There has been a national outrage over the alleged attempt by a group of misguided secondary school boys to rape some schoolgirls in broad daylight in Ikoyi, Lagos last week or so.
Thank God for the confident and conscionable Michale Matthew who walked into the situation and refused to turn a blind eye like others have done in the several years that this madness is said to have become a seasonal affair.
Didn’t Mathew’s account inform that a number of people who saw much thrill in the violation of the humanity of helpless, innocent girls brought out their phones to capture the repugnant deed on video?
Such recordings, had he not been on the spot and mustered the courage to interrupt and terminate the sordid event, would very likely have surfaced on the social media accounts of the spectators. The recordings would have been splashed as objects of mockery of the girls, but also of the evil that dwells in the hearts of the impromptu amateur cinematographers, although their dark hearts are probably too far gone into perversity to understand the nexus between the would-be criminal rapists and themselves as documenters of the infamy being perpetrated right before them.
How is the thief who climbs a ladder into another man’s house different from the one who holds the ladder for him on his way in and out of the house? Both would be guilty of having partaken in the criminal transaction, even if at different levels.
Given what one understands of our environment, a fair number of those who allegedly tried to record the rape, (as it would have been without the disruption brought about by Ms Matthew and the angels who worked with her) would be adults. And that should be more bother to us than the attempted act and the boys who executed it.
Now, kindly do not misunderstand me. I do not exonerate the budding devils who came to school with the intent to rape girls; I am only saying that in a more decent society, no adult would be found spectating at such an event not to talk of recording it for whatever reason.
That we found people, some of who may be older than these misguided youths, by-standing is indicative of the rot in our society. It reflects how much we condone evil and look the other way when we are not the one in immediate danger. It tells of our disrespect for the right of people to voluntary choice and most importantly, the decadence that has brought us to take sex, even when not consensual, as an act worthy of public spectacle. That should also make us query the authorities of the schools that these boys attended and of the offices and whatever other institutions inhabit the neighbourhood.
If this had, indeed, become an annual practice as insinuated, what have these schools done to forestall its re-occurrence? Given the fiduciary responsibility that schools bear on children in their custody, should an institution overwhelmed by or pretending not to realise that its wards are involved in anti-social behaviour, like the one under discussion, be deserving of the charge to bring up children in the first instance?
If overwhelmed, have they at any time sought the assistance of parents or even law enforcers in stopping this recurring sexual rapine? What exactly do they teach young children for whose debauchery they turn blind eyes? Can it be said that authorities of these schools gave up on the children, just as this society seems to have given up on the future, even if we love to proclaim otherwise?
While so many Nigerians of the upper and middle-class work day and night to invest in the lives of their children, how many in these groups care about whether the child next door goes to school, feeds or has a roof over his head?
Do we know the number of girls and women who are forced into sexual relationships and marriages all around this country daily? Which of us walks 100 metres out of his house without seeing young adolescent boys milling around aimlessly with some, if not all of them puffing away at substances that could be anything from cigarettes to weed or even harder stuff round the clock? But who cares? What concerted effort are we making as a people to draw the attention of the government to the need to take care of every Nigerian child so they do not constitute a threat to our collective security, including that of children sent to prestigious schools abroad, in future?
Research, quoting the International Monetary Fund suggests that by 2025, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to 25 per cent of the global population of people aged 24 and younger. The effect of this on Nigeria, being the most populous country in the region, is simply that the country will be home to a sizeable number of the world’s youngest and productive population on the planet. How we plan to gainfully engage this demography is the question that the country does not seem prepared to answer.
The educational sector from the elementary up to the tertiary level is in shambles. Informal and vocational education is virtually non-existent, while the quality of teaching has continued to sag. The country is also not making any serious attempt to direct the interest of its youth toward science, technical, mathematics and engineering subjects, all which make the future.
As we speak, 11 million children of school age in Nigeria are roaming the streets. In the 2016 May/June results of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, the same examination whose conclusion inspired the boys in question to despoil other human beings, only 878,040 of the 1, 552, 758 students obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. This implies that just 52.97 per cent of those who sat for that examination qualified to immediately proceed to higher institutions in the event that they pass the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME. Unfortunately, even if they passed, the nation’s close to 500 higher institutions have space for less than 50 per cent of the candidates who desire admission. Yet, we have no plans concerning how to engage these children. Nigeria is, therefore, a crowd of agile, untutored, restless idle and angry youths which are inimical to our future.
What is worse is our unusually tentative approach to solving social problems. When we don’t throw money at the issue, we adopt the stick approach and try to bulldoze our way through, but these problems don’t go away except with dogged planning and committed implementation targeted programmes.
For instance, on August 4, 2016, this column said in a piece titled, ‘We kill militants, but in vain,’ as follows: “The point is that unless we deal with the situation that breeds these young deviants, military actions would never solve the problem in a sustainable way…We are merely treating the symptoms with these military actions.” Today, militants that retreated last year are beginning to resurface and the military is preparing for another killing spree.
This is not in support of the activities of miscreants and brigands. But it is an attempt to reawaken our society to the reality that there is a constant conflict between the forces of good and evil in every man.
Society, including the family, has an important role to play in whether the individual tends toward law and order or the base instinct of decadence, savagery and violence when this sure constant internal battle ensues. When children are denied proper education that addresses their soul as well as their intellect, society throws its future to the dogs.
That is one memorable lesson I learnt from William Golding’s all time novel, Lord of the Flies in which a number of otherwise innocent British children lose every trait of civilisation and turned savages in the absence of the moderation that law and order enforced by adults inculcates.
Every society must realise that nothing reflects its soul like the children that it brings up and just like society reaps the benefit of adequate investments in children, it bears the toll of its own irresponsibility in the uncertainty that untutored children bring on it. The result of that lack of investment is what Nigeria is currently harvesting in the unruly youths raping and abducting people all over the place.
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