Let’s be real people, this has been a problem since 19kiridim. if we were to start a hash tag and tell all the stories of sexual harassment we experienced in school the archive might sink the world wide web.
I remember secondary school. I remember my final year Math teacher. Can’t remember his name but he was a lot like this Olaseni fellow. Smart but creepy. Always making inappropriate sexual comments about students. I was a particular target. I avoided him and his classes like the plague. Then there was the Chemistry teacher too. And the French teacher. The first french phrase he taught us was ‘Avec la langue je base’ which meant you use your tongue to kiss. French kiss I guess. I squirmed. Some of the students laughed.
I heard some of the students agreed to have sex with them. Then again this was all a long time ago, when a lot of female secondary school students were above the age of 16 or 18 and legally could consent. I heard they may have had sex with younger students too but they never really insisted. They created an atmosphere of hyper sexuality and sat back to wait for the ones that took their bait so there was never any real evidence and the students that did certainly didn’t want to say anything.
We didn’t have the tools or the language to report or confront them. Maybe some students felt they had to give in. Maybe some thought they could get better grades. Maybe some like me just avoided them (and flunked their classes). Did our principal know or suspect anything? She must have. She always seemed to know when nkpokopi was going on. She gave us a many an assembly lecture on the evils of nkpokopi or same sex relationships among students but we never were warned or armed to defend or resist or report the male teachers.
Did we think it was over when we left school? Did we really think so? Could we have been just a tiny bit in denial all these years? This is after all uber patriarchal Nigeria. Girls and young women are vulnerable, did we really think they would be safe in the care of male teachers?
There were of course the male teachers with integrity that never would even dream to take advantage of a student. There were very clear personality differences between the two types of male teachers – the predators were smooth. I can imagine them smooth talking the principal even and mine was an Iron Lady.
I’m really glad we are talking about these things. We need to set and enforce standards in our schools and we need to equip our girls with the tools to resist or mitigate the bullying that we all know goes on in schools in Nigeria. Time to get our heads out of the sand as enlightened mothers unafraid to talk about sex and do something.
I had sons and never really had to confront this issue. Our issues were different – cults, bullies and hazing being the top three. My sons did Taekwondo. It helped but the day I went to their school they kneel down beg me make I no come again because they expected a back lash for my presence. Rumors of rape of boys were less frequent though not unheard of. One reason why I never sent my sons to boarding school sha.
Of course this is not a ‘Nigerian’ problem, its a global problem. Its a global rape culture that is just a bit more pernicious and acceptable in some places than others. Remember the Saville scandal in the UK? And increasingly we are hearing of female teachers in some countries abusing male students. I wonder if any male student in Nigeria will ever complain if his female teacher took him and shagged his brains out. He would be a hero in the school sef.
Sexual assault and abuse of children, male and female – is a problem. We need to see the Queens’ College incident in a broader context and look for systemic solutions to a growing problem. Unless teachers know that they are being watched and they will be held accountable they will not have incentive to stop predatory sexual behaviour. And we need to let our children know that we will protect them, believe them and fight for them when their right to be children is infringed.