I think I know what it means to be disturbed over the fate of the precious African children. I am so used to being bothered since 1997, when I discovered God’s call upon my life into the constituency of our precious children.
I have over the years been exposed to hearing and handling myriad of bizarre cases of abuse of our precious children to the point of my conscience is becoming numbed. I have to remind myself daily that what has become the fate of the precious African child today is neither right nor normal and the rampancy and impunity that have become the trademarks of the occurrences must never be allowed to normalize it.
It was widely reported in many online news platforms that ‘two students die, others suffocate inside school bus in Lagos.’ One of the news platforms I monitored on the subject matter told the story as follows:
‘No fewer than two students of a Lagos-based school have been confirmed dead by medical experts and scores of others were reported to have passed out after suffocating in their school bus around Aguda axis of Surulere Local Government of the state. As gathered, some of the Lagos-based school pupils were still hospitalized at Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi-Araba while some others were said to be on admission at Randle hospital in Surulere. The driver of the school bus, identified as Odunsa Mandala, meanwhile, has been arrested by the Lagos Police Command for interrogation after the incident occurred. Sources said that the driver was returning the pupils back to their parents’ homes after the close of school when the incident occurred in Surulere axis of the state.’
The platform continues, ‘it was learnt that the pupils repeatedly complained to him about how uncomfortable they felt on the bus but he allegedly ignored their complaints, considering them as not too important. Mandala was said to have ignored them until most of the students on the bus had suffocated and passed out, a development that was said to have been realized very late by the driver. When he saw the state, they were in, it was gathered that he raised an alarm and the pupils were rushed to the hospitals for care but at this time, the tragedy had occurred.
It was further reported, ‘confirming the tragedy on Saturday, the Command spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, said that the incident occurred yesterday, and that the driver has been arrested and was currently being interrogated, to ascertain what transpired before the incident. In a statement released through his social media handle, he said: “Yes, the driver has been arrested but the young souls are already gone, sadly so. A school bus driver ignored repeated complaints from the kids he was taking home that they were not feeling well. Some of the kids went unconscious, and two eventually died.
From the facts of this sad case there are many questions begging for answers:
First, what school give children to a school bus driver without a bus attendant, saddled with the responsibility of securing the safety of the precious children when the driver focuses on his job, driving? In other words, how can a driver, who is not hired or trained as a caregiver be saddled with the responsibility of driving and caring for the needs of children at the same time?
Secondly, is the school aware of the Guidelines for School Bus Operation” released by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) elaborated by the Technical Committee for School Bus Standards with reference to national and international regulations/guideline as well as comment from relevant stakeholders across the country?
Thirdly, where do we go from here in terms of ensuring that justice done in this matter, and this does not become a matter of business as usual.
Sylvester Oromoni died in a high street secondary school in Nigeria and the case is yet far from being resolved but everyone involved except the parents and other family members seem to have moved on.
Our Monthly, Townhall Meeting, #NOPROTECTIONNOCHILDHOOD began as one of our responses to the death of Sylvester Oromomi to call attention to the reality that the number one responsibility of every primary and secondary caregivers is Securing A Friendly and Protective Environment for Children®. It has been the focus of our townhall meeting, which is fast becoming a global platform to submit, working with renowned experts around the world that the most effective way to achieve this primary but onerous responsibility is to embrace what we call the System’s Approach. It is summed up thus: Securing A Friendly and Protective Environment for Children® must become a system, codified into a policy, broken down into processes on which every stakeholder within the family and child-focused organization is trained regularly and the system and its accompanying policy are subject to periodical review.
I make bold to say that from the facts of the case at hand, it is either there is no system in place, or its tents are neglected.
Finally, the fate of these precious children reflects the state of our nation, and we believe that fixing our nation provides us the best opportunity to protect our precious children. The underlying reality here is that our nation has no respect for the dignity of human person. Mandela got it so right, ‘there is no keener revelation for the soul of a nation than how they treat their children.’ I would like to conclude this piece with the sober conclusion that the way we treat our precious children today, the soul of our nation has departed. We are either preparing for a resurrection or a burial.
I have decided to join the Resurrection Movement, contributing my quota to the birth of a new Nigeria, where children are seen, heard and protected by all and sundry and you are cordially invited.