BY MUHAMMAD M. ALI, DECEMBER 13, 12:00 PM
The story of Sylvester Omoroni, a 12-year-old student of Dowen College in Lagos who was allegedly bullied by a cult group in his school, resulting to his death, reminded me of my secondary school days in Government College Bida, Niger state.
First that come to mind was the Bata, a lashing on the forehead with Koboko – that remained the lashing style of the Mallam Samaila, our discipline master. Any thing that had to do with him, especially the extramural class; attending the class in time and the payment of N200 termly dues, were not joke with at all.
Bata, as he would later be named after his lashing style, lashed students only while on their knees. And once he started, he did not stop; running was the only option. An encounter with Bata was hell; the pain and disturb around the forehead last a long time before going away.
Yet, Bata was not wicked at all compared to some students. It was safer to be in the hand of Bata than to be in the hands of Musa Goni, Indayabo, Zagi or Babatos.
For Indayabo, our social prefect for that matter, lashing was his hobby, and he did that with stick not cane. For Musa Goni, a privileged house captain who had turned Kuta House Corridor – about 150 miles long– into a punishment zone, and called it a No Limit Zone. His wickedness was even more worrisome. There were about 20 single rooms in the corridor facing each other occupied by wicked beings like him. An offender would frock-jump through the corridor, and each room used to have their own kind of punishment; from lashing, slapping, weeping, smashing, washing, name them my brother.
For Zagi, he had had his time in the dinning as kitchen prefect. He was not the smiling type at all, neither a joking one. He carried stick as cane everywhere he went to and always. He was an opposite of that Kaduna wicked son, Babatos, who would joke with you, but once you offended him, and did not offer him something; money, milk, rice or anything important for him, he would be laughing and caning you.
I could remember I was returned to school twice after I had returned home. I had felt it was too hard for me because I was not having my own time. Very early in the morning around 4am it was cane that would send us to class area for general sweeping. Harmattan or no harmattan. When we are back from extramural class by 4pm, we only had one hour to prepare for sport and from there to Mosque.
Between 8pm-9pm, was the Prep time, and after that, bed time. Mind you, all these activities were not by wish to participate; they were under must to-do list.
We only had to create time to do our personal things, and that had to be between 10pm to 12am – the time our seniors would have been in bed already. At that time, boreholes would be free and there would not be any local errand. We took our bath and prepare for the next day within that time.
It was also during that night hours we would wear our uniform and keep our bags and sandals close to our mattress, because in the morning no body will excuse you to wear your uniform. What would wake one up was shouting of prefect in duty with his team holding different sizes of cane.
This cane was specially made and distributed to every team member. The wickedness of it all was that it was the junior students that normally went far to get this cane because the seniors always wanted very thick and lengthy cane.
I cannot exhaust the memory of my secondary school but what is important to say here is that: our secondary school was too regimental. But I can assure you, the punishment, if not all, most of them were for a good reason.
Even though at that time we looked at it as pure wickedness, as time went on, we realized it was what made us who we are today.
From it of all, we have learned humility, responsibility, leadership, sportsmanship and planning. Today these are what our many young people lacked; just because they studied in private schools - where money works. Teachers get slap from students, student get another student pregnant, a student killing his fellow student. And believed me other things happening in our today’s school are not even worth mentioning at all because they are worrisome.
However, this is not to justify what was done to Sylvester Omoroni. Truth be told, his own was pathetic, inhuman and unreasonable.
He had been bitten very hard by his colleagues which affected his system and later died. The bitten was allegedly because as a well-trained child by his parents had refused to join a bad cult group.
It is, indeed, very pathetic especially for his parents who washed their ambitious 12-year-old boy buried before their eyes.
It is unfortunate that the parents of Sylvester have to become the victims of poor parenting in Nigeria even after raising Sylvester the proper way.
This is because other parents have refused to do their job well, and ended up raising bad children to end the life of a good child.
However, my issues are with some people who regard what happened to Sylvester as a sign of poor governance rather than what it should be about: poor parenting.
A group I am not mentioning in their recent reaction impliedly said that what happened to Sylvester Omoroni is a sign of government failure to protect children.
This statement is completely irrational.
For me, looking at this case from this perspective is not solution driven. Omoroni’s case is purely a case of bad parenting. How could 12-year-old child be talking about cultism?
I think as a country, this is the question we should be asking ourselves. We need to reflect on why are our children discussing this kind of issues.
Left to me my answer is simple: it is because as parents, we have changed. We are no more abiding by what culture says 'disown your child society will cherish him and love him the society will disown him.'
The campaign for children rights have now taken the lead, further convincing us that our culture is wrong all along. A child should do what he pleases.
Last week a secondary school student also allegedly starved his fellow colleague to death in Adamawa. Scores of children also died in Kano after a boat capsized.
At least, the children are now doing what they want.
May their soul rest in peace, and may the Almighty give their parents the fortitude to bear the loss.
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26 February 2024
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