All the stakeholders must do more to curb the rot in our schools

The recent foiled attempt at gang-rape involving some senior students of Ireti Grammar School, Falomo in Lagos was a testimony to the moral decay in our society. But it was also a strong indictment of the authorities in most of our schools where discipline is no longer enforced. According to the story, as told by an eye-witness whose intervention prevented the commission of crime, some male students who had finished their examinations decided that the best way to celebrate was to gang-rape the girls from a nearby school.

What further shocked the eye-witness was that as these criminal activities were being perpetrated in broad day light, those who should intervene were more preoccupied recording the scenes on their phones. This is highly regrettable. Meanwhile, we understand that the Lagos State Government has waded into the matter and that some suspects from Ireti Grammar School have been arrested. We clearly endorse the arrest even as we call for the prosecution of the suspects. Anything short of these measures will be unacceptable.

It is rather unfortunate that a secondary school, which ought to be a citadel of learning and acquisition of character, has been converted into a theatre of rape by some morally-bankrupt students. It is even more scandalous and shameful that the student rapists embarked on their sordid attempts in their school uniform and in the full glare of the public –a clear evidence, if any was needed, that they have no respect for their school and for constituted authority.

We reiterate that the unfortunate incident is a wake-up call for both government and parents to reassess their respective roles in education. While we have in the past emphasised the place of character-based education, it is evident that there is so much rot within the system. One of the negative consequences of this gross negligence is that we are now churning out school graduates who are rapists, armed robbers, kidnappers, fraudsters, and so on. As primary educators, parents should stop shirking their parental responsibilities. To the extent that our future is built on the triumph of youthful potential, it stands to reason that if the potential is ruined, the future of our country is invariably ruined.

While we join other stakeholders in demanding justice in this matter, we are also calling on the relevant authorities to devise effective measures and strategies to checkmate the growing menace of sexual assaults across the country. It is unacceptable that our campuses, ordinarily considered as safe havens for the acquisition of knowledge and inculcation of character, have been turned into hideouts for gang-raping, sexual gratification and sex hawking.

Against the background that rape is a violation of the most demeaning kind that scars many victims for life, no society should condone what regrettably is fast becoming a social epidemic. In Nigeria, police insensitivity and the fear of stigma (or persecution) discourages targets of violence from formalising the reports of incidents involving them. This reluctance, however, has only contributed to the rise in a culture of impunity on the part of the perpetrators.

Our courts must also be more proactive and stringent in applying sanctions, as some of the verdicts, for the few that have actually been successfully prosecuted, were ridiculous. Our private network providers should readily donate help-lines with free calls for victims of violence, while our hospitals and the legal profession should be prepared to offer pro bono services to the victims.

While human rights violations of this nature occur everywhere in the world, as the sick, the evil and the deranged exist in all societies, the only manner in which citizens can feel safe and secure is where the response to crime is swift, efficient and effective. That is what the current situation demands from the relevant authorities.