The Economist Magazine of January 4, 2011 submits, “BUDGET, CURRICULUM, CLASS SIZE– NONE HAS A GREATER EFFECT ON A STUDENT THAN HIS OR HER TEACHER.”
My story, my motivation
You must have read this story a couple of times the course of reading this treatise. I cannot promise you will not read it again. The reason is very simple. This handbook is being authored by a man who experienced an uninspiring childhood; found mercy and healing under God to tell his story to inspire a change in the way our society perceive and treat children. I have learnt to do battle and my stories have become the most potent tools in my arsenal of social empowerment advocacy.
Please be invited as I share this story again to drive my point home. They are my stories; they are also my songs of inspiration and my elixir of motivation. They are the lullaby I sing to my soul, reminding him of where God picked him from and how far He has taken him today and it has become his strongest persuasion that the brightest future is still ahead. If the stories treat the owner like this, who they should have become familiar with, how much more visiting friends like you? Prepare to hit off the revolution right now.
The memory of Dada haunts me till this day. Dada was a childhood friend. We were classmates in the Primary School and often spent our lunch break together, playing. One of our favourite games was tree climbing. But our regular, delightful game of tree climbing took a turn neither of us expected when Dada slipped on this eventful day. As one of the fragile branches of the seemingly strong tree gave way under Dada’s young foot, he fell, stomach first, on another broken branch. The branch went right into his stomach as I watched, frightened. I raised an alarm. Dada was immediately rushed to the hospital. Two or three days after, the news filtered in while we were in class, that Dada had died.
The first and only response from my class teacher was, ‘as from today, call this boy, Taiwo, Esu (Satan or the devil).’ This was in my Primary 3. Here I was, traumatized that I had lost a dear friend. As I tell this story, I still remember, Dada’s physical features. I needed all the encouragement I could get as I mourned the loss of my friend. I was also overwhelmed with fear, having grew up in a superstitious society, where it was believed that the departed would often come back to take with him a close associate. Apart from the fact that I was close to Dada, I was the last person he saw as he slipped out of consciousness.
My teacher, who should know all these, did not understand any of this. She added a measureless chunk of load to my already overweighed cross. From then forward, I carried that plague of a nickname for the remaining years of my stay in the school. Children are always in the habit of teasing their peers, often, by giving unsolicited nicknames.
When a child does not like a nickname, he would run to the teacher for protection. My case was hopeless because the teacher was the architect of the cruel nickname I bore through school. It was a case of a custodian becoming a predator. She was a predator over my soul.
What about the school authority or the head master? Pupils did not have any relationship with them. Besides my mind was too untrained to seek help or remedy from such quarters.
I think it is important to state here that leadership of schools must make deliberate efforts to develop a relationship with pupils in their schools. Pupils must be made to know, understand and accept the fact that they can report cases of abuse to the leadership of the school. They should know that they will not only be protected, when they make such reports, but the matter will be carefully investigated and resolved in the best interest of the child.
Pupils must know the offices of the leadership of the school and must be reminded regularly that they are at liberty to have audience with them (leadership) when they desire to. I also think that the leadership of schools should not only concern themselves with administrative works and hole up themselves in their offices. They must go round from time to time to familiarize themselves with the pupils.
Does that mean the leadership does not trust the teachers? Not at all. The principle of checks and balances is not addressing trust, it is addressing adherence to the general principle that are critical to the continued existence of an organization or nation.
I must also be quick to ask that besides the fact that the pupils can report cases of abuse to the leadership of the school, there must be a tested mechanism to prevent cases of abuse. As far as I am concerned prevention is better than cure.
Back to my story, I woke up every morning burdened by the fact that I would have to appear in school again to be called the devil at will by my class and school mates.
Nicknaming a child the devil is not without its spiritual and psychological effect on the child. Satan, according to the Christian faith, which I share, is a fallen and irredeemable angel. He is permanently sentenced to condemnation. Nothing good can proceed from him. He remains a menace to society and a negative influence to our world. For a teacher to call her pupil, Satan, meant she had given up on him. It does not matter whether she knew what she was doing or not. The yardstick for justice is that, she is expected to know what she was doing.
Now I saw this as suffering for an act I did not initiate. I was not the one, who invited Dada to the field of play. I did not push him from the tree. What happened to him could have happened to me. I could not figure out why I had to be punished perpetually for a problem I did not create.
I think it was the culture or pastime of the teachers in my primary schools to punish pupils without finding their out facts properly. One day I was outside one of the classes playing with sand. A female pupil came, stood in front of me, pointed her finger at me and said, ‘he is the one.’ Before I knew it, I was bundled to the staff room where our Religion Knowledge teacher canned me black and blue. The teacher did not ask me any question. He was not interested in my own side of the story. Till today, I do not know the female pupil’s accusation. All I know is that I did not offend anybody that day.
I suffered similarly in secondary school; Saint Joseph College, Ondo. I was being bullied by a classmate, who had physical power over me. One day I was pushed to the wall and I fought back. I punched his nose and it began to bleed. A man known as Mr. Idowu found us and took us straight to the principal’s office.
At the principal’s office, I was not asked what the issues were. I was the guilty party because I was obviously the attacker. Now, that was my first time in the principal’s office. He reached for a book and simply inserted my name therein. He thereafter told me in the presence of all that my name had just been inserted in the school’s black book.
In retrospect, I feel the principal should have been interested in why I punched my classmate and if he chose to put my name in the black book, I should have been told and asked to defend myself. Again, I was not told the conditions under which a pupil’s name will be inserted in the black book and the implication thereof. As a matter of fact I did not even know that a black book existed until the day in question.
I left the principal’s office defeated and went home sorrowfully to nurse the psychological impact of the fact that my name was in the school’s black book. I felt unjustly treated and cheated and yet there was no place of refuge to run to. As usual, I was in the cold, carrying my own crosses.
The emotional weight of coping with the foregoing experiences was enormous and costly for my growing mind. It was incalculable. It is by the mercies of God, who separated me from my mother’s womb that I was not consumed.
I must say here confidently that teachers like my Primary 3 and religion knowledge teachers are in the majority in most of our schools, particularly public schools, today.
I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.
Note: Excerpted from my forthcoming book: ChildProtectionCREED Handbook. Watch out…
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