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Nigeria & The Misconceptions of Boarding Schools’ Responsibility

British colonialists introduced western style education and boarding schools to Nigeria same as Christianity. During the early period of colonialism there were only a handful of schools in the country, many students had to travel far from home to attend the best schools. Indigenes living in close proximity to these schools but could not afford to attend were subsidized.

Privileged Nigerians who themselves had previously studied in England and could afford the tuition and boarding sent their children overseas for school. In the last two decades the number of private boarding schools in the country has increased considerably, partly due to a failed public school system and an emerging middle class.

Two decades ago there where no boarding schools in my community but today we have two within two miles of my childhood home and the situation is the same for many towns and cities across the country.

I did not attend a private or boarding school but always find it fascinating talking to people who did. The life long bond with friends, a variety of social activities and sports made it appealing.

In the past two decades boarding schools are been viewed differently, information about child abuse and inappropriate behavior involving young boarders has led to a significant decease in the number of boarders

In the UK, the term Boarding School Syndrome (BSS) is used to describe the negative emotional impacts that boarding schools have on some kids in later life, a trend that psychologists seem to find common among those who have been through the system.

In the UK for example a lot is being done to empower school children to report abusive behavior. This is not the same for Nigeria as most abuses such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse go unreported and even when they are duly reported the case will mostly be swept under the carpet.

A friend recently enrolled her 11year old son in a private boarding school in Ife, Osun State Nigeria on the assumption that the school will teach her boy “sense”, the family lived only about a mile away from the school. I was a bit anxious for the poor boy because I do not believe any school can be a substitute for parental guidance.

Talking with a few adults who have passed through boarding schools in Nigeria in research for this article I discovered that inappropriate sexual conduct is a well known problem and this include relationship with teachers both with the same and opposite sex. In most cases violators got away with a slap on the wrist at best.

The most revealing one I heard lately was from a friend who attended an all boys boarding school in the 1980s, he claimed that although his school was very religious but sexual intimacy was well known activity among older students (Seniors). Nigerians do not speak openly about issues like this so chances are that everyone just accepts their fate.

Parents make decisions they believe is in the best interest of their children, however I am concerned that Nigeria today overlooks so many undesirable events that go on in boarding schools and this in later years will have an impact on the larger society.

In January this year Nigerian lawmakers passed a law making homosexuality illegal, violators caught risked being sent to jail, faced a fine or both, yet there are no laws safeguarding young boarders from perpetrators especially now that we have learnt the scale of child abuse in boarding schools in the West, thanks to the western media exposing this so as to clean up their school system.

Given that quite a number of our leaders today are from privileged families and most likely have gone through different boarding schools and perhaps are aware of the prevailing sexual abuse problem in boarding schools across the country, still they refuse to address the underlining problems so something can be done to ensure the safety of young boarders from abusive teachers/seniors. Nigeria, it is time to notice the elephant in the room. | Folakemi Odoaje for #JujuFilms

30 thoughts on “Nigeria & The Misconceptions of Boarding Schools’ Responsibility

  1. Really interesting perspective on Nigerian schooling. In the UK we, more than ever, are realising the impact that institutionalised sexual abuse has on our children and it is still something that goes relatively unpunished.

  2. Stephy83 – Thanks for the comment. It’s really sad how such crime is overlooked in schools and other public places but UK is still way ahead in terms of disclosing sexual abuse in schools than Nigeria especially with the case of Jimmy Savile. Issues relating to sexual abuse is still a case of stigma to the victims in Nigeria.

  3. Thank you Folakemi Odoaje for presenting such a clear and well-reasoned perspective on this deeply complex, troubling and challenging issue for young people, families, educationalists, child protection professionals and the wider society. I always think that one of the most important catalysts for ameliorating structurally embedded and deeply traumatic systemic problems like this is to bring the subject out into the open so that communities can begin to engage in a serious debate – one which transforms the issue from being treated like an unspeakable, taboo subject to one that is acknowledged and discussed so as to work towards eradicating these abuses…and being vigilant to protect future generations of young people in the boarding school system. It would be useful to know whether there are equivalent child protection and child advocacy agencies, that provide a confidential space for young people through which to report abuses and seek professional support. In the UK we have organisations (charities) such as Childline that provide a bridging space – distinct from school and the family – for children to report abuses. How effective, in your opinion, are equivalent organisations within the Nigerian context?

    1. Thank you Carol for the insightful comment. Equivalent of UK Childline could work in Nigeria with parents and guardians’ support. Parents could play important role of encouraging their children to report abuse to the third party such as a charity organisation knowing that they will be supported and that the perpetrators will be punished accordingly.

      I think if the victims trust that their identity will be safe during investigation, they will make use of the service.

  4. This is so true
    Homosexuality do exist in boarding school, The school aren’t aware most times, and if they do drastic steps to curb are never really . Kudos Folakemi odoaje for this. I hope something is done to address this decadence as it is been passed down to younger generation.

  5. Reblogged this on Adejokeiyabadan's Blog and commented:

    Homosexuality do exist in boarding school, either the school aren’t aware most times, and if they do drastic steps to curb are never really taken. I hope something is done to address this decadence as it is been passed down to younger generation.

    1. Iyabadan – E se o! For the comment. Emi naa ti yoju si ori blog yin, e ku ise takuntakun o. I really do hope that someone will be reading as we talk about this important issue openly.

  6. Sadly it looks like your legislators have missed the target – making homosexuality illegal is a negative step (from european experience). It would be better if they had turned their gaze and new laws on all forms of child abuse. There are other issues of parental attitudes in your article and I found it very interesting reading.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Oh yeah, my government always loved to chase the shadow as we call it.

  7. Great post, I didn’t go to a boarding school, but I was taught in a private school by priests. Luckily I never met a priest that was anything more than greedy or vein. Protecting children should be an educational institutions first and last priority. All countries must do more to safe guard our kids!

    1. Thank you praguepot.

  8. I am saddened when children are exploited in any way. People should be better than that.

    1. Thank you Denis for the comment. I suppose people are cruel because they knew they’d get away with it,

    1. Lagosbooclub – Thank you for the reblog.

  9. I don’t think it matters what is declared illegal by a government, it doesn’t prevent that ‘crime’ from happening. We do need to protect our children worldwide and teach them that they are valuable and worthy and hopefully empower them to keep abusers at bay in the process. Successfully raising children to know their dignity as human beings can be possible.

    1. Servantofcharity – Thank you for the comment and you are absolutely right that criminals will always find their way no matter what. I guess in the case of Nigeria children will feel more protected if they see cases of sexual abuse being followed through and perpetrators given punishment they deserved.

  10. Hmm, very insightful. I am a product of an all girls boarding school and experienced the brutality of the senior students which is perpetuated because when the junior graduates to senior, she retaliates in kind.
    The Boarding school was where most of the girls got introduced to lesbianism and the school authorities and parents are totally unaware that the kids are being forced into it.
    Not always the best option, those boarding schools

    1. It is nice to hear from people like you with insider view of Nigeria boarding school life. Thank you for the comment.

  11. Before any problems can be started to be solved all within that community have to accept that the problems exist. This is particularly the case with actions of abuse. For the most part they are conducted in secret and the abused are made to feel they are responsible for the actions of the abuser. This can be from the power or assumed power of the abuser.

    As to homosexuality, while some would believe the act is unnatural, it should not be made illegal for consenting adults, but when the act is to children then it should be. Children are not able to protect themselves or in some instances understand the meaning of some actions, therefore responsible adults have to take on the task of safeguarding any persons who may be at risk of abuse.

    Until any of the above is undertaken abuse will continue to flourish.

    Thank you for the insight to the situation in Nigeria and I encourage you and others of like mind to continue to publish the instances of abuse, for eventually the persons who govern Nigeria will have to listen and take action against the perpetrators of abuse, but it will take time.

    1. Thank you for reading and for insightful comment.

  12. Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    This is a post from the blog of ‘jujufilms’ which highlights instances of abuse of children in some boarding schools in Nigeria. But these instances of abuse are just to Nigeria, but I believe worldwide, if they are known about, then they are waiting to be unearthed.

  13. […] is a post from the blog of ‘jujufilms’ which highlights instances of abuse of children in some […]

  14. I attended a boarding house in Nigeria during my last three years in the secondary school. Maybe, I have/ am living a charmed life. I must be sincere, I never saw, experienced the sexual abuses. It was years later, I heard that many girls become lesbians from their secondary schools days. I think parents should educate their kids as they go to the boarding house about sex education and be friends with their kids so that they can open up to them if they are experiencing such abuse which is sadly becoming rampant worldwide.

    1. Thank you for your contribution.

  15. This is a very informative though brief look at the boarding school system in Nigeria. It is also very good that contributors have chipped in to enlighten others about it.

    I am a product of a boarding school system from 1950s/60s Nigeria and in our time, it did produce a better environment than most homes for educating the girl child as well as actually made it possible for the elusive “unity” the country keeps chasing these days. Nigeria was mainly an idea that could not be understood until you went from, say, Ondo Province to a Lagos School and suddenly, you met Ibo Girls, Cameroonian girls, et cetera or even within then Ondo Province, you met Ibo girls from Kano, girls from the East, Midwest and even part of the province that you had never heard about.

    One heard about girl-girl relationships but not the insidious sexual abuses that have been rampant in subsequent generations.

    In all, most of us from my generation would acknowledge the benefits of boarding education far outweigh whatever negatives it had in our days but then while my kids who attended boarding schools did so in the 80s/early 90s might not be as gong-ho about it as I remain, they cheris!h the bond of old girls in various continents even as they now hold tightly to their kids as day students

    Thanks for letting me have a peep into the good job you are doing. I’ll visit again.

    TOLA ADENLE.

  16. Thank you very much for your contribution. In the case of sexual abuse in Nigeria boarding schools, I wonder if this problem was there even during 50s/60s but pupils were just not allowed to raise alarm about it, in Britain for examples, the system is digging deeper into the past of school heads and encouraging victims to come forward, as a result a few former heads/teachers have been prosecuted for their offences. Can we really be sure that sexual offences did not happen in Nigeria at that time given boarding schools were brought to the country (with good intention of course) by the British?

    1. I attended a Nigeria all-boys boarding school in the 80s. We heared about some Seniors into homosexuality, and we made fun of such people, because it did not make sense to us. In order to know what could have been happening in the 50s & 60s, we need to look at what happened in the Americas concerning Native American boarders. Some Native Americans who can remember are now admitting to have been homosexually abused. In the case of Africa, it will take some time before people are bold enough to confess the abuse they may have experienced from missionary education in the 50s and 60s, because we still cannot yet criticize missionary education.

      1. It sure will.

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