I have a vivid recollection of the road from Sabo roundabout up to the Suya junction right before Queen’s College. I could list all the stores there as I memorised them every time I was entering into the gates of that prestigious school. The reason is that I knew I would not see the other side of that gate again for the next three months, until the term was over.
My parents ensured that my siblings and I, all 6 of us, attended single sex, Federal government secondary schools for 6 years each. Their reasons seemed valid. They were well known, well recognized institutions established nearly 100 years ago. But there were also aspects of it I did not like. My heart would fall to my feet, and I would get physically sick to my stomach every time I was going to school because I knew the type of punishments I was going to receive for the next several weeks.
Bullying and being bullied in Nigerian secondary schools have become so normalised that they are now considered a ‘rite of passage’. You didn’t beat a junior boy or girl? Ah, you dulled yourself o. But when do we realise that these things often get out of control and leave trauma in many people? Sylvester’s case is one that is highly publicised but there are people who still live with physical and emotional scars from these acts even decades later. There are children still going through it today. When do we crack the solution? Who is responsible? There are so many people to be held responsible in cases of bullying.
Cowards in my opinion who pick on people because they themselves feel small. They themselves are dealing with psychological issues and need someone to listen to them. They then take it out on other children. But no matter what the case is that brought them to the point of bullying, they need to face whatever consequences that come afterwards.
The teachers and guardians and the schools
Schools have a very lax anti-bullying system and that is just plain destructive. I have seen teachers walk away from situations where a child is getting bullied just so they do not get involved. This just emboldens the students even more. If schools were stricter about the penalties and punishments for bullying in any form, we would not hear cases like Sylvester’s.
It is unfortunate that parents have a part to play in this. The way children are raised, the things that are condoned at home, the measures of discipline that are taken, and the way parents literally baby their growing teenagers. And when they finally engage in these kinds of gruesome acts, these same parents work hard to hide these acts. The parents of the five boys in Sylvester’s case are now silent and working hard to get their children who are the perpetrators out of this mess. The conviction of the parents of the school shooter in the USA is a big lesson to parents that they act as aids to a crime when they condone their children’s behaviour.
If we live in a system that works, anti bullying policies should be ingrained in every level of education in the country. The most painful part, however, is how people can evade the law and get away with huge crimes such as murder as a result of severe bullying just because they have a parent in government. If the law is going to be upheld, then it needs to cut across every single citizen regardless of status. And that way mothers and fathers that have lost their children can get the justice they deserve.
Don’t be mistaken, this is not just a blame list. I am doing this because if we know all the parties involved and hold everyone accountable, then we begin to solve the problem. And if you look closely, every one of us falls into one or more of these categories. Many children have access to adults, and they watch them and grow with them. Many adults watch children pick up bad habits and characters and excuse themselves from it because they did not physically birth the child. Many adults themselves are adult bullies who still pick on people to this day. We need to check ourselves as well as the children we find in our care.
When we stop normalising these incidents, or glorify the suffering in boarding houses, we begin to solve the problem.