Govt’ll leave no stone unturned to unravel controversy – Lagos
NAPTAN: Those found culpable should be punished
Stakeholders: Criminal charges should be pressed against schools, collaborators
Stakeholders are expressing anxiety over the trend of bullying in schools, especially private schools, calling for stringent action by the government to end such threat to children’s education
Following the death recently of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, a 12-year-old student of Dowen College, a high flyer private school in Lekki, Lagos, stakeholders, including parents, students and the government have raised concern over the safety and well-being of students in the care of school owners and management of private schools.
They, however, described the death of the student as a result of bullying and torture in the hands of some student-cultists as a ‘threat to the collective peace and safety of innocent students in some schools.
The deceased student, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr allegedly died from internal injuries inflicted on him by some student-cultists, who were said to have tortured and beaten him for refusing to join their cult group.
The alarming trends of bullying and attacks on other students by student-cultists in private schools in recent times have led to the maiming and in most cases death of several innocent students in the hands of their fellow students, teachers or school guards who raped, sexually abused and inflicted other sundry bestialities on students.
For instance, the dust raised by the molestation of Don Davis, 11-year-old student of Deeper Life High School in Akwa Ibom State, who was sexually assaulted by the seniors; and Keren Akpagher, a 14-year-old student of Premier Academy, Lugbe in Abuja, who also died of sepsis earlier this year is yet to be resolved.
A used condom was said to have been found inside Keren, who was possibly raped severely by a staff (security or teacher), and died before she could mention the names of the perpetrators of such dastard crime on her.
According to some parents, who bemoaned the trends, many of these cruelties have been carried out without the victims getting justice in a system that failed to punish perpetrators of such heinous crimes against fellow students.
The case of Sylvester, who would have celebrated his birthday on Saturday, December 4, was pathetic, though his birthday was however celebrated by his aggrieved parents despite his demise celebrated the birthday amid tears to mourning. Now, they vowed that the boy would not be buried by the family until justice is not only done, but the perpetrators of the crime also punished.
Sylvester, according to report, was said to have died from injuries he sustained from the beating and torture from some five students he mentioned at death-bed for refusing to join their cult group.
The management of Dowen College, where Sylvester Jnr was a student before his death, has refuted the allegations of bullying and torture of the deceased student, or cultism in the college.
In a statement issued on Wednesday and signed by the Principal of the college, Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola, the management denied the report that the boy was bullied and beaten by studentcult members resulting in his death, describing the allegations as unfounded and falsehood.
The statement, titled: “Preliminary Findings,” however, claimed that the boy died as a result of injuries he sustained while playing football. But, Sylvester Jnr had told his mother and father before his death that the claim by the management of the school was not right, saying he neither played football, nor did he fall or trip, as claimed by the school.
According to the boy’s father, Mr. Sylvester Oromoni, their late son countered the claim that he sustained injuries from playing football before his death.
He said his son, prior to his death, opened up that he did not play football in school, neither did he trip nor fall. The management had said: “On the 21st day of November 2021, one of the Hostel Parents reported to management that the young boy was injured while playing football.
“The resident registered nurse immediately administered first aid on him and after he expressed relief, was released to return to his hostel room.” The Principal, however, added that the student was in class on Monday, November 22, 2021, but during school hours one of his friends accompanied him to the Sick Bay where he complained of some pain in his hip. The doctor, she further explained
examined the boy and prescribed Ibuprofen for the pain, while the nurse massaged his leg, after which he felt a bit better. The statement further added: “In accordance with school policy, the resident doctor called his mother reporting the incident and requesting that she come for him so that he could get further medical attention.
“His guardian showed up and took him for X-ray after which the guardian informed the school management that the results of the investigation revealed that no part of his body was broken or injured.
It also added: “As a result, it came as no small shock to us to read on the social media that he was beaten by some students and that he specifically mentioned some names. “We immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened.”
According to the school, the preliminary investigation showed that there was no fighting, bullying or any form of attack on the boy. But, Oromoni, the father of the deceased boy countered the school’s claim, saying: “Junior said mummy, I didn’t play ball; I didn’t fall. He jumped off his hostel bed. They kicked him, matched his waist. Other students ran away.
“They threatened to kill them all if they spoke a word to the school staff. They warned Junior (Sylvester) to say he sustained injuries while playing ball. They threatened him. If you ask the roommate, they will not lie. They matched his ribs and waist. All that pain for a 12-year-old.” “It was on November 29, when he was away for a government function that Junior “opened up.”
He explained how the students, who bullied his son, were once suspended temporarily by the school after they asked his son to describe his sister’s private parts.
According to the grieving father, after the incident of bullying was reported to the school, the young boy was taken from one hostel to another but the bullying persisted and even though he had initially planned to remove his child from the school, he reconsidered such move because his elder sisters were schooling there at the time.
Oromoni recalled how the family took the boy to the hospital where blood tests and an X-ray were conducted, saying Junior also underwent typhoid/malaria treatments but his lips started peeling.
The father also said his son suffered liver enlargement due to congealed blood, and insisted that it was also claimed that Junior was fed a liquid substance described as “a chemical” for refusing to join the cult group.
The father said: “The boys they mentioned were also reported to the school last term when they bullied Junior and collected all his foodstuffs and clothes. I have two daughters; one of them has already graduated. I had to remove the second after this incident. They asked this boy to describe the sister’s privates (private parts) and this got to us. “They instilled fear in him so much so that, when you ask him, he might keep to himself and say they will kill me.
We didn’t know what to do. I considered removing him, but reconsidered since his sisters were still in the school. “The new incident came to my knowledge on November 21st after the school called my wife to notify us that our son was in the school clinic, injured. My senior son, who was to make a London trip, came to see us in Warri.
“The next day, we sent a family friend to help pick up our son since he was the only person in Lagos and take him to the hospital. When he got there, he panicked, pointing out that he doubts it was a football injury as the school claimed.
“He said the boy couldn’t stand because his waist was bent and swollen along with one side of his belly. His mouth was black. I asked, Is this really a football injury? He was taken to my house in Lagos but couldn’t sleep at night. “I asked my eldest son to fly to Lagos on November 24 while I took a trip to Asaba, Delta from where I would also make for Lagos.
On getting there, he screamed. ‘This is beyond football injury. Come to Lagos now,’ he told me over the phone.” The bereaved father said Sylvester Junior only managed to sleep one hour when sedated and would wake up screaming in pain. He said it was on Monday, when he was away for a government function that Junior opened up.”
Meanwhile, following the controversial circumstances surrounding the death of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, the Lagos State Government had on Thursday ordered indefinite closure of the private school, pending the outcome of an investigation and probe into the death of the student.
The state government in the directive contained in a statement, entitled: “Lagos Government Orders Indefinite Closure of Dowen College” issued by the state Ministry of Education pledged commitment to unravel the mystery surrounding the controversial death.
The state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo noted that the incident was shocking and that the state was indeed sad about the great loss. Prior to the closure of the college, a delegation, comprising top level management of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the state and the Police was said to have visited the college on a fact-finding mission.
The state government reassured the family of the late Sylvester Oromoni Jnr and Lagosians at large that efforts are being made to unravel the circumstances leading to his demise, even as we reiterate the government’s commitment to Child Protection.
Thus, the Commissioner called for calm and assured the parents and other stakeholders that no effort would be spared in getting to the root of the incident. Reacting to the death of the student, the National President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Danjuma, described the incident as unfortunate.
He said parents take their children to school to take good care of them, not only to educate them, but also to ensure their safety and well-being, saying the management of Dowen College lied to have said that the deceased boy was playing football and did not tell the parents of the boy the truth to save his life.
While calling the government to conduct thorough investigation and probe the immediate and remote causes of the boy’s death, Alhaji Danjuma Haruna said those found culpable should be punished to serve as deterrent to others as well as to prevent future occurrence of such heinous acts in the nation’s school system. According to him, the parents should also approach the court to seek legal redress and justice so that would not happen again.
Meanwhile, a source in Lagos State chapter of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), the apex association of private school owners in Nigeria, who declined to mention his name, said since Lagos State and police were already involved in the matter, “we should wait for the outcome of their investigations.”
But, he said no management worth its onus would allow bullying and cultism in their schools, saying it is sad that as the Dowen College issue involved the life of a young child. He, therefore, hinted that parents should properly monitor their children and pay more attention to their upbringing.
The Lagos Police Command, in a statement by CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, on Saturday, said that the Command had commenced investigation into the death of the student. He said although no formal report had been made to the Command, the Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu had ordered the investigation of the death.
“The Commissioner of Police, upon hearing about it, instantly directed the Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Division, under whose jurisdiction the place of incident is to immediately visit the school to carry out initial investigation into the incident.
“This directive has been carried out as investigation into the case has since commenced. However, in view of the seriousness of the case, the Homicide Section of the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, has also been directed to take over the investigation of the case immediately,” he said.
On his part, the National President of NAPPS, Chief Yomi Otubela, described the news of the death of the student as saddened and condoled with both the family of the deceased student and management, staff and students of the college over the unfortunate incident.
“As we have read that the Lagos State Government and Police have taken over the investigation while the school has also been shut down, we would rather wait for the outcome of their investigation before we can make any comment on the issue,” he said. The Secretary of Lagos State wing of NUT, Ayetoba Gbenga, said it was unfortunate that this is happening in the School system.
“This is happening because we longer place value on moral instructions even while learning, we have lost it. By practice, it is our obligation to build character first before learning because it is encompassing.
We have lost that today particularly in our private schools, because the concentration is on learning due to huge investment. I learnt Dowen College pays millions as school fees and so our children need not to be disciplined because we have paid so much. This is not good enough.”
Anyway, the police have told us that the investigation would be thorough and justice should be served,” he said.