By Benedicta Apeh
It is saddening to see and hear the recent trending news of the unfortunate demise of this twelve-year-old boy, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr. Once again, a huge disservice has been done to another child and family all in the bid to get a good education. Unimaginable is what his family would be feeling; wouldn’t it seem like they paid his fees this term to his own detriment? Keeping him at home by their side would have been a better option, right? At least, he would have been safe.
A life gets lost and again justice is being demanded by all and sundry. All kinds of hashtags, justice for this person, justice for that person, year after year, time after time is becoming a habit whenever such situations come out in the open. All kinds of news and reports fly in the air all in order to get to the root of the matter. And soon, it will get quiet again, everything goes low-key, everyone goes back to their normal routine like nothing ever happened, forgetting the pain of loss that his family will forever feel. Forgetting that many other children are still in this education system, many children are coming into the system and many may toe the same line as the young boy if justice doesn’t actually prevail.
An illiterate and uneducated populace does no good to a country that seeks all round development, and the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is one thing that has not given much credence to the Nigerian education system, making the system seem like a joke. As a lot of effort is being made to make sure that this number is reduced at least, there are still many oppositions against whatever progress has been made. Structural, administrative, cultural, admission issues, policy and girl-child education issues, and so on are long rooted plagues on the system making it even harder to stay afloat.
Now, it is becoming a norm to hear news of all forms of bullying, torturing, sexual assaults, kidnapping, cultism, killings and all manner of atrocities being committed in schools. These issues have brought pain, emotional and psychological torture and lasting scars on many lives, and more rampant than ever, the lives and dreams of very young people are being lost and cut short in their prime. Many people are losing faith in the system and the advocacy for out of school children to get into schools is becoming tougher as these issues stay pending and unresolved. This is another obvious threat on the very life of our education system in Nigeria and on the country, ready to sink us. If we lose our young ones now, what hope is there for the future?
We know that external forces; banditry, kidnapping and the likes are fighting the system and causing fear among parents and children who desire good education. Efforts are being made to tackle these issues but what about internal forces that can quickly be handled? It is still a matter of debate on whether the young lad, Sylvester died through the hands of bullies or in the football field. We might go on and on to debate on all that but whichever one it might be, guaranteed safety and welfare of every child in schools should be topmost priority. Safe learning environment is a must.
As much as we intend to churn out graduates from schools year after year who are knowledgeable in certain areas, equipped to move into the next phase of education and their lives. We must not forget to first ensure that the schools are safe for them in all ramification. Once safety is guaranteed, learning is made easier. Once this standard is put in place, many children coming into the system will also enjoy the privileges. Every child must feel safe to learn, feel safe to express oneself, safe to interact with fellow students, safe to engage in extracurricular activities. Right structures and systems must be put in place to achieve this.
School administrators must take their stand against all forms of moral decadence or vices that wants to take root. Staff must be given relevant trainings to serve not just as teachers or instructors to the children but to be held in high trust by students and parents; becoming good listeners, mentors, caregivers, confidants. And to respond appropriately to students’ complaints, emergencies, and be very vigilant. The government must not rest in putting and implementing policies that make safety a must. Students should be taught on safety measures and must be able to confide in the right individuals and get help whenever necessary. Parents must interact with their children. Charity, they say, begins at home. Parents must ensure that their children are not nuisance or bad eggs at their schools. They must inculcate good values to their children and uphold and exemplify the same. Children must be able to confide in their parents. Non-governmental organizations and all individuals must stand up and do their part in ensuring that seeking justice for our children from schools is no longer a trend.
We cannot continue to lose lives or have students who are alive, still in the system but whose psychological and social wellbeing have been battered. For most people, their academics are thoroughly affected and they never recover. Worse, this negative effect they will carry through their lives as adults.
This is not a debate on if boarding or day schools are good, or whether public or private schools are preferable, or a function of the amount of fees paid by any student in any school. Quality education is important and it is mandatory for every school in the system to make this possible by ensuring students’ welfare and safety. Every external and internal factor must be handled and nipped in the bud. Our children deserve good education and it will not be possible if they are getting hurt by the same system that should benefit them. We need to take a step back to ensure student’s safety by all means.
One of our projects at Flickers of Hope Foundation is taking children off the streets and back to school, and that they are mentored rightly and empowered to reach their full potentials. This we can achieve if our children are safe in and outside school. As we continue to do our part in ensuring the general wellbeing of all our project beneficiaries, we use this medium to also call out to all education stakeholders to ensure safe learning environments in all schools. Every child deserves it. Our nation depends on it. Let’s do this for Sylvester, for every one that has lost their life getting an education, everyone that has one way or the other been battered by and in the system, and for every child that is born into our nation.