Disturbing menace of violent clashes among Secondary School Students
The incessant fights that often erupt among some secondary school students in Lagos, these days, are becoming rather worrisome. Reportedly, these attacks occur mostly on Fridays, after schools have closed and the students are supposed to return to their respective homes. But rather than go home, these students often head to another school to start to fomenting trouble.
The recent case of pupils of a particular school that went to Ansar-ud-deen High School, Falolu, Surulere to unleash terror on the students illustrates this disturbing development. Some eye witnesses said the attack was unprovoked, as no tangible reason was adduced to have warranted such attack. Yet, stones and other dangerous items were freely deployed, while the fight lasted. It was so bad that many students hurriedly packed their things and fled home.
It was not long ago that a similar case was reported, when students of a school went to Ajumoni Secondary School at Iyana Isolo and started fighting their fellow students. Again, no concrete aim could be established after all was said and done. But the chaos and trauma that ensued from the occurrence, where the wild-looking students threw stones and other dangerous items, was mind-boggling.
Investigation revealed that similar cases were recorded in schools around Sari Iganmu, Araromi, Gaskiya and Eric Moore areas of Surulere.
This scary development was confirmed, when The Guardian spoke to some students in a school complex, where four schools: Dairy Farm Senior Secondary School, Agege; Sango Senior Secondary School, Agege; District Junior College, Agege and Sango Junior Secondary School, Agege are located.
A male student of Sango Senior Secondary School, whose identity is withheld for security reasons, said such occurrences are quite regular.
He said: “It is true that students from other schools used to come to fight in this complex, but this has not been happening for sometime now. However, there have also been fighting among students of the schools within the complex.”He hinged the reason on ego, peer pressure and fights over girls, among others.
Another male student from the same school confirmed that internal fighting among students in the school complex has become a source of concern to students that don’t usually participate in the assaults.
A female student from Dairy Farm Senior Secondary School said she had witnessed such attacks within the school complex.
An anonymous visiting teacher to the school complex equally expressed anxiety. He said: “On three different occasions, while preparing to hold fellowship in the school complex, we had to stop, when students went on rampage.
“Just two or three Fridays ago, we could not hold school fellowship, as the school had to be hurriedly closed and the students ordered to go home, due to two schools within the complex fighting one another. Of course, when a situation involving a large number of students occurs, the teachers are not able to control them. The circumstance was so bad that policemen were invited to the school.
“I would say the unpleasant nature of school system in Lagos, whereby three or four schools are located in a complex, maybe due to unavailability of land, coupled with government’s unwillingness to fully consider the concentration of many schools together in one compound are some of the factors causing the problem. Then, there is the problem of student population, which is always high. Again, there are not enough teachers.
“Also, the introduction of the policy forbidding punishment of students is another major factor contributing to the increase in delinquency.
“For instance, if a teacher should contravene that law, it will quickly go viral. So, students are often left to their devices without teachers’ intervention. There is insecurity in the land and people try to protect themselves. Teachers also want to save their heads. All these are responsible for the increase in violence among students.
“The fracas occur on Fridays around 1.00 p.m., when students usually wait at the gate for the other schools to close. The culprits are mostly students that failed their SS2 promotion examination. Sometimes, the fight starts on the street and then extend to the school.”
He condemned the nonchalant attitude of some gatemen, who allow students from other schools in mufti to come in without interrogating them to ascertain their mission. He said secret cults now exist in secondary schools, and that some students have been initiated into cults.
“There is also the matter of politicians sponsoring students. They organise carnivals for the students, in the name of youth development. At such carnivals, you see officials of government agencies, members of House of Assemblies and councillors, among others.
In his view, the politicians are merely exploiting the students, who often look up to them as heroes and worship them.
He was, however, quick to point out that at the bottom of the problem is parental negligence. “These days, many parents do not know when their children go to school or return, as these responsibilities have been delegated to house helps. The economic hardship in the country is not helping matters, as parents are more focused on making ends meet to the detriment of their children, who are thus left unattended to.
He advised parents to be more involved in their children’s lives, by monitoring their activities, spending quality time with them and ensuring that they do the needful.
A female teacher from a neighbouring school said there is need to lay a solid foundation for children’s future, which requires that all stakeholders execute their roles perfectly.
“Parents should endeavour to be role models and make all the necessary sacrifices for their children to become responsible citizens that can contribute to society’s development,” she said. “Government should permit moderate discipline in schools to save this generation of children from further decay. The children should be rescued from politicians, who protect their own children, while using other people’s children for political gains.”
He canvassed promotion of entrepreneurship, with government providing takeoff loans to enable fresh graduates start their own businesses, which will in turn reduce the quest for white-collar jobs.
On his part, Bishop Charles Ighele, General Superintendent, Holy Spirit Mission, a.k.a. Happy Family Centre, hinged the worsening student radicalism on rivalry, cultism and lack of decent upbringing.
He said: “For example, if students feel that their school is better than another one, they start trouble from singing songs in support of their school during inter-house sports and football matches, among others. And where there is no control or proper coordination, things can degenerate. Rivalry resulting in fights also occurs, when cult boys and girls from two different schools become violent, just because they want to assert superiority.
“Cult boys and girls from different schools often fight one another. These are self-proclaimed elites in schools that want to be noticed or seen to be in charge.
“In every society, there is the elite class that usually determines societal values and all that, but unfortunately in Nigeria, these elites cannot be trusted. They grab political and financial powers at all cost. They cannot say the truth, and they are the ones that serve as role models for the youth. It is the fallout that we are seeing in schools today.
Commenting on the issue, Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, said the development is inappropriate.
She explained that the Ministry of Education has been working with the Police to put an end to the skirmishes, adding that the DPO in Surulere, where the problem is pronounced, is working with the community. Accordingly, they have set up committees and are working together to put an end to the occurrence.
She said: “The DPO is constantly going to schools and talking to the students to put an end to this kind of behaviour. It will take some time before the effect is seen. Overtime, we are building this relationship with the students and DPO Surulere will attest to a big community drive against students fighting each other. There is a collective surveillance to curb the development.”
Also, the Tutor General/Permanent Secretary, Education District 1 in charge of Agege, Alimosho and Ifako/Ijaye, Mrs. Titilayo Solarin, said principals in that axis have been liaising with the Divisional Police in their respective areas or schools.
She said: “Personally, I do not want such trouble among students from my end here, and to the best of my knowledge, none has been reported.
When a principal is appointed, I usually tell him/her to familiarise with the elders in the area, the Baales, Obas, the Police, the CDAs and others who are in a position to help in the case of any development.
“Of course, they are their children and every child in any of these schools belongs to the community, while members of the community know themselves and should be able to speak to themselves. They know the children and their parents. That has been the practice here and God has been helping us.”
Solarin said she regularly organises meetings of principals, and the issue of curbing violence among students has always been topping the agenda.
She said she frequently goes round to counsel the students that they should not allow their environment to overwhelm them.
“I use Agege as an example a lot, by mentioning people like the Speaker, Lagos House State of Assembly, Hon. Ajayi Obasa representing Agege and Hon. Ogundimu representing the other side of Agege. They all grew up in this environment that, and if they could attain to greatness, then nothing stops any of the children in this area from becoming great…
“We also counsel parents here. I call parents’ forum, zone by zone in Agege, Alimosho and Ifako Ijaye to discuss with them. I tell them the need to guide and caution their children. All stakeholders’ hands must be on deck, if we want to get the best out of these children and if we want peace to reign in the sector.”