Does abuse exist in our secondary schools?
I did not attend secondary schools. I went to just one.
So, a classmate asked me to write about our teachers then. Any of them. I have decided to write about many of them. The topic points in the negative. I know. However, I assure you that most of these teachers had their good sides.
When parents search for secondary schools for their wards, they consider many things. But rarely do they consider the presence and extent of abuse.
It is mostly about which school is most affordable, reputable for good exam results, religious and maybe close to their homes or offices. Things like extracurricular activities, traveling opportunities and practical knowledge are considered esoteric.
Those are still malleable as parents can find ways around them if they really want to.
But, what about the wide range of child abuse in these secondary schools?
Think About These:
One example was in SSS1. We had just written the Continuous Assessment Tests. Our math teacher was sharing scripts and allotting our punishments based on grade.
My friend, Q, came late that day. I saw her through the window and motioned for her to come in.
She had scaled the cut-off mark, so, I figured she had nothing to be afraid of.
Apparently. Mr. S had seen her come in. Now, because he had not directly permitted her to step in, he rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to flog her mercilessly.
Twelve strokes and counting. I could feel the pain, hurt and anger Q was going through as she got lashed… for what?
Mr. S only stopped the beating when Q shouted out, “Jesus”.
The average Nigerian secondary school has myriads of opportunities for physical abuse. Thanks to the majorly frustrated teachers. Some of them know no other way to earn respect. They may have psychiatric issues. Their homes may be crumbling. Whatever it be, we were at the receiving ends.
Students are beaten for the silliest of things. Late coming. Non payment of school fees. Unavailability of exercise and textbooks. Being sick. Having an uncorrected eye defect. Laughing. Not laughing. Looking at the teacher strangely. Not grasping the lesson as quickly as they’d like.
Silly things that were beyond our direct control.
There was Mr. A who relished slapping the clean-shaven head of the male students. At first, it was funny, until it was not.
Mrs A, not related to Mr. A, would ’employ’ the services of Mr. S mentioned above and other male teachers as she could not stress herself. She once slapped me for not reporting a crime I knew nothing about. A crime I was most likely a victim of.
What of Mr. O, who with his shortness, would jump up just to ensure the strokes were hitting hard enough?
Few teachers avoided the cane. However, some among these few ended up abusing us in other ways.
Interestingly, this was found more with the Christian Religious Studies teachers who oftentimes doubled as Yoruba teachers. Maybe it was their fluency in Yoruba at fault.
These ones could spend half of a one hour period insulting students, their parents, families and villages. I was and still is not a master of the Yoruba language. But, some of the things those teachers said were pure evil.
Agreed, some of my classmates were a handful. It, however, was not enough justification for the words flung at them. Demeaning. Abusive. Hurtful. Curse-like.
And it was not only by words.
Mr. S, our math teacher, once invented this punishment for those who failed his classwork. Affected individuals were to buy card boards. On these card boards, they were to write something in the lines of ‘I am not wise’/’I don’t know how to use my brain’. Then, proceed to the junior classes and parade themselves with the card boards.
I also remember the very dark Mr. O who would insist that we touch our toes before receiving our strokes of cane. Male and female alike. We were to present our buttocks; high and ‘unashamed’. Frankly, that position was quite humiliating.
But, does it compare to the weird style of asking a student to lie flat in the middle of the staff room while being flogged?
Lol. Obviously, this one was reserved mainly for the females. And that takes me to the next point.
Why, would you insist on flogging on the buttocks?
It was like some of them relished the ‘thwack’ sound the cane made as it made contact with the flesh of the bum. They loved to watch as same flesh vibrated, trembled and bounced. It aroused them.
And seeing as they were not going to be selfish, they made it a spectacle by bringing the (female) student to the staff room.
Actual Sexual Advances…
It was not until we graduated that I heard of another Mr.S who kept asking a particular girl out. Recall that the maximum age any of us could have been was 17 years. What kind of relationship was a 30 plus, going 40, man seeking?
Strange Conversations and Overtures…
I was very close to a male classmate then. Still close now. Rumors started going round that we were dating. Somehow, a Mr. A, not related to the earlier mentioned Mr. A and Mrs. A heard about it.
He invited me and the boy to the staff room to counsel us. Then, asked for my phone number.
12 midnight, he called. “Sing for me.” “I want to hear your sweet voice.” “You know I like you.”
I was… stumped.
This was a married man. He wasn’t going to be transferred the next day. Neither was I leaving the school. Yet, he was comfortable doing that to a barely 14 year old girl.
These same secondary school teachers would ogle G, a classmate of ours who was buxom.
One time, we were writing an exam. G needed extra sheet, so, she walked from her chair down to the invigilator’s table. Sincerely yours, all that was left was for the invigilating teacher to start drooling.
It was little wonder that some of our male classmates also started doing the same. And more.
There are four types of child abuse. It would be hard to say these teachers neglected us. We were under their care for minimum of eight hours per day of the week.
Yet, there were some of them who neglected their duties to us.
Talk of tall and lanky Mr.A who could go days without giving us notes. Then we would get to school one morning and be informed that, “I have written notes for you on thirteen boards. Find them and make sure your notes are complete.”
These boards were also being used by other teachers and there was the risk of the notes being wiped off before we got to them.
Then there was our biology teacher who would sit in front of the class, eating beans with little or no decorum. Her meal was often followed by very sluggish teaching and an eventual instruction to do something while she slept.
Yet, they would still take out their anger on us when we did not excel at their subjects.
There were those of us who were not allowed into school because our school fees hadn’t been paid.
Some took to roaming the streets while the others were locked up in the chapel.
Nigerian secondary schools have other forms of abuse that do not fall under these categories.
We were made to run errands for them. Buy food across the road at the risk of being caught by the principal. Pick up their children from school. Wash their cutlery.
What of the weird things we were made to buy as prerequisite for class? “Everyone must come with two sticks of cane tomorrow.”
Mind you, the school is meant to provide canes. Yet, here we were, doing the work for them.
The popular Mr. O (Urgh, another Mr.O) who ‘advertised’ a science excursion and asked students to pay fees but absconded abroad with all the money is another category.
The truth is, my secondary school was highly ranked in the external exams and the teachers were touted to be skillful. I agree that my education was positively influenced by attending the school. Who I am today, career wise, traces back to those six years.
But, I look back now and I see loopholes. I see things that should not have been.
There are many things wrong with our societies in this time and age. As I said in this post, the family, SCHOOLS and religious bodies have a crucial role in making things right.
This is why the loopholes have to be pointed out and dealt with. To raise awareness, it is important. In ensuring that they do not repeat themselves, it is important. For posterity, we have to talk about them.
Parents need to start looking beyond the ‘basics’. Or, rather, make the ‘Abuse Checklist’ basic for secondary school searches.
There are other materials to read on child abuse in Nigerian secondary schools. The effects of child abuse in Nigerian secondary schools are widespread. They are way beyond what we think.
We need to do better.