By Adekunle Adekoya
Trending heavily in the media- new, traditional and social- is the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni, a student of Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos, last week, ostensibly from injuries sustained from beatings by a group of bullies, also students of the same school.
Deaths are emotional occurrences for us humans, even when it is the death of an aged parent, talk less that of a teenager in whom much was being invested, with prospects of a bright life ahead.
In this instance, it is even more emotional, deeply troubling if you like, as it was revealed that the dead student had reported instances of bullying in the past, which elicited little or no reaction. The situation is worsened by the revelations of other parents, who suddenly started disclosing instances of bullying by their children, all after Oromoni’s death. Too little, too late.
It was Oromoni’s disclosure of a particular bullying group that has led people to insinuate, indeed assert, that cult group(s) exist in the school. From what has been going on nationwide, it is difficult to dismiss or downplay the assertion. Less than two weeks earlier in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, a Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Ignatius Alimeke, and three students were injured following clashes involving rival cult groups operating in two public secondary schools in Ogun State.
The bloody incident was a clash between students of Egba High School, Asero and Asero Secondary School, during which cult groups in the two schools were settling a supremacy grudge.
Seeing a threat to public peace and order, the unfortunate DPO of Adatan Police Station, Abeokuta, Ignatius Alimeke, mobilised his men to quell the raging mayhem. Leading from the front, he was caught in a hail of missiles, one or more of which hit his forehead, leaving a deep cut. The photo of the bloodied DPO is still trending.
Earlier in June, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, some students of Uyo High School were said to have dropped a letter and some fetish objects in front of the principal’s office. In the letter, the principal was given 24 hours to secure the release of some of their members arrested for cultism or face extermination of his family. These are just two examples from two states, but the reality is that cult groups are now part and parcel of informal learning in our schools.
“Problems are like plants; they have roots,” is a quote attributed to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Many people trace the origin of cults in schools to the formation of campus cults in our universities, particularly the University of Ibadan, and blame the present infestation on that development.
That is not just easy, it is wrong and lazy. The truth is that many ethnic groups profess various cults. These cults were, and still are, in many cases, instruments and organs of tradional civil administration. They operated and still operate very discreetly, but their effects are felt.
Many people usually did not know their dad or grandpa belonged to such organisations until they passed on, and hitherto unknown people in special regalia surfaced at the burial. Besides, when we were made to embrace Western education, we embraced other things, most of which are not suitable to our make-up and ways of life, but that is another matter entirely.
With university education came campus fraternities and sororities, commonly called Greek Letter Organisations, GLOS. So, in many universities in North America,it is common to find fraternities like Sigma Delta Phi, Phi Beta Kappa, and so on, dedicated to excellence and honours in academic achievement.
So, what went wrong with our experience? That is what we owe ourselves as a collective to find out, with a view to making adjustments that will stem the cycle of needless violence and senseless waste of lives.
But two things are clear: failure of parenting and failure of regulation in our schools system. There are too many fathers, especially those of my generation and younger, whose only idea of fatherhood is just to provide the money. Once school fees are paid, and there is food in the house, that’s all.
Many do not even know they’re fathering monsters since they’re never at home, except during their annual leaves. Ditto for some mothers. The economic and transport situation has also made it very difficult for those who could have been responsible parents.
Leaving home at 4am, and returning 10pm is the lot of most urban parents. While away, the children are left to their own devices. Worse, the “me and my husband” syndrome has denied many struggling families the support they could have gotten from parents-in-law, who could have filled in for them while away. That’s how some of us grew up. Still, time must be made out to fulfil obligations. There are things nobody can do for us, like going to the toilet.
The failure of regulation has to do with government. Are there still inspectorate divisions in our ministries of education? If they still exist, what do they do? Don’t they just sit in their air-conditioned offices and push files? When last did any school have an inspector on visit?
Do headmasters and principals still do their jobs? Is everything not all about money, money, and more money? As I keep saying, if we want a good country, we have to change and work for it. Nobody else will. In fact, if we do not change, we will continue to swirl around in a cauldron of boiling violence, as is already happening.