By Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Dapo Akinrefon & Ebun Sessou
LAGOS — Worried by rising kidnap and rape cases across the state, Lagos State Government has introduced measures during this vacation to forestall any possible ugly situation that may arise in public schools.
The state government had in a memo to all permanent secretaries, tutors-general of the six educational districts in the state, asked them to stop all forms of vacation teaching for rest of the year.
The government attributed the measure to ‘’present security situation and threats by kidnappers” in the state.
A source at the state Ministry of Education, who preferred anonymity, confirmed the directive, yesterday.
The source said: “The state government took the measure in order to find holistic solution to the recent cases of kidnapping and rape in public schools.
“To this end, government representatives will be meeting with stakeholders during the vacation period to deliberate and find a lasting solution to the ugly trend, especially with those schools in the riverine areas, once and for all.”
It was gathered that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has expressed concern over the need to step up security around schools in the interest of the pupils.
Vanguard also learned that in some public schools, the paltry salaries being paid to security men are being delayed by school authorities who are in charge of payment.
Recent school kidnaps
Six Senior Secondary School students of Lagos State Model College, Igbo-Nla, in Epe area, who were kidnapped by unknown gunmen 56 days ago are still being held at press time.
Four students and two staff of the school were abducted last October. The kidnappers involved in a second operation at the same school, according to police sources, were suspected to be members of a militant kidnap gang.
In January this year, five students and a teacher of Tulip International School, located in the Isheri area of Lagos, were abducted from their school premises by gunmen.
The gunmen invaded the school, formerly known as Turkish International School, on Friday night in a white Hilux van and took the students and the teacher away.
In March 2016, Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary pupils were also kidnapped in their school premises.
Kidnappers had abducted the three students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School in Ikorodu.
The three female students who were said to be rescued at a hideout in Imota, a town several kilometres from Ikorodu, are Timilehin Olosa, Tofunmi Popoolaniyan and Deborah Akinayo.
They were kidnapped by gunmen on the night of Monday, February 29, 2016, in the school premises and taken to unknown location for ransom purposes.
Cases of rape
Also, the state government arrested four students out of many indicted for carrying out a mass assault on their female colleagues at Falomo Senior High School in Ikoyi.
The arrests followed public outrage that greeted the report of an incident witnessed by a social media user who said she encountered about 60 girls being harassed and raped in public.
The girls were secondary school leavers who had just finished their final examinations at the Falomo High School while the boys were believed to be students of Ireti Grammar School.
One Ms Michael Matthew said the boys, moving in groups, had chased after several girls, tearing their skirts and underwear with scissors before proceeding to rape them.
It took the effort of Ms Matthew and some security men to rescue some of the girls and shepherd them to safety while she got the names of some of the major perpetrators; George and Abiodun.
We’re securing our schools—Lagos govt
On steps taken by Lagos State government to ensure schools across the state are secure, Special Adviser on Education to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh, said: “We have wrapped up security in our schools. Even as I speak with you, Civil Defence officials are now being deployed to our schools to secure them. We have also deployed Close Cirtuit Televisions, CCTVs, in our schools. We are ensuring we boost security in our schools in Lagos State, that is the reality on security in our schools.”
The cancellation of the vacation coaching, which became effective when the schools dismissed for the session at the weekend, will have far reaching effects.
Many students because of the development will have ample time to play truancy, since most Lagos parents virtually throw their children and wards in schools while they leave for work at dawn and they do not return till very late in the day.
Also, many organisers of the vacation classes will lose income that will run into millions of Naira. This is apart from unemployed holiday jobbers who depend on the vacation classes to make ends meet.
Mixed reactions trail end-of-session party at Igbo-Nla
However, mixed reactions yesterday trailed the purported decision of Lagos Model College, Igbo-Nla, Epe, to stage an end-of-session party for graduating students.
While some parents described the move as insensitive on the part of management of the school, considering the fact that six abducted students are still being held captive, others are of the opinion that the annual celebration should hold in order to leave a lasting memory on students, particularly the Senior Secondary School III graduands.
Besides , Commissioner of Police , Lagos State Police Command, Fatai Owoseni, has assured parents of the abducted students and Nigerians that they (students) were alive , contrary to claims that calamity might have befallen them in their captors’ den
Academic activities for this session came to a close last Thursday at Igbo-Nla, with parents picking their wards the next day.
Vanguard gathered that when news of the end of valedictory party filtered in, some of the parents quickly sent text messages to their colleagues, calling for its cancellation .
But the reply of some parents halted the cancellation move as Vanguard gathered that they posited that rather than an outright cancellation, it should be held low-keyed.
Some parents stated categorically that they would not release their children for the party.
One of those who supported the cancellation move, Mr Thomson Ojo, told Vanguard: “This is insensitivity to say the least. I’m one of those championing the cause for its outright cancellation.
“How on earth would we allow our children to be celebrating when other children are still in captivity? How would you feel if it was your own child that was abducted? I honestly do not know what the position of the affected students is.
‘’In fact, it will be unfair of me to even seek their opinion because they are emotionally traumatised. We are all in this together . Forfeiting this valedictory party for sake of the abducted students is not a big sacrifice to render.
“If they had been released, there would not have been any debate on it. I wonder why any sane and rational thinking parent will call for such celebration. It is unfair to say the least.”
On the other hand, another parent who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “There is no name they have not called us simply because we said that the end-of-session party should hold.
“Yes, we share in the low moments of the affected parents. I even contributed to the money paid as ransom. How else will one show solidarity?
“My take on this is simple and that is: the party should be held low keyed, where students will be made to understand why it is so. These graduating students have a life to live.”
On her part, a parent who simply gave her name as Tanwa, said: “I have been warned by my husband not to allow our daughter to attend the party. He is neither for or against its cancellation. All he is after is the safety of our daughter.”
Students safe, will be released soon —CP
Meanwhile, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, yesterday assured that the abducted students were safe and alive.
The command boss stated this while briefing newsmen that efforts have been intensified to ensure that the students were reunited with their parents.
He said, “We are on course to rescue the boys. The children are fine and we will continue to intensify efforts to ensure that they are returned home and reunited with their parents.”
Six senior Secondary School students; Pelumi Philips, Farouq Yusuf, Peter Jonah, Isiaq Rahmon, Adebayo George,and Judah Agbausi,were abducted two months ago .
So far, Vanguard gathered that N30 million had been paid as ransom, with their release expected last weekend. But their captors called to demand for additional N1.5 million , an amount they claimed would be used to transport them back to Lagos.