By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Authorities of Gaskiya Senior College, Badia area of Lagos are presently at the centre of a growing tension that could snowball into a major crisis following expulsion of a female student and suspension of six others for allegedly holding prayer meeting after school hours.
The students, who are members of the Christian Students Union in the school, were also allegedly branded as cultists by the principal of the school, identified as Mrs. Shobowale, an accusation the students and their parents denied, saying they were being persecuted for their faith.
It was gathered that 12 students of the fellowship were holding their prayer meetings on Tuesday, April 2 around 3.30 pm, when the principal of the school directed the security guard to tell them to leave the premises once it was around few minutes to 5.00pm.
The Christian students said they pleaded with the gate man to give them one minute to say the closing prayer, but the security man, who apparently did not understand the message, reported back to the principal that the students refused to vacate the school premises.
One of the students, Jennifer Emmanuel while praying, was said to have mistakenly hit the principal when the school head stormed the venue of the prayer meeting.
It was alleged that the principal had on April 3, 2013, during the morning assembly paraded the 12 students before the school as cultists. The students were first placed on seven days suspension, while those of them who were prefects were allegedly deposed.
Consequent upon this, parents of the affected students were said to have begged the principal to stay action on their wards, a plea that fell on deaf ears as the matter was reported at the Education District IV, with the students accused of being cultists. A letter, with the heading: “Re-emergence of Cultism in the School” was also sent to the District.
On May 7, the principal of the school placed six of the students, all in SS 2, on indefinite suspension. They have not been recalled as at the time of filing this report, while Jennifer remained expelled from the school. The names of the affected students were given as John Otega, Michael Change, Valentina Okoye, Valentine Okoye, Faith Okolie, Chidinma Chidozie and Jennifer Emmanel, all SS2.
Parents of five other students in SS 3, were forced to report to school whenever their wards were writing any paper in the West African Examination Council, WAEC, as the school authorities said they had to be monitored because of the supposed emergence of cultism in the school said to have been occasioned by the students.Also, in the letter of expulsion issued to the parents of Jennifer, the principal alleged being slapped by the girl, adding that the security personnel also got the same treatment.
The letter of expulsion dated May 7, 2013 reads: “This is to communicate to you the decision of the Ministry of Education that your ward, Jennifer Emmanuel, is thereby dismissed from the school with immediate effect.
“The dismissal is consequent upon her grievous offence of slapping both the security personnel and the principal of the school on 2nd April, 2013. By this decision, your ward henceforth ceases to be a student of this school.”
Moreso, in the letter of suspension of six other students dated May 10, 2013, the principal said it was consequent upon their disobedience to school authorities by holding a prayer meeting on April 2, 2013.
The affected students denied the principal’s claim that the expelled student, Jennifer slapped her and the security personnel said such a thing never occurred. They demanded for justice to be done.
Parents of the suspended students, Mrs Goodness Chidozie, Mrs Beauty John, Mrs Felicia Okolie, Mrs Jacita Change, Mrs Tina Emmanuel and Mrs Chinweogo Okoye, in a letter accused the principal of persecuting their children who “as committed Christians could never be involved in cultism”. They called on Governor Babatunde Fashola to investigate the matter.
“Our students are still at home doing nothing.What have these Christian students done to deserve this painful humiliation,” they queried. The aggrieved parents want the state government to invite all concerned parties in the matter to get to the root of the matter.
When Vanguard Metro,VM, visited the school, the principal was said to be out of the premises. But contacted later she had this to say: “I can’t comment on the issue because it is already before Education District 5. And more so, I am a civil servant”.