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That arson by secondary school students in Oyo

tHE nation was shocked to the core on October 27 this year when news filtered through that students of Isale-Oyo Community High School in Oyo town, Oyo State, had embarked on a violent demonstration that left in its wake torched school buildings, brigandage and unconfirmed reports of rape. Pandemonium and panic engulfed the ancient town after reports indicated that  the students had set ablaze some of their classrooms as a result of their mass failure in the recently released examination results.

Students of Anglican Secondary School, Oyo, were also reported to have unleashed mayhem on their teachers, going a step forward to destroy billboards on the streets that bore the name and pictures of the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi. Although Nigerians are aware that things had taken a turn for the worse in the nation’s educational sector, the fact that secondary school students could go to this extreme came to many as a great shock. The event seemed to be the worst nightmare that could befall the educational system of a state on which debates had earlier returned an unfavourable verdict.

While condemnations have trailed the unwholesome act of the students, it is time to probe why things have gone this awry. First, the Isale Oyo incident is a reminder that no matter how low morals have sunk in the present generation, a worse fate awaits the future if this descent is not tamed among those scheduled to take the baton from the present crop of national marathoners. To be sure, protest is a globally accepted weapon of expressing disavowal with uncomplimentary developments in the running of the affairs of society. It is an indication that a group of people, especially judging by the number of protesters, are unhappy with the state of things. Its peaceful nature also impresses it upon the world that the protesters are not violent mutineers and are simply unhappy with the trend of things which they want reversed. In most instances, governments have been forced to review their activities and make amends after such peaceful protests.

There have been deviations from this global norm overtime, but violent protesters have almost always been confronted with repercussions. For instance, in the 70s, 80s and even early 90s, violent protests by students of universities and other higher institutions became albatrosses for the students themselves. After the protests, the students soon realized that not only had they not succeeded in addressing the ills complained of, the authorities also taxed them for funds to mend damaged properties. This is besides the easy infiltration of the camp of protesters by miscreants who used the protests as a façade for looting and violence.

In the case of the students of Isale-Oyo Community High School, the grouse that purportedly led to the violence is queer and generally agreed to be idiotic. The state government had reportedly begun the implementation of a new school promotion policy in which only students who score 50 percent in Mathematics and English would be promoted to the next class. Reportedly, the ceiling was 35 percent before now. Thus,  having failed to qualify and thus asked to repeat their classes, the students went on the rampage.

All people of goodwill must condemn this ugly development. It is a frightening dimension to an already frightening state of education in the state. The most visible laxity that the violent protest shows is the absence or breakdown of parental monitoring and responsibility in homes. It is evident that the parents of these students had long abdicated their duty of giving their children proper upbringing. Another shocking revelation on the day of the rampage was that the students were operating under the influence of drugs.  And even more shocking still is the report that some parents supported their wards in this shameful activity.

The critical question in need of an answer is why these accomplice parents allowed their wards to go to school in the first instance when they knew they did not intend them to pass their examinations. This is because the most visible deduction from the protest is that the students and their co-conspirators see passing examinations as an objectionable path. When juveniles rise against long-tested system of excellence as this, there is an ascertained systems breakdown in the Nigerian society which requires urgent remedy.

The system which earlier fixed 35 percent as the cut-off mark for the students in the first place is to be blamed for this descent. This systems breakdown was also revealed in some states like Edo and Ekiti when teachers refused to take the tests meant to determine their competence. We commend the Oyo State government for its effort to arrest the drift in the educational sector in the state. Still, the latest development provides an opportunity for it to take a critical look at the quality of education in the state.

We call for a total overhaul of the educational sector, not only in Oyo State but in Nigeria as a whole. Nigerian rulers need to be aware that their wards sent to Harvard, Cambridge and Hopkins would someday confront their counterparts groomed haphazardly at home. And that confrontation will be tragic. It is not too late to make amends.