My Candid Opinion about Queens College Girls Protest

QUEENS COLLEGE GIRLS

In the news a few days ago girls from Queens college Yaba Lagos protested an alleged sexual assault against one of their teacher Mr Olaseni Oshifala. A report alleged that Oshifala had molested a JSS 2 pupil while in a drunken state when she left her hostel to use the toilet.

A number of reactions has continued to pour in since this protest. There are those who are in support of what these girls did while another group believe that the protest was needless and an abuse of the students whose parent’s permission were not sought before embarking on the said protest. Some others believe that it is an attack on Mr Oshifala’s “good reputation”. While the matter is still been investigated to get the details of what is true and what is not true, i say there is no smoke without fire.

In my own opinion something must have been happening and no one had been listening. Whether it is a Mr Oshifala or another teacher who might have been sexually molesting some girls in the school, certainly proper attention had not been paid to protect girls from this kind of abuse. Most times when a teacher whom a girl look up to start making sexual advances, the question of who to tell is a big issue.

I remember while in secondary school we had a very brilliant and supposedly disciplinarian teacher whom every student feared and respected. He had this seemingly untainted image but unknowingly to the school authority he had eyes for some of us girls. A close friend of mine was molested by this “Mr nice and disciplined teacher”. He would summon her every now and then to his office and blab about nothing tangible. My friend started to talk to us about her concern and we all became worried. We didn’t know who to tell; none of us wanted to be victimized or thought of as wanting to mess up the good image of Mr intelligent and brilliant. One day he even tried to make out with her and she had to run around in his office with him chasing her until she managed to escape. She told us again and still we couldn’t tell anyone. We all finally decided that whenever Mr nice and intelligent sends for my friend one or two of us would accompany her to his office. If he did not allow us in , we made sure he knew we were outside. It was a case of standing up for each other applying our own little girly wisdom. Mr Nice did not get any further at molesting my friend but who knows how many other girls he successfully sexually harassed during our time and after we graduated to various tertiary institutions.

My point is this, girls who are sexually molested in our secondary schools don’t always have someone they can talk to when facing sexual assault or molestation. It is only very few of these cases that gets attention.

This is the first time i will hear about school girls protesting about charges of molestation even though they said the Mr Oshifala was not guilty of the offense. Sexual assault of female students by their teachers is as old as the start of education itself. No girl would dare report these cases. It is unheard of in our African/Nigerian culture.

In my day we could not report our Mr Nice and intelligent. Do we have to wait until things get out of hand before school authorities put in place measures that allows for report and redress of cases of molestation by teachers or anyone in school?

Society always think that kids are not able to or should not speak up for themselves! I say if us adult are not protecting them as we should then they have to shout to be heard. I believe that there is something to be concerned about in this protest. Instead of shutting the issue down through blame game, all those concerned with addressing the issue should investigate this matter and ensure that sexual molestation is stamped out now. Remember tomorrow it my be your daughter or grand-daughter or even niece.

Time to start listening to our children.

Photo Credit: http://www.punchng.com

Adebisi Adetunji

An endangered Specie

DSC05393000TEACHER IN CLASS

This post Life of a nine year old by Folakemi, just made me realize that girls are largely the endangered specie when it comes to those who serve as house maids. I can’t imagine my 8yr old daughter serving as a house maid!! Ridiculous, mean and wicked! I know we blame poverty as the culprit of parents inability to take care of their children. It is better to have your child go to the farm with you and manage your meager resources than send him/her into slavery.

In some quarters the argument is that these maid services are offered in exchange for giving such a girl an education, trust me this hardly works except in a very few cases: one in 50. I have seen families withdraw a child from her kind boss who wants to give her a future just when she is making progress in school or in learning a trade. Her father, uncle, aunt or whoever is her guardian decides to give off in marriage.

Those who hire house maids seem not to have any law in place to check them. Such housemaids face all kind of abuse and danger. Their madam(boss) decides to keep them under lock and key the whole day so that they would not run away when other members of the family she is serving had gone to school or work. Imagine if such a maid is faced with an emergency such as a fire out break or simply a health problem that is a matter of life and death?! Other maids are beaten and have to live with marks and bruises. Others are denied food as punishment whenever they displease their master and still others service the sexual urge of the husband of madam or any other male in that household.

In the 21st century almost every household needs a help in the house to take care of the burden of household chores but should it be an excuse to be inhumane to a child? Next time you are tempted to thrash that your maid or maltreat her imagine it was your child!

And if you must engage the services of a maid, hire someone old enough not a child!!!

Adebisi Adetunji

Two Elderly Women

TWOTWO

One attained the then level of education called the modern school. In her day girls were not sent to school because it is believed that it was a waste of resources since they would eventually get married. So her father refused to send her to school but she was so hungry for an education that she did managed to convince her elder brother who took responsibility for her education. Today this elderly woman can spend her time reading interesting books keeping herself busy and getting informed about the world around her.

The other elderly woman also had the same problem of a society and fathers who didn’t believe in sending a girl to school. In fact they believed that such a girl could easily get pregnant thus compromising her chance of getting a man to marry. She was not as lucky as she didn’t have anyone to speak up for her. The boys in her family went to school while she was left behind. Today she struggles to read even words written in her indigenous language. I could see the pain in her eyes as she tries to make sense of words on the pages of her Bible. She sighs and wished someone had spoken up for her at the beginning of her life’s journey as a girl.

Every girl deserves to go to school!

Photo Credit: mathstricksandtips.blogspot.com Thank you.

Adebisi Adetunji

I am a Girl

GIRLS

I am a girl …O yes a girl

I am a girl who has dreams
I want to be a pilot, flying away to the blue skies
Where the clouds of possibilities lay
I want to be a teacher, teaching the next generation
I want to be a writer,writing my own unique story
I want to go to school, and become
I don’t want to slave away in the kitchen while
my brothers play football or watch TV
I don’t want to be married off to the highest bidder
I don’t want to become a mother until i have blossomed; prepared and ready to face adulthood

GIRLS 2

I am a girl; fragile but very strong
I am a girl not a dunce but very intelligent to make informed decisions
I am a girl and inside of me lies the next solution to the world’s problems… I want to have the same opportunity as my brother
I am a girl, let me live, let me breath, let me become…

LIPS LASHES 9

Celebrating Every Girl Child

Adebisi Adetunji

A butterfly trapped in a school bus

Butterfly

A butterfly, beautiful but fragile
A butterfly helping with the pollination process
Beautiful flowers flourish as it moves from one nectar to the other.
A butterfly flies by my window, makes me  smile
Out in the fields children try to catch a butterfly from the many beautiful ones floating around. Butterfly 2

A hand catches a butterfly but on opening it,
The wings were crushed, the little girl felt sad and started to cry
Oh my beautiful butterfly is crushed

A four year old beautiful butterfly was deflowered by a bus driver who took her to school everyday so it went in a  news report.Then i decided to read further about the story. It came down to a horrifying detail. The news report says that the bus driver raped her on a table in her classroom!!! Where were the teachers? Who leaves a toddler in her class alone to be molested by the school bus driver?! Did he drop off all the other students before this incidence? What is the school’s yard stick for employing its drivers?  Many questions besieged my mind. Can’t a parent even feel safe with his or her ward’s school bus service, i asked myself.

On the other hand there are parents who do not engage the services of a school bus. They simply refuse to see the need to ensure that their children get to school safely. I find it amazing that a woman who has a small shop or sells Ate ties a wrapper early in the morning and sends of her 3year – 7year old to school by himself or herself. That is what i see in some Adugbo close by me. These same children would have to cross a quite busy road to get to their school. Soon it will be in the news that a car crushed some school students trying to cross the road by themselves! Or a young child gets raped in some lonely pathway between her house and school. Some would engage the services of an Okada rider to take and bring back their kids to and fro school. This morning i saw two girls on an Okada with the rider struggling to get a balance on a very busy road. A trio danger is involved here: accident, kidnap and rape of such girls by a depraved minded okada rider.

Seriously we need to make going to and been in school safer for children!

Photo Credit: Blue Butterfly- Clipart Panda

Photo 2: Royalty Free stock photo thank you for sharing- dreamstime.com

Word Glossary

Wrapper: Big and colourful or plain  West African clothing that can be tied around a woman’s waist like a wrap skirt.

Ate: Petty trading items like biscuits, sweets, tomatoes, etc displayed on a stand or tray.

Adugbo: Neighborhood

Okada: Nigerian local slogan for motorcycle

Okada Rider: Motorcycle rider

Adebisi Adetunji

Imagine a Chick laying an Egg

Egg
Freshly laid egg

An egg is fragile; it can be easily cracked or crushed. When put under the right temperature or warmth of its mother then it grows into a chick. A chick well cared for and protected from attacks of vultures then grows to become a mother hen or cockerel at the right time. There is a time for everything and all things become beautiful in their time goes the words of a “Holy Book”. Ever seen a chick ready to lay eggs?  I don’t think so but some chicks prefer or are forced by circumstance to lay their eggs.

Chick
Chick

Ok what do I mean? Follow this story….
It is said that nothing is new under the sun so one shouldn’t be too shocked about certain things. But somethings just leave you bewildered. Such was a case I handled during a field work as a trainee Social worker. It was a quiet morning and case workers were sited waiting for clients to show up. We all hoped that cases of conflict handled under our watch for the day would be easily resolved. Usually it was always many sessions of counseling and intervention before certain cases were amicably settled that is if the parties involved are willing to cooperate and negotiate their rights.
On some days couples in conflict end up becoming rowdy and physical, then the social case worker would have to engage the police in the matter, that is after ensuring that you don’t get caught up in the exchange. Juvenile cases are also treated at the center but this one left me flabbergasted and annoyed.

A mother walks in with an allegation that a man had forcefully married her daughter not legally mind you. He impregnated her and took her into his home a midst the protest of her parents. The man in question whom I will call Akin was over 40years old. He was as old as the mother who came to the agency with the complaint. The young girl was a 15year old. I will call her Ramota, she was in Junior Secondary school or so, before being impregnated. It became a family round table discussion. Akin was asked to defend himself on the allegation that he had forcefully married the obviously under aged girl. What he said left me shocked…confused… and so much more. He had no idea that he had broken the Human Rights Law against child marriage which was punishable under the law. Akin explained to us that he started dating Ramota a year before that time. He usually see her returning from school and he liked her, so he asked her out. Ramota agreed and a relationship between the two began. When it resulted into a pregnancy he went to seek her hand in marriage from her parents . Ramota’s dad and mum were furious, they wanted her to finish schooling before any talks about marriage. They were even angrier that the father of her baby was a man old enough to be her father. At the time when the case was reported to the agency, the conflict had gone as far as both parties arresting each other with the police. Ramota’s parent had jailed Akin and had only agreed to bail after much pleading. Somehow he convinced the young girl who ends up moving in with him. In between all of that Akin decided to arrest Ramota’s parents accusing them of attempting to murder his baby. I don’t understand what kind of police officer will agree to arrest a parent of a minor when the man whom she was living with seem to have abducted her?! The whole thing was just a mess.

As social workers we then interviewed Ramota, she was unruly and choose to take sides with Akin. Bitterness was thick in the air. Ramota’s mother began to weep, she couldn’t believe that her child would support a man arresting her and locking her up. Her father too was quite upset. Akin was oblivious of the implication of his decision to forcefully house Ramota as a wife. He was guilty of abduction, sexual abuse, child marriage crime according to the law. When we started to explain things to him, he became afraid and numb.

How did they all arrive at the point? Ignorance, lack of proper parental care and monitoring, among other things are factors in this case. I felt sorry for the young girl Ramota who had stopped going to school because she was now a mother at 15year old. She was also reveling in the false safety of having a husband. It later turned out that Akin was in the habit of dating young girls prior to this case many of whom he had gotten rid of.

I don’t want to go into details about steps we took in intervening in this case but it is worrisome that a lot of young girls drop out of school because of early pregnancy. It is even more worrisome that parents are not doing enough to help give their children particularly the girl child a proper sex education. Graciously the parent’s of Ramota are kicking hard against giving her out in marriage to an older man unlike some others who force their girls into early marriage.  Many of our girls particularly in public schools lack the necessary education and information about sex and men. Our girls need older mentors to guide them in the right part. They need more adults , parents who would speak up against child marriage and i turn protect them against this menace that stills their childhood and future.  Their reproductive system is just not ready and more harm is been done to them biologically.Who would take up this challenge of preventing more “chicks” from laying eggs?

Photo Credit: Oyekunle Farms, Ibadan.

Adebisi Adetunji

Strange Things within the Walls of a School

TEACHER IN CLASS
Teacher in an overcrowded classroom

It is a school day; teachers were having a hard time controlling the large number of students they had to teach per class. Many of the students hardly pay attention; some don’t even show up for classes. The teachers have their hands full coping with over 120 students in each class. It is a herculean task, exhausting and emotionally draining experience each day. Added to the task of educating these children are many cases of juvenile delinquencies. One of the teachers of a public school whom I would call, Mrs Terry had just finished a lesson and walked towards the staff room to take a quick break before her next class. She sat down at her table trying to catch her breath. The throbbing on her temple reminded her she was yet to take her breakfast. Underneath her desk was a food flask sitting comfortably in a small basket with a bottle of water. Mrs Terry picked up her flask and the bottle water; wiping the spoon on her skirt to clean up any likely dust that must have settled on it. The cement floor of the staff room was badly broken and only traces of it was left; the floor was very dusty and sandy. She began to munch the jollof rice she had brought from home.

Other staff members who had just finished their lessons too soon started walking into the staff room. There were murmurings and exclamations about the nonchalant attitudes of their students with many only able to communicate in the indigenous language. How was a teacher supposed to teach subjects in the English language; how would they even be able to write and pass the WAEC (West African Examinations Council) at the end of the day? Mrs Terry in between eating her food replied that the children’s daily drama was bad enough without any display from their parents. Barely had the words gone out of her mouth when a student whom I would call Deborah walked with her mother matching in behind her looking very angry. They both matched straight to Mrs Terry’s table. Other teachers exchanged that knowing amusing look; another drama of a parent defending their wards blindly was about to unfold. Deborah’s mother pointing accusing fingers at Mrs Terry demanded to know why her well behaved daughter had been labelled as being pregnant. She pounced to the left and to the right calling on the name of God and sending curses the way of the guilty teacher. Mrs Terry was not perturbed; it wasn’t the first time she would be faced with such angry parents who protected their children to a fault.

She braced up herself and faced mother and daughter squarely explaining why she suspected Deborah might be pregnant. Mummy Deborah screamed and explained in no few words about how they were a very religious family; how her daughter even led the morning prayers and Bible reading. Not only was that, she was the daughter of a pastor! Mrs Terry smiled in sympathy then Deborah was asked to lie down on a desk in other to show her mum proof that she was actually pregnant. By this they meant signs that a young girl was pregnant. It is said that some women can discern whether someone is pregnant even if it is a few days old. In the midst of questioning, Deborah confessed to being pregnant and her mum almost fainted. Deborah further revealed that a fellow school girl who was more experienced had taken her to see a Baba(Spiritualist) to hang the pregnancy. In scenarios like this the spiritualist does something to ensure that the stomach of the pregnant woman or girl doesn’t shoot out until very late in pregnancy. I don’t know how this works but I am told that these things actually do happen. This time Mummy Deborah was surely going to faint; she stood muted and shocked. Teacher’s then began to counsel her on how to best help her daughter through this.

Deborah’s story is just one case out of many school girls who get pregnant while in school. Many of them end up dropping out of school while others struggle to continue a midst the distraction of nursing a bay. Another example was a JSS2 school girl whose mother comes to the school at noon every day to request that she be released to go and breastfeed her baby at home. The circle continues as this young mother might end up dropping out of school and soon her daughter might also get pregnant while in JSS2 or 3 too. Teachers of these public/government schools(with exceptions of the bad examples) do their best in trying to mentor their students particularly the girls but not much can be achieved when they have to deal with over 120students per class. Many times also parents are not willing to collaborate with teachers in making a success of their daughter or son’s education.

There have been incidences of parents like Deborah’s mom coming to slap or beat a teacher and nobody is charged for assault. A story is told of a teacher who was actually thrown down the stairs by an angry parent. She spent months in the hospital with a broken leg and nothing was done about the guilty parent. As a result of incidences like these teachers in public schools decide to mind their business, mostly just doing the job as best as they can. They simply refuse to stick their necks out to go the extra mile. I’m told that teachers even have to make certain daring statements in order to protect themselves against student’s assault. A teacher who was posted to a notorious public school on her first day had to state categorically that she was a no nonsense woman. How did she do this? She told them that she heard that some of them had knives and guns they used to harass teachers with. She then told them that she was married to a soldier and also owned a gun which she was willing to use on anyone who dares harass her. After that declaration her job of teaching the students with their cooperation became easy. Now this might be going to the extreme but that’s her own way of protecting herself. It’s important to remember that majority of the lower class and some middle class send their children to public schools thus a large number of juvenile problems the society would have to deal with.

No wonder then the high rate of teenage pregnancies that occur in our public schools;

No wonder the many dropouts;

No wonder many young drug addicts produced by these public schools.

What then is the way forward? There should be continues forum between teachers and parents to enable them discuss their concerns; Girls and Boys should be sensitized the more about the importance of education to their future and proper behaviour in school. The bulk stops on the government’s table. Serious attention should be given to education at the primary and secondary level. Many public schools lack the necessary infrastructure to provide an enabling learning environment. Government should also protect the rights of teachers in these settings. It is not right to have to work in an environment one feels unsafe. Policies should be put in place to address these issues. What other measures should be taken in order to have girls and boys give an undivided attention to education and to make school safe for all?

Meaning of Words:

Jollof Rice – Popular Rice dish in Nigeria and other African counties- Its recipe include Tomato sauce, pepper,vegetable oil and other garnishing depending on ones choice

WAEC – West African Examinations Council (Student gets a secondary/high school certificate)

JSS – Junior Secondary School ( Junior class in secondary schools)

Adebisi Adetunji