Schools in the country have become treacherous grounds for teachers. The exigencies of insecurity, where bandits raid schools, kill, maim or kidnap teachers, have been all too common over the years. But another kind of threat has emerged for teachers, this time from their own students.
Incidents of teachers being attacked and beaten to coma or to death by their students, or thugs hired by the students’ parents, are becoming increasingly rampant and worrying. Our schools are now becoming gladiatorial arenas for our teachers, where they go in fearing for their lives, and heave a sigh of relief when they leave it, alive and unharmed.
Recently, a 35-year-old Abidemi Oluwaseun invaded Baptist Girls College Idi-Aba, Abeokuta Ogun State, with thugs to attack a teacher whom he accused of beating his 15-year-old daughter. The teacher had flogged Oluwaseun’s daughter and others for contemptuous behaviours that disrupted his lesson. Unhappy with the teacher’s action, the father hired two others and stormed the school and threatened to hack down the teacher with machetes. Oluwaseun who was arrested by the police on October 12, 2021 confirmed hiring the other two men to “teach the teacher who beat his daughter a lesson of his life”.
At the University of Ilorin, a 400 level student in the Department of Microbiology, Salaudeen Waliyullah Aanuoluwa, recently beat a female lecturer, Mrs Zakariyyah to coma over disagreements on issues related to Students Industrial Working Experience Scheme (SIWES). Salaudeen was on Tuesday November 16, 2021 expelled by authorities of the University of Ilorin. Similarly, the Oyo state government, last week, suspended a female student of Jericho High School in Ibadan for leading her parents and hefty thugs to beat her teachers.
The most recent case but worst, so far, is that of Ezeugo Joseph, a teacher in a private school in Abraka, Delta state. He died after he was thoroughly beaten on Thursday December 2, 2021 by Micahel Ogbeise, an SS3 student of the school. Ogbeise attacked the teacher for flogging his younger sister, Promise. Confirming the incident, the spokesperson of the state police command, DSP Bright Edafe, said the teacher collapsed after he was beaten by the suspect; adding that the teacher was rushed to the hospital where he was confirmed dead.
Conventionally, schools are centers for intellectual and character training. This is why schools operate on defined set of rules and regulations to which all students are expected to comply. There are sanctions for every act of disobedience to school authorities and the rules guiding students conduct. Education is not only about knowledge. It is also about character. It is, therefore, normal in a school setting for a teacher to subject students to punishment when they defy such rules. The type of punishment that may be given to a student who has erred depends on the nature of his defiance. Common punishments for secondary school students, as I used to know, include kneeling down, standing up with hands raised up, sweeping, cutting grasses, washing toilets, digging 4 x 4 ditches, and writing down one sentence repeatedly in hundreds or thousands.
Punishments are neither meant to harm a student nor please any teacher or the school authorities but to correct specific deviant behaviours in a student. This traditional pattern of training in schools seems to have come under threat in recent times. The assault on teachers by those who should revere them is also a dangerous trend. Parents are required to support the school in ensuring that their children or wards do not only obey all school rules but also serve the punishment given to them when they go wrong. The training of students by schools to become persons who are worthy in knowledge and character requires the cooperation and support of the home. Teachers are parents to their students in the same manner that parents are teachers to their children wen at home; making their roles complementary.
The abetting of students’ assault by parents against anyone is the worst moral deficit least expected of any adult. Such is the highest sense of irresponsibility that can only manifest in a foolish or juvenile parent. No responsible parent who meant well for his child would support him to assault his teachers let alone join him to do so. The assault on teachers by students could also be a reflection of the society’s general disrespect for teachers. It is no news again that values have completely broken down at the family level. Many parents have abandoned their moral responsibilities of providing their children with enough access to quality training, parental care and love. Thus, teachers deserve respect, not beating. A student who assaults his teachers assaults his parents!
Aside of students and their parents who lack respect for teachers, even government at all levels do not treat teachers well. Recall the story of a school headmistress in Abia state who was demoted sometime in April 2017 to a classroom teacher for publicly ‘begging’ the wife of the then Abia State governor to appeal to the governor to pay teachers in order to alleviate their plight. This may explain why teachers appear to have gone on strike (as the last peaceful option) more than any other group of Nigerian workers. This column challenges authorities at the National Bureau of Statistics to collate and publish details of workers’ unpaid salaries, allowances, arrears of promotion and other entitlement. Teachers across all levels of the system are likely to lead.
Teachers in FCT UBE schools just resumed from strike because of unpaid entitlements. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently gave a 3-week ultimatum to the federal government to implement the agreement it signed with the Union 12 months ago. The ill-treatment of teachers as they sit on broken chairs, write on 3-legged tables or are consistently paid salaries in arrears of two or three months creates bad impressions about their worth in the eyes of parents, fellow workers, and even students.
To really deal with the heightened contempt against teachers, suspension or expulsion of “scoundrels in uniform” who assault their teachers may not be enough. Such students and their parents should be prosecuted and their names published in a “National Assault Register” that will be kept in all the country’s 774 LGAs. May Allah guide students, parents, and government to genuinely appreciate and respect the worth of teachers, amin.