On a Reflective Need to Prevent Violence. Day 10. (11/16).
The death of Sylvester Oromoni is not a secret anymore in Nigeria. He was a 12-year-old student of Dowen College in Lagos state who died as a result of injuries sustained from bullying and physical abuse by his seniors. Everything about his story is sad beyond description. His death like several others in the past was unnecessary, it simply could have been avoided. What happened to Sylvester Oromoni is too evil to be simplified into an argument for or against boarding schools. It points at deeper issues concerning consent, the culture of abuse, and silence, increasing male violence in society, and lack of understanding of trauma.
Here's what we need to be doing:
1. We need to teach and normalize consent.
Being able to agree or refuse something should be normal. The consequence for giving or refusing consent shouldn't be harm or death. All Sylvester did was refuse to join a cult and it cost him his life. People should be able to say no without fear of what will happen to them. Over the years, I've seen people including educated ones misunderstand the concept of consent, trivializing it as something for overly dramatic persons. We need to start teaching consent aggressively at all levels. We need to make it known loud and clear that it's okay for a person to say no. It's okay to withdraw consent when it has been given already even without solid reasons for reversal. Consent doesn't just apply to sex, it's for every little insignificant aspect of our lives too.
2. We need to unlearn the culture of abuse and silence.
Another issue we need to look at is our culture of abuse and silence. I stay in a place where parents send their children to boarding schools because it's the safest place they can think of. The village lacks a senior secondary school where students can attend with ease. The Day school outside the village is risky because children have to cross major highways without the help of adults and the school has serious cases of cult groups clashing. To avoid this and to protect their daughters from being prey to older men, and to protect their sons from being exposed to substance abuse, they lean towards boarding school which they think is safe. And it should be safe but for the culture of abuse and silence. We've normalized suffering, bullying, and abuse as acts of discipline. The boarding schools are reflections of the existing rot in society. The popularity of boarding schools grew as a result of demand. These schools exist to meet various needs and can't be dismissed in their entirety. The challenge is, our culture of abuse and silence is magnified in certain places. When you're older or you hold a higher position or there's a power imbalance tilted in your favor, you're expected to make the rest of the world know it. You do this by being cruel. This behavior exhibited by Sylvester's seniors is in our government, religious institutions, families, and every other unit you can think of. Its close companion is silence and complacency. We must stop turning away from evil and stop pretending it doesn't exist especially when it doesn't directly affect us.
3. We need to address the issue of male violence.
Reports show men are more likely to commit violent crimes. They commit violent and sexual offenses at a far higher rate than women. This goes to show there's something fundamentally wrong in the way we raise boys. I mean, I still can't understand why young teenagers need to be in a cult and why they'll go to any lengths, including murdering a boy to prove dominance. We need to question what we're teaching them and I'm not referring to parents alone. I'm talking about a collective responsibility here. The message we send out is important. We need to stop reinforcing toxic masculinity because it's becoming evident that it doesn't just affect women alone. Male violence affects men too especially children. From a young age, children should be allowed to experience emotions. To feel anger without violence. Boys should be taught empathy and that a lack of concern for others isn't typical male behavior but plain evil. Masculinity needs to be separated from violence and control.
4. We need an understanding of trauma.
When children open up and say something hurts, it's irrelevant that from your perspective it shouldn't hurt. It's not our job to convince them to not feel the pain they're experiencing or to try and gaslight them into thinking the pain isn't real or that the pain will make them stronger and they're overreacting. Trauma isn't about how big the event is but how you respond to it. So, if your child's response to school, Day, or Boarding is an unusual silence or a display of strange behavior, it's a cry for help. They shouldn't even have to say the word, identify the stressor, and get rid of it. Get to the root of the matter and remove them from the situation. If my parents had acknowledged my brother's pain from his mental health condition and the abuse in school, he would have had a much better life before he died. Do better!
I pray there's #justiceforSylvester. I pray God will be with his family at this difficult time. I pray God will be with every traumatized student from Dowen College. I pray God will be with every traumatized child out there. May we all see His hand in the storm. Amen.
“Learn to do good. Seek justice, Rebuke the ruthless, Defend the fatherless, Plead for the [rights of the] widow [in court]”.
Isa 1:17 AMP