The Dowen College Parents’ Forum in Lagos State has reacted to an online campaign that parents should withdraw their children from the school following the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni, who was allegedly bullied and killed by fellow pupils.
The forum earlier called for a change of school management and hostel teachers as well as the installation of Closed Circuit Television Cameras in the school amid the public outrage that has followed Sylvester’s painful death.
In an exclusive interview with SaharaReporters on Tuesday, one of the executive members of the forum, Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, said parents withdrawing their children from the school would not solve any problem.
There has been an online campaign tagged #justiceforsylvesteroromoni, asking parents to withdraw their wards from Dowen College over the way the school has handled the matter.
However, Kola-Oladejo said the moment should be seen as an opportunity to totally reform secondary education in Nigeria, generally.
“People react differently to information. We are parents in the school. Academic wise, the school is very sound, I must say; I have three children there,” she said.
“There are lapses but I would not say that people should withdraw their children at this point in time. I would rather say this is a time to heal, reconcile and build. That is my message for Dowen parents; let us work with Dowen management to build and Dowen management is ready to cooperate but they are going through a lot now with the police and all of that.
“I know that there have been cases in other schools where students were bullied as well. It is an opportunity for reform in Nigerian secondary schools generally. Withdrawing your children from this school is not the solution to the problem but that might be the first reaction out of fear. I don’t think it is a graveyard. The school will turn 25 years next year and a number of people who attended the school have done well.
“And there were some processes they put in place in January but it is just unfortunate that some other things that they should have addressed were not addressed and those things are also as important as academic work but I cannot comment further on this because we are also waiting for the outcome of the investigation.
“Justice for Sylvester is justice for all and that is where the Dowen Parents’ Forum stands and that is why we are planning a candlelight service for him tomorrow to honour his memory and commiserate with his parents.”
On why it took the parents’ forum so long to react to the death of Sylvester and the controversies that have surrounded the school in recent times, Kola-Oladejo said it took some time to get the parents to come together, adding that it was important to have a common voice.
She said, “The parents really didn’t have an online forum. If you notice, this is the parents’ forum and not the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), so we had to reach out to all the parents with children in different classes – junior and secondary schools – to organise this forum and we agreed that we had to put a statement out there because we are also saddened by the loss of Sylvester.
“We have been working on this and there are several other things that we are working on. We are working on a wellness committee to help traumatised children and parents, so that is why it also took us some time to react. Some parents are traumatised; I couldn’t sleep for days. Some children are traumatised as we speak. Some were classmates, roommates, bunkmates of Sylvester. It is really painful so we had to come together and express ourselves with a common voice because this a tough time for every Dowen parent.”
When queried about why bullying was allegedly not taken seriously in the school by the management and the parents, she said there had been nothing as serious as Sylvester’s case in the school’s history.
“This is the first time I personally have heard of a case this bad, there can be cases of a student bullying another student in class but the school has an anti-bullying policy so such students have been reprimanded and there have been cases in the past when Dowen College suspended some students.
“So really, this particular one is one very serious one. They have had cases but I don’t think they have had a case this bad in its history, which is about 25 years. I am personally not aware of a case this bad in the 4-5 years (I have had children) in the school.”
Agnesisika blog earlier today reported that the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, revealed that three students of the college were being investigated over the death of Sylvester.
Although Odumosu did not give the identities of those in custody, he had insisted that they were the main suspects.
The story of 12-year-old Sylvester went viral last week after a family member went on social media to demand justice.
In a series of Tweets, the family member, with handle @Perrisonoromoni, said Sylvester was assaulted by some senior students of Dowen College.
He added that Sylvester died after sustaining multiple internal injuries from being tortured and bullied.
Also, in a video released online by the family member, Oromoni Jr was seen writhing in pain. His teeth were stained dark red with blood. His legs were swollen, and his belly was bloated.
The Management of Dowen College in a statement had claimed that Sylvester was injured while playing football. In another statement, they assured that they would cooperate with authorities to investigate the incident.
The Lagos State government through its Ministry of Education paid an inquiry visit to the college and announced on Friday that the school be shut down indefinitely.