Is there a need to reassess discipline in Nigeria schools? I think so.
During a conversation a few months ago, my sister mentioned my nephew was slapped at school where he is doing his A Levels. My nephew called his mother immediately after he was slapped by the housemaster because he thought it was uncalled for. My inlaw called the school to hear the other side of the story, the school administrator’s explanation was as my nephew had stated, the case was left hanging – not much of apology, more of emphasis on what the boy did wrong. He was home for a week holiday and still could feel the pain three days after the incident that requires pain relief.
My sister was not happy but didn’t want to call the school because exams is coming up. Nephew is fine, however there was a need to clear the air.
I was curious to know what my nephew did to deserve a slap, the type we call ‘dirty slap’ in Nigeria. The explanation given to my mind is just too flimsy for the punishment given.
So I called the school.
According to the school administrator, the story goes that there was a problem that needs resolving at the hostel so boarders were called to come downstairs for a meeting. My nephew was the last one to get downstairs, this angered the housemaster hence the slap.
The school did nothing to hear the boy’s side of the story or provide comfort, instead she was comparing my nephew with his cousin who is ‘well behaved girl’.
Here I cut in. ‘foot dragging?’ I continue to let the lady understand how absurd it sounds that a post secondary school establishment could not find better ways to make students in their care adjust their behaviour without resorting to violence.
The lady tried so hard to defend the housemaster’s attitude. Then I cited a few examples within the region where students have been put through needless sufferings due to adults’ temper. She was able to see my points. She apologised and said the case has been resolved.
If a child was slapped and still feels the pain a couple of days later, suppose he has permanent damage to his eardrum, should he just live with that? My sister was perfectly happy for her son to stay at home to redo his JAMB this year. I was the one who went out of my way to convince ‘sell’ an A levels – god forbid anything happens, my name is on the line.
With this in mind, I decided to call the school owner/director just to be sure my message was taken. He was aware of the case. He said the housemaster was new ands with them temporarily. I told the owner of my disappointment of them using physical violence towards A levels students. I made known to him that if in the near future my nephew has any problem with his ear on the side he was slapped, he should be prepared that we are coming after him.
He apologised in a way that I feel he meant it. I was pleased.
Initially, I did not want to make these calls as I don’t want my nephew isolated, then I realised this is the same reason kids get ill-treated in our schools. We seldom report serious issue at the onset and often leave things until it get way out of hand.
While I was thinking of my 17 year old nephew. My mind went to a 14 year old girl in the same city who was slapped by the school secretary a couple of years ago. The girl’s eye literally popped out of the socket. Sadly she passed away due to infection on the eye and lack of proper care immediately after the incident. We didn’t hear anything about this secretary, not in the press at least.
We are not in shortage of horror stories due to corporal punishment in Nigeria schools. Another girl was blinded by a school teacher with cane for being late to school in Kaduna in February.
These are a few we hear about, those that were bullied to silence are unaccounted for.
How do we get schools and teachers to think about consequences of their behaviour – well, parents need to share stories such as these so we all can help get more attention to dangerous and unwanted treatment of students in schools.
As Nigeria goes, assault in schools can happen to just about anyone.
My nephew is totally fine. Housemaster moved to a different hostel, which I think is amusing. I hope he has learned better ways to vent his frustration.