That was why quality education and leadership skills were inculcated into the students of those golden era.
Bullying has always been part of students’ lifestyle in schools but it’s more pronounced among boarding students. In the time past, it was mild; in fact, it was assumed to be a trait of seniority. No injury would be inflicted. What was common at the time were punishments for recalcitrant students especially the Juniors. Fetching buckets of water, manual labour, kneeling down, delay in getting to bed, serving the roommates etc were common forms of discipline for offenders. Reports of abuse and bullying were rare at the time, and if any at all, they were infinitesimal.
These days, apart from students to students bullying, some staff members are equally culpable. Some housemasters and teachers were reported in recent times to have been queried or summoned over abuse cases against them. Abnormal caning, denied access to food during break time, and running errands while others were either in class, prep or at dinning hall are some of the allegations.
The school management handed down discipline and leadership roles to the prefects and some brilliant students in the senior classes. Yet, housemasters, the vice principal and the principal were always monitoring activities and happenings in the classrooms and dormitories. They treated reported cases of violation and abuse with immediate effect. Erring seniors and even prefects were summarily dealt with. Depending on the degree of offences, some were punished and reprimanded while those who committed grievous offences were placed on suspension or expulsion. School authorities didn’t tolerate bullying or acts of wickedness.
However, what is happening these days in our schools are quite appalling and disheartening. Some of them have gone beyond mere bullying and harassment of their fellow students to threats to life, assaults and sadly, killings! Cultism have crept into secondary schools more than 10 years ago but parents and school authorities pretended or chose to ignore it. Now that cultism has become cancerous destroying the future of young and promising adolescents, I think parents of such wayward children and their profit-minded school managements should admit failure on their part. Many parents don’t have time or interest in whatever their children do. They don’t visit them unannounced, fail to check their bags, go through their academic works and investigate the company of friends they keep. Dereliction of parental roles and institutional failure on the part of schools’ managements are responsible for the sad narratives we are dealing with today as exemplified by the Dowen College saga.
I don’t want to believe that most parents are not aware of the rebellious attitudes of their wards in and out of school. Agreed that some students could feign innocence and good behaviour at home but their language, mode of dressing, movements and the company of friends they keep will reveal their concealed identities. The Word says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). This is why parents cannot absolve themselves from blame as a result of antisocial behaviours of their children. The spiraling crime rate among school children also gain its strength from the compromised involvement of their parents in facilitating exam malpractices and criminal routes to academic attainment. Knowing the crooked manoeuvres of their parents towards their results and admission processes into higher institutions, such parents do lack the rectitude to whip to line erring and wayward children. Until ignoble parental compromise is eschewed, the tendency for the children to get enmeshed in criminal indulgences like hard drugs addiction, rape, bullying, robbery, thuggery and cultism will remain high while their parents will helplessly look away from the imploding disaster waiting to happen in their homes.
Besides, I like to acknowledge the fact that some parents are indeed good at parenting but the rebellious attitudes of their children are putting a lie to their sincere efforts due to peer pressure and influence on them. I know some children of clergy that have become serious challenges to divine calls and assignments of their parents. The children do engage in wild lifestyle and sexual misadventures for pecuniary and class chasing purposes. Schools that should curb the nefarious activities and tendencies in their students are more interested in increased population for higher monetary gain. Academic and non-academic staff are not as committed as they ought to be because they are made to work far more than their pay. Also, they’re being careful not to discipline the children of the rich and the highly placed personalities in society to avoid getting into trouble. Previous cases have shown that their school management usually sacrifice such staff to retain the patronage and favour of influential parents.
In the light of current challenges, the following steps should be taken:
• Close monitoring of students during school hours and in particular, in dormitories must be ensured. No excuse must be entertained henceforth for any abuse, bullying or assault among students.
• Surveillance cameras should be installed while the school security team should be on patrol at intervals. By this, the management of the school would keep negative tendencies in check.
• No case of intimidation, bullying and assault should be covered up for any reason whatsoever, regardless of whose child is involved. Every trace of misdemeanor must be nipped in the bud.
• The healing balm of justice must be served to appease the hurt of the victims and their families. The moment the unruly children of the high and the mighty begin to pay for their crimes, orderliness and sanity will be restored in schools in particular and the society in general.
• Upward review of salaries and allowances of staff especially those saddled with the responsibility of monitoring students like housemasters should be considered.
• The parents and teachers’ consultative forum should also play its oversight function in the affairs of schools. Visits to the dormitories and random probing of happenings from students will go a long way in putting things right.
May the soul of Sylvester Oromoni and those of other deceased students that died as a result of abuses find eternal rest in the Lord. May God comfort the bereaved families. Amen.
From the Mailbox
Re: The Flip Side of Interracial Marriage
Mr. West, You have said everything and left no room add much to it. I see the whole thing as a way of reversing the ugly trend of the past. It is time to make Africa the pacesetter.
Since African countries are plagued with weak leadership and selfish leaders who are not bothered about our heritage, the only sustainable ways to get reparations from those countries is through interracial marriages and what our youths are doing in the ICT sector and entrepreneurial adventure. All they need is encouragement from us as parents. – Chief Emo Diadenaru
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