The open-air rape in Lagos secondary schools

THE country recently received a jolt when the news broke about how some male senior school students of Ireti Grammar School, Ikoyi, Lagos State who had just finished their final-year examination targeted and sexually assaulted their female counterparts from Falomo Grammar School, Falomo, Lagos. An eyewitness  gave graphic details of how the assailants ripped the skirts of the girls with scissors and pinned down their struggling victims while their colleagues milled around, watching and cheering the gladiatorial show of shame. This indecent and barbaric act demonstrates the gross moral decadence and impaired value system in the larger society. Even then, it is somewhat hard to believe that the society has sunk this low in terms of respect for humanity, and in particular the dignity of the human person.

And to add insult to injury, this criminal and morally reprehensible conduct of the aberrant students has been described as ‘tradition’.  Of course, if it was not regarded as tradition and there had been no long history of impunity, the budding devils would not have displayed such effrontery to despoil the young innocent girls in broad daylight and in the full public glare as it were. It was so bad that some female students even allegedly offered their mates to the rapists to buy their freedom from molestation. But the truth is that open-air rape is not, cannot and should not be a tradition in any part of Nigeria. These unscrupulous pupils arguably have imported this odious act through their exposure to foreign media and internet because their behaviour is patently non-Nigerian.  Hopefully, the relevant authorities will ensure that this year’s incident marks the end of this ignoble tradition.

This indecent conduct of students necessarily elicits some questions: what have the adults, including the school authorities who knew about it, done to rein in the infamy, especially since the timing of the act is predictable? And what kind of education are pupils receiving today? Is the education catering to both their intellect and soul or the emphasis is just on the intellect?  We commend Ms. Michal Matthew, the courageous woman who stumbled on the disgusting situation, confronted it, and brought this monumental social issue to the fore. Apparently, she is not the only adult who had seen this criminal transaction being conducted in public but she chose not to look the other way or shamelessly watch and record the despicable spectacle like many had done or were wont to do.

Again, though a proactive approach would have been more appropriate, we  nonetheless commend the prompt intervention of the police, the Social Welfare Department of the Lagos  State Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Development as well as officials from the deputy governor’s office. The involvement of these officials has reportedly   culminated in the arrest and arraignment of four of the perpetrators of this base act in a juvenile court. The remaining students who engaged in the anti-social behaviour should be apprehended and made to pay for their indiscipline and lawlessness. However, beyond the stick approach which ensures that the law takes its full course so that those who are in breach of it receive adequate punishment, it is about time the society took a second look at the school and family systems that tend to breed savages and outlaws.

It seems that, for reasons of hardship and poverty foisted on many because of the parlous state of the economy, broken homes and dysfunctional families are on the rise.  And the correlation between the products of dysfunctional households and anti-social behaviours remains positive. Consequently, efforts should be geared towards boosting virile and functional family units that can raise decent and well behaved youths. Most unfortunately, the school system, especially the public schools which the children of the upper and middle classes hardly patronise these days, would appear to be permissive of moral decadence. Either because of defective curriculum or absence of commitment and dedication on the part of teachers to turn out students worthy in intellect and character, the public schools seem to have become breeding grounds for morally depraved youths who show little or no respect for humanity. Therefore, more official attention should be paid to what happens in public schools, especially at primary and secondary levels.

The children of the high and mighty may today be insulated from the misconduct of students of public schools but they cannot be shielded for too long as both seemingly polar entities are bound to interact formally or informally at tertiary institutions and/or in the larger society. It is, thus, in the enlightened self-interest of well-off persons, especially the politicians, to play their part to fix whatever issues there are in the public schools. We urge that all the aberrant pupils who participated in the attempted rape of the school girls be apprehended and punished according to the law to serve as a deterrent to would-be criminal violators. In addition to this, however,  the factors at homes and public schools that tend to throw up social misfits in the society should be comprehensively addressed.