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Worry as criminality, immorality heighten in secondary schools

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
23 April 2022   |   4:31 am
It is becoming increasingly worrisome that more secondary schools contracted by parents and guardians to mould their children and wards into educated and responsible adults through teaching and learning in the country are becoming unsafe and cenres for all forms of immorality and criminality.

Photo by Aurore Marechal/ABACAPRESS.COM

• What To Consider In Choosing Schools For Children
• ’Parents Must Sit Up Or Someone Else Feed Their Kids With Lies’
•Stakeholder Urges Overhaul Of School System

It is becoming increasingly worrisome that more secondary schools contracted by parents and guardians to mould their children and wards into educated and responsible adults through teaching and learning in the country are becoming unsafe and cenres for all forms of immorality and criminality.

In recent times, some high-class schools, especially the private ones, have been in the news for various wrong reasons which raises concerns over the value parents and guardians get for sending their children to such schools where exorbitant fees are paid.

In June 22, 2021, 14-year-old Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher, a boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe in Abuja died after being allegedly raped. It was reported, days later, that she died from Sepsis and a condom was found in her genital. Further reports revealed that the postmortem examination on the body of the deceased confirmed that Keren-Happuch had ‘whitish patches and excoriations on the labia majora and patulous anal opening and laxed anal sphincter with hymen absent’, which experts argued is a clear confirmation of sexual abuse (rape) and sodomisation of the girl.

The school management has, however, claimed that she died of diabetes, noting that she was released to her mother, Vihimga, in a healthy condition.

Also, on December 19, 2020, 11-year-old Don-Davies Archibong, a JSS1 student of Deeper Life High School, Idoro, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State was allegedly molested and subjected to inhumane torture in the school.

Archibong’s mother, Deborah Okezie raised the alarm on social media after going to pick up her son at the end of the term. It was reported that Archibong narrated how he suffered in the hands of a teacher and students in his dormitory who sexually assaulted him by sticking their hands in his anus when others were sleeping. He said they also threatened to kill him if he reported.

Afterwards, six of the members of staff of the school, including the principal, vice principal and housemaster were arraigned at a magistrate’s court for sexual molestation, maltreatment, starvation, and negligence.

In October 2016, a two years and 11 months old nursery pupil of Chrisland School, Victoria Garden City, Lagos State was sexually defied by Adegboyega Adenekan, a supervisor in the primary arm of the school. After 22 months trial by the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court, Adenekan was sentenced to 60 years imprisonment.

On November, 30, 2021, a 12-year-old student of Dowen College, Sylvester Oromoni allegedly died from injuries sustained in an attack by five senior students for refusing to join a cult group. It was also alleged that the deceased was forced to drink a substance by his attackers. An autopsy conducted revealed that he died from acute bacterial pneumonia due to severe sepsis.

Last week, a video went viral, showing under-aged children involved in sexual activities. The children were students of Chrisland College while at the World School Games in Dubai. Chrisland school, in a letter purportedly signed by its Head Teacher, G. I. Azike, announced the suspension of an unnamed girl. In the letter, the school said the girl was suspended for participating in a ‘Truth or Dare’ game which involved immoral act after the lights out instructions was given.

In response, mother of the suspended student, who was later identified as Julian, cried out on social media alleging that her daughter was assaulted. Some students filmed the incident and posted it online. The mother also alleged that the school tried to cover up the incident and threatened to kill her daughter if she ever spoke about it.

These incidents and more are dashing the hope of parents who perceive the high-class schools as safe and bequeathing high quality education to their children. Besides, the situation is a good evidence of the great extent to which young Nigerians are indulging in immoral and criminal acts in schools where they are expected to imbibe enviable moral behaviour.

High-Class Schools And Failing Morals
In her reaction, educationist and school proprietress, Ronke Posh Adeniyi, said: “Many schools have been failing parents but because a lot of parents themselves are buckled under peer pressure, they follow their mates to many of these schools. Even when they are being failed, they have to be among an elite set, brag that their children go to certain schools despite that those schools are letting them down.

“In many of those schools, you will find that the students are told to do additional lessons and all sorts of things. Parents are not usually satisfied with the services that they get, but they have to say that their children go to that school or that their children will be going abroad.”

According to Adeniyi, there is decay in schools and if the management does not hold on to the values, the mess will continue in society.

“Schools have values written on paper, printed on their walls, but they do not live by those values because they want to monetise. That is the challenge. Schools are doing whatever it is the parents want. Parents come and dictate. Schools have become social gatherings where the parents and teachers association, sports events, Mothers’ Day events, ambience and travelling all around the world are given priority by the parents. If those are the things they want for their children, we will always have a mess. A good school is one that stands by its values irrespective of the children and parents that they lose. They don’t prioritise money even though they are in business.”

Adeniyi, who noted that the influence of the media is very strong, said children cannot access media if their parents do not allow them and the schools do not expose them to it, and to the places that they go.

“All these things that happen online and on TV will always be there – inappropriate content will be there for our kids to consume, however, with proper monitoring, we can shield them as much as possible. It is the duty of the school to safeguard these children, to stop inviting ‘yeyebrities’ and people who do not represent the moral standards we want for our children. We need to protect their innocence as much as we can.

“Schools must be able to discipline children and they should not prioritise the fees they get over the morals of the children. Anything that is not properly managed is subject to abuse and that is why we have what we have today; children getting away with murder, children fighting their teachers, parents coming to school to hit teachers and children who are unafraid of no consequences.”

A counselor and coach, Dinma Nwobi argued that charging high fees does not mean that a school system is effective. She advised that before enrolling a child in any school, parents should consider decision-making matrixes like the vision and values, and ensure that they are not just beautifully written on plagues and hung on the walls.

She said: “Pay attention to the integration of the vision and values into the school system and culture. Does the school have a child safety and protection policy? How is it implemented? What child-centred policies is the school known for? How robust is the discipline culture? These are some of the information parents should be concerned about, not just the fees or external beauty of the school.

“This might sound contradictory to some schools of thought. The academic performance should not be the number one criteria for choosing a school. Beyond academics, what else can the school offer the child? Is this a nurturing environment for your child to flourish mentally and emotionally? Can your child’s unique strengths and talents find expression here? How prepared is the school to collaborate with you to raise a well-rounded child? The more we ask such questions and commit to working with schools in the best interest of our children, the better for all of us.

“Schools on their own ought to ensure that they work for the holistic development of the child and this should reflect in their systems, policies and overall culture. Schools should also pay attention to continuous learning and integration of new methodologies for child development in their curricula and systems.”

Role Of Parents In Kids Upbringing
According to Nwobi, “there is so much blame game going around and as a human flourishing expert, language is important for resilience. I wouldn’t want to say parents have failed in raising well-rounded children. Most parents are doing the best they know based on the resources, sadly, we are in a different dispensation. But some parents have refused to make dynamic changes to their parenting.”

She argued that a parent cannot successfully raise a well-rounded child in this age as your parents raised you. “The world you were raised in no longer exists. Parents need to become more intentional about learning about their children, their worlds, needs and how best to raise them. Raising well-rounded children requires an empowering mindset, skillsets and toolsets.

“Parenting is about the parent as it is about the child. A parent who does not believe in his capability to raise a whole child and harbours limiting beliefs about himself, his roles and responsibilities as a parent and the child he is raising will struggle to connect and raise whole children.

“We are raising children who are daily searching for the truth, who value inclusion, transparency and authenticity. Sadly, these children have immediate access to information via the Internet so parents need to sit up or someone else will fed them lies as truth. There is no almighty formula for parenting. However, parenting is both a science and an art. Parents should consistently learn how to communicate, connect and co-create solutions with their children to raise them to be responsive, resilient and resourceful individuals.”

A lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Dr. Olusegun Temilola spoke about a triangle situation which revolves around the home, the school and falls on the society.

“Parents are all away at work, the nannies and house help who come to assist, come with their own bad luck. It is a big problem if the parents cannot do the right thing. This is also problematic to the society, which is not helping.

“Look at the Robert Gordon University in the US, using our sitting president as an example of bad leadership. Those are the problems we are having, nobody is encouraged to do the right thing. The society is in a serious decadent crisis. The solution can only come from the home level. The Chrisland issue wouldn’t have happened if the parents had done their homework well. It is a clear case of bad parenting, even though there are forces from the school and the society,” the varsity teacher said.

To Temilola, the issue with bad parenting is that when you have more than enough to take care of them and you are not present to instill the right morals, it is disastrous.

“As long as bad parenting continues, it will destroy the fabrics of society and moral values will keep decreasing. Corruption is institutionalised in this country, it is a criminal enterprise, everything promotes criminality and it is not helping matters at all.

“Unfortunately this will get worse. The stories we are aware of today are those reported in the media, what of the many others that is unknown. The decadence will continue except individuals decide to safeguard their families. I have a friend who pulled his kids out of their school after attending a school event where inappropriate music was played. He was shut down for raising his concerns and he knew that the only decision he could make was to withdraw his children. If he had not done that, the children would be exposed to all sorts of things, and who knows the damage it would have done to the kids.”

A campaigner against domestic violence and child sexual abuse, Ugo Fidel Onwuraokoye described education as a holistic training.

According to her, education is not what children get from academic environment alone, both the family and school play vital roles in the education of children.

She explained: “The recent events in these schools are clear indication that we are failing in our society at both the home and the school. A child’s development starts from the home and that is the foundation of education. But sadly, some parents haven’t done a good job in giving their children a solid foundation on life lessons. Harsh and difficult economic situation of the country makes it even more difficult. Many parents pour more of their time and energy on trying to make ends meet. As a result, children lose the training they are meant to have from their parents.

“Schools on the other hand bare the burden of training damaged children. Schools are put under pressure to churn out refined, balanced and well-behaved children and that is a tall task; schools can only do their best.

“The society isn’t kind to victims or even perpetrators of evil. The way we handle matters in our society gives no room for change and transformation. People condemn without adequate knowledge of an incident. If these happenings are not well handled, victims will keep sinking into the valley of emotional trauma. Depending on how their minds work, some might start thinking suicide or even attempt it.”

Onwuraokoye, who is also the founder of Tamar Rescue Foundation, urged the government to overhaul the nation’s educational system.

“We need more of inclusive education, that is, education system where parents, government and schools work together for the better development of children. If government can improve the quality education of our country, most parents will opt for government schools. That will motivate schools to up their games in making sure students get value for their money and detailed education.

“Discipline is being eroded in the school system, especially private schools. Government-owned schools on the other hand abuse children in the name of discipline. Children need sound and balanced discipline. This is discipline with the goal of correcting, teaching and directing. The end goal is to bring the best out of children. It is not helpful to allow children the freedom to what they like, neither punishing them as criminals. Both approach have harmful effects in the emotions and mind of children.

“I am of the school of thought that children should grow to a certain age before they can be allowed to have phone. However, parents have the responsibility of guiding their children to use the phones carefully. Whenever children start using phones, parents should guide, monitor and constantly advise them not to dabble into sites that promote illicit activities. Parents must build a solid and friendly relationship with their children. Once communication channel is open in the home and children know they can trust their parents, they always open up to them. In that way, parents can know what is happening in the lives of their children,” she said.

Our Fears, Concerns, By Parents
A mother of two, Anthonia Duru, said: “Being scared about the future is an understatement for me. We are experiencing all these because as a people, we have failed to imbibe the right values. Unfortunately our children are watching. It is making the matter worse, Children are of greater advantage with technology. Personally, I am taking some measures. I have banned my children from watching some cartoons and TV programmes.

“In the past few days, I have looked at people who condemned the Chrisland girl’s parent and even went ahead to curse the girl. In as much as I partly blame her parents, I think the society failed the girl. She needs help. What do you think will become of a society that celebrates nudity everywhere, including our places of worship? I am sure the girl would have watched the popular Lagos-based lady singer in her leaked sex tape. We have to go back to the drawing board and as parents we don’t need to unnecessarily indulge our children. Let us stop celebrating immorality. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have seen a 12-year old cultist who takes drugs, a student of a public school in Lagos State. He came to school with arm and charms. These are the leaders we are breeding.

“The responsibility falls on us all to not just stand for what is right, let us not look away when a child is misbehaving. Caution and correct with love.”

Another parent, Ogechi Eke said: “My only worry is the influence of the society on my kids because I do my best to be an example of what a morally upright person should be. I believe in ‘do as I do and not do as I say’. I communicate my fears to them too so they understand they are human. They can always talk to me and seek right counsel. Above all, I pray for them like their lives depend on it because, after all said and done, that is all we’ve got.”

Onyebuchi Okafor, another parent, said she was always questioning her parental skills. “I’m living in constant fear of if I’m raising my kids right, what I’m not doing right. I seriously fear for their future.

I’m bringing up my kids to the best of my ability, but what of my neighbour? Peer pressure is real, no matter how close you are to them. A single incident, just one untrained child, can undo all my years of training my kids. I am not saying that I’m the best parent but I’m trying my best and I hope it’s going to be good enough in the long run.”

The fear of Folake Akintayo, as a parent, is that schools these days are relenting in their duties. She advised parents to wake up to the fact that no one is going to instill the morals or train the kids for them.

“It is up to you to protect your child as well as find a school that would value discipline over anything else.”

Chioma Ejem said: “Since the issue of Sylvester, I have said no to boarding school for any of my children. Let them go and come back everyday so I can see and monitor them. As for the Chrisland girl, it brings the issue of sexualising children by dressing them in terrible clothes. Today you find children in revealing clothes and the question of who bought them come up. Parents are failing their children and in turn the society. It is time for us as parents to be intentional with parenting and pray for these children constantly. We should also pray for ourselves for God to give us the grace to lead these children the right way.”