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When right is seemingly wrong – Francis Ewherido

In a society where everything, right or wrong, seems to be fair and square, it sometimes seems like you place your children at a disadvantage if you bring them up with an acute sense of right and wrong. Honestly, I fear for such children; I wonder how they are going to compete and survive in a society that is morally on the slide. An incident that happened last week has added to my worries.

I am going to conceal the identities of all the parties and just deal with the issue. It happened in the school of the children of a very conscientious friend of mine. He and his wife have drummed it into their little children’s heads that it is wrong to take what belongs to another person. In one word, it is called stealing. Now one of his children saw his classmate with another pupil’s book and told him to return the book. He told the classmate that his parents told him it is wrong to take another person’s book because it is stealing. Incidentally, it was the pupil’s mother who “somehow” gave him the book belonging to a pupil in another class.

When the pupil my friend’s son admonished got home, he narrated the incident to the mother. The next morning, the mother stormed the school in a rage. I would not have believed what she allegedly told my friend’s six-year-old son, but for two witnesses who confirmed it: “you are sick, you are very sick; how dare you call my son a thief? It is your father who is a thief; your mother is a thief, your whole family are thieves….” she went on and on. As at the time of writing, my friend’s son and sibling, who also attend the school, were still traumatized. He has been crying and behaving unusually.  His only crime is telling a fellow pupil not to take what belongs to another person.

I joined my friend for a meeting in the school last Wednesday morning at his instance. You would have thought that the woman acted on the spur of the moment and should be remorseful by now, but no. On that Wednesday when she came around, we could hear her shouting defiantly in the outer office. As a result, the school authorities shifted the meeting to 3pm when her husband would be available.

In saner societies, this would have been a straightforward matter. The school would have invited law enforcement agents to take her away for bullying a minor and causing him mental grief. She would have been detained and charged to court. The school would have gone on to advise her to withdraw her child from the school to protect other children. The school owes the other pupils that duty of care. That will also serve as a deterrent to other parents to mind how they treat other people’s children.

But not in Nigeria; scarcely will any school invite law enforcement agents to deal with such a situation. The school is a business and parents are customers who marketing has conferred kingship on. They are always right. There is no room for morality here. But even if the school were to bring in law enforcement agents, the matter will not see the light of the day, unless the woman does not know her way. That is the society we live in; you watch helplessly as your rights are trampled on. That is why some people out of frustration take laws into their hands, wrong as it is.

The other aspect, which I had issues with and told the school authorities about, is allowing parents into classrooms in the morning. In my children’s schools, you drop off your child at the gate and the school takes over from there; you do not take them to their classrooms. If they had this policy, the woman would not have had the opportunity to pour her venom on an impressionable six-year-old.

As we were leaving the school,  I told my friend what I will do were I to be in his shoes. My main interest is the protection of my child, a task which the school has failed in. If I feel it is a one-off failing from the school, I will insist on my child or the other child being moved to another class. The child must not see that woman everyday anymore to help his healing process. But if, from the child’s disposition, the whole school environment has been poisoned, I will change my child’s school immediately.

My action will be determined solely by what is best for my child because it is easy for ego to get in the way and you decide to teach the woman and the school a lesson they will not forget. You can drag them to court, bring the matter before child rights and civil rights bodies; even go to law enforcement agents if you have better connections. May be the school actually needs some action to get it out of its slumber and put effective systems and processes in place to deal with such situations, but when it is all over, what value does it add to your life? As I grow older, I am more interested in what adds value to my life and the society and that determines where I put my energies. I advised my friend that his final decision should be guided by what will add value to his family and the school.

But it is this kind of experience that make Warri people say that, “we never comot house” (Nigeria has not started). However, I believe that we don comot house, but the journey still far.



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