Tragedies of monumental proportions have taken over our academic environment in recent times as students, sent by parents to achieve academic laurels, have become monsters constituting nuisance to their own future and society. Experiences have shown consistent challenge to societal moral control when tertiary institution students developed destructive cultures of cultism, which led to the deprivation of many young lives and future glories.
Over time, this culture of cultism percolated down to the secondary schools and the general town caught the bug. The attempt by the nefarious elements of the dark occultic practices to catch our youths into the net of cultism has been yielding bounteous harvests. At first, it was in higher institutions, then public secondary schools but now the harvests have stretched to the private ones.
The culture of bullying of one student by another or others, which is not new, has today become a cankerworm as the bloody monster is now taking lives. In the centre of the controversy is Dowen College, located in Lagos, and the unfortunate death of a youngster, Sylvester Oromoni, which happened some days ago. It was reported that about five or six seniors were in the habit of bullying the young Oromoni and the dastardly happened when they invaded his room in a students’ hostel, switched off the light, ordered his roommates out, whipped him with belts, kicked him several times and finally left him in the pangs of death.
They were reported to have left threats that his mates would be given more horrendous treatments if they should reveal the facts of the murderous nights. Few days after, the young Oromoni died in terrible and painful circumstances. Dowen College has become the centre of public acrimony while some parents of the young attackers were reported to have ferried their wards abroad.
From there, the social media, the police dog of the public, has taken over with hot and fresh details of following events being churned out on a daily basis. Fresh facts of similar bullying in Dowen College and many other schools started flying around as parents, whose wards had been victims in the past, started reeling out their ugly experiences. It seems this terrible practice of bullying has allegedly become the norm in Dowen College while the authorities of the school were alleged to have looked the other way.
There were allegations that the attackers tried to recruit Oromoni into a cult group, which he resisted, while another account claimed that he was alleged by the seniors who attacked him to have ‘snitched’ on them (whatever that means). The government applied the suspensory hammer of temporary closure of Dowen College and the police are said to have waded in. In all these, an important question is, what could be responsible for this murderous development in our secondary schools? How and when did we descend this low as to lose our moral and disciplinary compass, which is now costing us our future? The sources are three in number and these are the only corrective institutions that can bring us back on track.
The first is the parent, followed by the school authorities, with the government coming in to complete the structure. While the culture of seniors punishing juniors is not new, as we all went through the same, it is certain that it did not get this dangerously bloody as to take the life of an innocent young man as alleged in such pitiful circumstances. This is not to pretend that our days of the ’70s and ’80s did not have their own ugly presentations of truancy and violence among students.
We had it in abundance as schools’ inter-house sports and other events used to end in violence and the culture of attacking fellow students with UTC axe was quite famous then. Morality has sunken further in our society to the extent that we do not seem to be in control at all, unlike the school authorities and parents of the past when discipline in schools was taken seriously and parents did not spare the rod to spoil the child.
Today, some parents have abdicated their responsibilities of instilling discipline, to the extent that some even go to challenge, beat and insult teachers who are daring enough to discipline their children. Some elitist parents have become so reckless that any teacher that has the guts to discipline their children would not only be given the taste of the cane, he would be made to lose his job.
Parents, whose cravings for wealth have taken over their time and soul do not have the time to enforce discipline at home and a lot of children grow under the moral decadence of housemaids and permissive uncles and aunties. Some have become victims of evil practices like rape by such uncles and neighbours, as parents have left home to look for money.
While undisciplined parents embark on a campaign of ‘times have changed’ and would rather f ight any form of discipline by outsiders with the last ounce of their strength, some school authorities caved in to this trend and allowed such children to have their way by fostering their indiscipline and wayward practices through silence. Public schools have abandoned the corrective measures of punishing erring students and the young and impressionable minds have become uncontrollable.
This moral laxity is more established in private schools who are merely after profit, with exorbitant fees, and cannot afford to lose income if parents should withdraw their wards. The sore continues festering and our society is getting daily exposed to the development of a monster that would destroy its future. Accounts have been made available about parents who slapped teachers for being daring enough to beat their children while the school authorities were full of apologies to such parents.
We have heard of cases of such teachers being summarily dismissed or made to undergo various punishments for enforcing discipline among the students while rendering apologies to the ‘monarchical’ parents and their princely wards. The invariable outcome is the encouragement of moral turpitude as every youth fostered in such an environment would prefer the laxity and latitude to a strict regime of moral control. It is therefore no news in recent times when students beat up teachers.
The government has not helped the situation as public schools under government control have become a platform for raising unruly and wayward children. Government officials in charge of educational institutions’ supervision have become mere accomplices in instilling moral laxity while our institutions rot away. Today, we have challenges that are becoming daily impossible to rein in. A young boy, the future of his parents, the glory of the country has been allegedly snuffed out of existence by fellow students whose only responsibility ought to be focusing on their own academic careers but have chosen to assume the status of terrorists whose duties include inflicting pain on their fellow students.
It is Dowen College today. Who knows the next? The crisis of loss of moral values is not a permanent resident of a particular area, except where authorities have taken on the responsibility of discipline as a sacred duty. This is only required to be carried out to correct errant behaviour in young ones and not to demonize an otherwise undisciplined youth. That is why United Action for Change, aka “Change Nigeria,” had planned its quarterly roundtable discussion for Saturday, December 11, 2021, with the theme Parental Failure and Decline in Societal Values.
This has been in the offing for more than four months without a premonition of loss of the young Oromoni to the decline we so much complain about. In this respect, there are heavy responsibilities on parents to foster children that would not constitute a danger to society. We must instil discipline at home and allow teachers to do their work. An urgent restoration of our morals, values and virtues is more than ever before compelling. Some school authorities, who take raising disciplined and godly children seriously, do not allow any student who cannot be disciplined in their schools.
The result is that such morally decadent parents would take their wards to other schools where indiscipline ranks supreme. T hese are parents who did not die in their own parents’ hands for being beaten or disciplined but think their own children are eggshells that should not be broken. Our campaign for child rights has become so completely twisted that many parents think the modern way of training children is to avoid discipline and allow them to be exposed to whatever social media or the Internet has to offer.
Some children learn waywardness, thuggery and violence through things they watch online. These contents are supposed to be supervised by parents to ensure that children they laboured to have are not allowed to lose track of the lunacy that would destroy their future. School authorities, on the other hand, should enforce discipline in schools. It is a dereliction of duty for housemasters to abandon boarding students to their affairs while all sorts of evil practices going on in their rooms.
Why would school authorities keep mum on errant students and refuse to disclose what they did to their fellow students? Why would persons who stand in loco parenti choose to allow one student to inflict bloody and grievous harm on another without frowning at the dangerous practice? Why would the authorities shield such a child from being seen by people? Parents who come to complain of bullying of their wards are prevented from meeting the bully or his parents while the authorities shrug off the annoying practice.
Many young ones are said to have changed schools when bullies have made them lose appetite for learning in their previous schools. School authorities must not worship money to the detriment of our future. Students who go into cultism in secondary schools can never see anything wrong in becoming Capones while in their university days. The government has a greater role to play in all these. It is not enough to close down Dowen College. There are so many other Dowen Colleges that allow this evil practice to go on unchecked. It is important to look into the roots of it all.
Investigation should not be centered on who killed the young Sylvester alone. The root of the evil practice must be traced while we make concerted efforts to uproot it completely. If it is agreed that there is cultism in our secondary schools, we must work to identify the cultist groups and their members. We must seek to know how these cult groups were introduced into the schools. Could teachers be the ones who brought these evil bodies into the innocent souls of our youngsters? What are other negative practices going on in our schools that we will only live to regret if we do not act now? Notorious consumption of illicit drugs has taken over not only our campuses but our secondary schools.
Many dastardly acts cannot be perpetrated by youths except under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The culture of the communal upbringing of children is becoming imperative. We must work harder to save the future as the present we enjoy was preserved for us by our no-nonsense parents and authorities. To proffer solutions to all these, the United Action for congress roundtable was held on Saturday, December 11, 2021, and discussed Parental Failure and Decline in Societal Values. The young Sylvester Oromoni must not die in vain. Adieu, Sylvester.
• Dr. Muiz Banire is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) based in Lagos.