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Bullying In Nigerian Boarding Schools

Some say school bullying is an evil phenomenon that has been around since the invention of school. It revolves around a power imbalance, where the perpetrator is higher in status than the victim. School bullying happens for various reasons, including social hierarchy/position, looks, age, religion, ethnicity/race, disability etc.

School children perceived to be lacking in certain areas or who do not possess specific attributes/skills are the most likely to be picked on. Peers or older children perpetrate it to show their power or influence on the younger ones.

School bullying is especially rampant in boarding schools, where older students are left to run the affairs involving younger students. They usually resort to brutal methods to keep younger students in check, affecting their (younger students’) mental, physical, emotional state. The cycle of abuse in boarding school is normalized, and it is considered a rite of passage to becoming a senior. While taking punishment from their seniors, they dream of becoming seniors to put students below them through the same process. Even teachers encourage this and advise younger students to deal with it as they have their day.

People who passed through this system can attest to the normalization of this cycle of abuse under the guise of discipline. I went to a boarding school throughout secondary school, and no one raised an eyebrow when my peers and I were put through the most unimaginable punishments as part of our “training”. We were punished and severely beaten for the most minute things. Sometimes when students complained to their parents about the terrible conditions, they brushed it off, further enabling the situation. Parents who intervened were seen as problematic people who spoiled their kids.

The bullying didn’t stop at seniors making life unbearable for their juniors but spilt into kids of the same age picking on their peers because they were perceived to be less than them. They made jokes at the expense of the kids seen as outcasts, didn’t want to be friends with them or seen near them.

It’s been years since I was in secondary school, you would think things would be better, and parents would raise their kids to be good to everyone regardless of ethnicity/creed or that kids would learn to get along with peers irrespective of their interests. But recent happenings have shown that that’s not the case.

On Wednesday, December 1, it was reported that 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni, a Jss2 student of Dowen College, a private boarding school in Lagos, had died after allegedly being tortured and bullied by senior students. A viral video was posted showing the 12-year-old writhing in pain; he also name-dropped his attackers before passing away. The school authorities claimed his sustained injuries resulted from playing football, claiming the family debunks. After severe outrage online, The Lagos State Government sealed off schools in the Lekki area of the state. An investigation has been launched, and many Nigerians call to prosecute all those involved. This sad incident could have been avoided if many people didn’t see the power imbalance between junior and senior students as a necessary rite of passage and if adults who could intervene in situations like this did not look the other way.

In severe cases, the bullied become perpetrators of crime. They show up to school with weapons to take revenge on other students; this is a common occurrence in the US, where the attackers are usually described as weird loners picked on by the popular kids. Thankfully school shootings do not go down in Nigeria, but many leave school feeling angry and traumatized due to the bullying they faced while they were there.
As earlier stated, when kids open up about bullying to their parents/guardians, their complaints essentially go ignored, and they are told to deal with it, and it will get better. The situation is not discussed, and these kids find ways to cope. When I was in secondary school, I lived in deathly fear of resuming school because I knew I was going to get punished for minor things; many times, I cried and begged to be pulled out of the school, but my family told me to take everything that comes, I would become a senior too. It didn’t make my time at school better, but I managed to graduate without any severe problems. I can’t say the same for others who have been severely traumatized by their experiences in secondary school; they never bring that chapter up.
Parents should pay more attention to the signs of bullying in their kids. It is important not to dismiss their experiences but find ways to help them. Pull them out of the school if need be; bullying is not discipline and shouldn’t be treated as such. Also, if your child is the perpetrator, it may be harder to deal with, but do not let your love for them get in the way that they are making life unbearable for others and need to be stopped. Please don’t do things to make problems they have created disappear but let them know that actions have consequences, and being evil to others could bring bad things their way. Teach them to be respectful and kind to their people. Do your part in minimizing school bullying.