•Sad tales from Lagos, Ogun, A/Ibom, Cross River, everywhere!
By Prisca Sam-Duru
Little Kelechi’s troubles began when she was brought from Imo State to begin Primary three in UPE School, 3rd Avenue, Festac Town, Lagos. Language barrier was her major challenge. There was a particular child named Ranti who bullied her each time they went on break, while her gang members enjoyed the show.
Ranti would always ask her to give her some water in Yoruba language and when she couldn’t understand what was said, she would be thoroughly flogged. This went on and at a point, the poor child became afraid of going to school. Upon noticing her predicament, the aunty she lived with enquired what was going on and luckily, Kelechi opened up.
Somehow the aunty was able to convince her to fight back. She summoned up courage one day after receiving the usual strokes of cane, and waited for Ranti on their way back from school. She gave her the beating of her life which culminated in stuffing sand in Ranti’s mouth; an action which trended in those days. That ended the bullying from Ranti and she got her freedom. Kelechi was lucky!
Another lucky victim of bullying in school is one of Nigeria’s seasoned Journalists, Ada Dike. Ada and her name sake and age mate, Ada Dike Ugorji were the smallest and youngest students when they entered secondary school. According to her, “One girl in our class who was also small like us harassed me to the extent that I became an object of ridicule in my class. Wherever that girl saw me, she said, “Hey! small girl, come here and greet me or else, I’ll beat you.”It continued till one day, some of my classmates started laughing at me and said that the girl I was afraid of was coming to ‘collect’ greeting. Immediately she drew closer and said, “Small girl,” I said shut up. She walked majestically towards me then raised her hand to slap me, I bent down, jerked her up and dropped her on the ground. My classmates hailed me.
“With that joy that I was able to throw my tormentor on the ground, I carried sand and tried to put it on her mouth before people, including her elder sister separated us. Her sister told her that she had got what she wanted. And we became friends afterwards. Hahaha!”
Ada too was lucky, unlike Keren Akpagher, the 14-yr-old student of Premier Academy, Lugbe Abuja who died earlier this year. A used condom was said to have been found inside her private part, indicating that she was raped repeatedly by someone in her school. You might argue that she was not beaten but, try imagining how far the rapist might have bullied her into silence. Sadly, she died before she could summon up courage to mention names. That’s a most heart-breaking case.
Sylvester Oromoni jr, the 12yr old student of Dowen College, Lagos, who possibly died of poisoning and internal injuries sustained by torture from students for failing to join a cult, was not lucky as well. His case which is the most recent of several cases of abuse and avoidable deaths of pupils in Nigerian Primary and Secondary schools, will shatter the stoniest of hearts. It still baffles everyone why no help came from his classmates/house mates or house master or even class teacher, until it became too late. Another crucial point to ponder on is, if Sylvester was tortured, dehumanised for refusing to join a cult, why were his house/classmates not so treated? Could it be that they’ve all been initiated?
It’s evident from narratives and survivor’s experiences which made it to public domain since the Sylvester’s sad incident, like the two captured above which happened in the 70s, that bullying has been from time immemorial. The only difference is perhaps, the bullies’ modus operandi. That a case as devastating as that of Sylvester, could happen in a private school, in a highbrow area in a city like Lagos,only means that the once ticking time bomb has finally exploded upon us.
Like we see in movies, some primary and secondary school pupils have turned into nightmares to fellow classmates; an unfortunate reflection of a country overrun by high level of moral decadence.
Some of them are cult groups while others are violent gangs. They join cults to terrorise innocent children or to have power to deal with any one who offends them. They fight with knives or metal objects that inflict pain and injuries on their victims. There are some who accept to become members simply for protection in the school.
CULTISM: When Lagos CP pleaded with Gov Ambode to intervene
As far back as 2013, Premium Times reported that18 secondary school students were arrested for cult activities in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Much attention was not paid to the menace that was about to befall the nation. Nothing concrete was done by relevant authorities to stop the growing trend until now that it seems to have gotten out of hand.
The report further stated that seven of the students according to the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Kareem Olanrewaju, were students of Nazareth arrested at the school premises while initiating new members into cultism by making incisions on their bodies. Eleven others were students of Nazareth High School apprehended for breaching the peace in the school; an action said to have exposed their involvement in cultism. The NSCDC spokesperson said the students would not be charged to court for being “non-prosecutable age”. So what happened to them? Were they rehabilitated?
While receiving a total of 139 youths who renounced their membership of various cult groups and surrendered arms and ammunition in their possessions in March 2018, the then Lagos State Commissioner of Police Imohimi Edgal, pleaded with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to declare a state of emergency on cultism. He also demanded that House of Assembly be prevailed upon to propose stiffer penalties for cultism, “because the practice of initiating our children in Primary schools is worrisome”.Was anything done about Edgal’s pleas? Ofcourse, the answer is obvious otherwise, as contained in Vanguard’s report a year later, 2019 to be precise, the police apprehended two individuals for initiating 12 Primary and secondary school pupils of Egan Primary and Secondary Schools, Igando into cultism. The kids aged between eight and 16 years old were initiated into the AWAWA confraternity group in Lagos.
That is just 12 out of many children who have been successfully recruited into one cult group or the other. Little wonder our primary and secondary schools have become infested like never before, with an alarming number of cultists who carry out nefarious activities against fellow mates without fear.
Also, a report of The Nation on November 25, 2021, titled “DPO, three others injured in Ogun schools cult violence” revealed how a Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Ignatius Alimeke and three students were reportedly injured during clashes involving rival cult groups operating in two public secondary schools in Ogun State.
The bloody encounter, according to the report, was between students of Egba High School Asero and Asero Secondary School in Abeokuta. And for almost 90minutes, “chaos and pandemonium enveloped the two schools, which are about 250 metres apart as innocent students and teachers fled in different directions.
The story is the same all over the country. In March 2020, there was a report on ban of 68 cult groups in Secondary Schools in Nigeria. In that report, the Akwa Ibom State Government was said to have proscribed 51 cult groups and societies in secondary schools in the state following cult related violence and unrest in schools. The number was in addition to 14 other cult groups earlier proscribed by the state government in 2018. Listed were, “The Luttox, Red Skins, St. Stephens, Dewell, Sept 11 Group, Secret Sons of Satan, King Cobra, J.V (Junior Vikings), Bats, and Predators, Black Ladies, Black Cross, Scavengers, Skylolo, Sons of Nights, Blood Brotherhood, Blood Suckers,Junior Buccaneers, White Angels and Musket and many others.
You’d begin to wonder how these children whose preoccupation is to inflict harm on others in school, pass exams and graduate? It’s certain that many of them who make it to higher institutions, do so through exam malpractice which is sustained all through their stay on campus. They are also easy recruits into cult groups on campus that is, if they were not already connected while in secondary school. This speaks eloquently of the poor quality of graduates now being churned out from our tertiary institutions
Female student takes gun to school!
In any part of the world, the education system is usually designed to inculcate knowledge and societal values in children who should grow into responsible future leaders. Sadly, violence has become a normal abnormality in Nigerian schools, even in the lower institutions of learning. You are only considered to be a happening babe or guy, only if you are a cultist. So sad!
We now have a situation whereby high-level of indiscipline and hooliganism are the order of the day. Pupils display the height of arrogance these days towards their teachers and any attempt to correct or discipline them, earns the teacher the wrath of the cultists or violent gangs. The case of the female student arrested by the police in Cross River State, for going to school with locally made pistol with the intention to shoot one of her teachers as alleged, is still fresh in our memory. According to reports, she was said to have gone to school with dyed hair and the teacher asked her to go and cut the hair.
Also, the young female teacher whose case was cited in an earlier report in Vanguard, is another sign that Nigeria’s school system is already in trouble. The teacher was insulted in class for reprimanding a male student who was disturbing her class in one of the mixed secondary schools in Imo State. Rather than become quiet after his teacher asked him to stop disturbing her class, the boy got up and told her that he will have sex with her right there in class if she messes up. Isn’t it worrisome how teachers have lost the positive influence they used to have on their students?This situation has greatly interrupted effective learning and teaching.
Baring her frustrations as a teacher in one of the public primary schools in Lagos, a middle-aged woman who pleaded anonymity, gave the chunk of the blame to parents.
“I have stopped trying to discipline pupils especially through any means that will involve punishment. Some of my colleagues have had bitter experiences when parents stormed the school and almost exchanged blows with them because their children were punished. The parents did not even care to find out what the students’ offences were or whether they lied at home. It is a terrible situation”.
From the teacher’s revelation, many of her colleagues’ reasons for no longer disciplining erring students are not only out of fear of parents, but also nonchalance. “People do not want you to discipline their children, so why force yourself? “, she said.
For another teacher in a private school- a male, the situation is worse in private schools. According to him, “It is worse when the children are from rich homes. How dare you punish them. Even the school management will warn you that you will bear the consequences of attracting the anger of any parent, alone”.
While the plight of teachers is understandable, some are also to be blamed for the evil that has befallen the Nigerian school system. Even if they do not want to step on toes of rich parents by ignoring their children, why also fail to rescue poor students from the claws of the bullies as may be the case of late Sylvester?
All fingers point to the family as the major institution that will help curtail the growing trend of violence in schools. Reasons being that a lot of these children are either from dysfunctional families, broken homes or very poor backgrounds. A child who is not well provided for, in school for instance, may be lured or influenced by a violent gang or cult group. This is reason they feed forcibly on their preys’ provisions in school.
Many of the bullies are also products of hooligans; obviously, you can only give what you have.
A good number of these children-turned-terrors, are offspring of some high and mighty politicians who use the services of other cultists especially in the tertiary institutions, to eliminate political rivals. You need not wonder why it’s easy for many of these children to be initiated.
Proposal for The Sylvester Law
At the heat of Sylvester’s alleged murder in school, Child Rights Activist and CEO of CEEHOPE, Betty Abbah made a proposal that sounded very interesting to many of her followers. “Let’s have ‘The Sylvester Law’ where parents are fully or partly liable for and are tried for their children’s bullying-related crimes. If you raise monsters and let them loose into school systems to terrorise and even kill innocent kids, you should bear the brunt. We need to stop #SchoolBullying”.
It’s not only parents and teachers, even their country Nigeria has failed them or what do you expect? These children are living in a country that indirectly applauds individuals whose violent activities have ended the lives of thousands of innocent Nigerians, by either negotiating with them through payment of ransom running into millions of naira and or giving them VIP treatment and,offering them amnesty in the end. It is a terrible situation!
Even when accosted in informal spaces- outside school compounds while either going or returning from school, some students interviewed were visibly afraid to speak. They however opened up when they were promised that their names and schools would not be mentioned. The girls especially, complained about how some male students beat girls who turn down their love or better put, lust overtures. The boys also engage in fights most often.
Usually, victims of abuse are threatened not to cry for help as that could mean death for them. And their young innocent minds easily accept the lie. This is where parents need to play crucial role. They must nurture their children/wards to be their best confidants. That way bullies could be stopped before it becomes too late.
Bishop Dr. Priscilla Otuya, President of Mothers of The Nation, shared one of her son’s experiences in a boarding school and how action was taken. “Do not ignore any red flag concerning your kids. My Husband and I enrolled our first son in a Boarding school then, and we noticed when we went to visit him the first time that everything we gave him from home all disappeared. We asked him what happened, and he said his school mates took them.
During our second visit, we noticed some of the senior boys were singing and celebrating as we handed him his provision, and when I asked him why, he said that is what they do the moment a parent brings in stuff for their kids, they take them away from him.
“I picked my son, put him in the car, and off we came back home with him with his empty suitcase, and I am super glad I did, even though I had paid his fees I’m so glad I did.
“Just watched the video of the 12-year-old that died out of injuries sustained in school, and his family also narrated how they used to take his son’s provisions and that is a clear indicator of bullying.
“These Boarding schools have become breeding ground for all sorts, God help us in Jesus Name”.
Awareness and education are also pivotal to ending cultism in our lower institutions. Children should be made to understand the dangers of abandoning their studies for evil societies. The National Orientation Agency should wake up from its slumber and sensitise schools and families on the negative impact of cultism on the society. As a former cultist once revealed that numbers keep cult groups alive, everything must be done to dissuade children from joining any cult group or violent gangs.
Parents, teachers, guardian and even siblings should be educated on how to note the red flags indicating that a child is in the process of joining cults or is being bullied to join. The signs according to experts, are usually evident but is visible only to the one who understands them.
It’s not enough to shut down a school following an ugly incident only for it to be reopened later without solving the problem from the root. Governments must therefore carry out their regulatory and supervisory roles in schools to the maximum to prevent further disaster.
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