Safeguarding young children in school

Despite deteriorating mainstream school quality in Nigeria, teachers are still respected to a high degree, this respect often borne out of fear of bigger punishment so it is better to be on safe side. However, for young children in nursery or primary school, this respect can have devastating effect especially in a country like ours where everyone makes their own rules.

A few years a go my sister was very upset about the way her son was treated at school. My inlaw had gone to pick up his son at school earlier than usual as they were going on a trip. He met the boy under the stairs outside of the classroom sobbing on his own. His offence – he had accident in the poop department. He was three years old at the time.

Upon seeing the father, the teacher made some story up and even denied any knowledge the boy had soiled himself.

Over the years I have learnt that it is not all the time that children make up stories, sometimes they are telling the truth, actually most of the time they tell it the way it is.

There was a case pending about ‘Auntie’ hitting the children for slightest error that my sister  had overlooked because of the fear her child might be isolated in class.

For this particular offence of soiling himself, the punishment was that the whole class sang a song calling the boy the Oloorun (the dirty one), and then made to stay out of the class with the hope of cleaning him up just before closing time so parents would not know what happened during the day.

To my sister, I said “your call”

I certainly would not leave my child at a school that enjoys collecting fees but fails to train their staff how to deal with young children.

When the school owner enquired why she moved her son away to a different school, she too made up a story – what matters is that the child is treated with respect and love – no one learns in an hostile environment.

Three year old Haliya Abolore was not so lucky. Only heaven knows what kind of offence the little girl committed at a nursery school in Lagos. The class teacher Ms Maryam ordered Haliya to sit on a hot water container (perhaps still plugged to a socket). Haliya must have sat on the container for quite some time to have had such a degree of burn.

“ All my daughter’s private parts were burnt. She was asked to sit on a container containing hot water. Haliya’s father.

Haliya was rushed to Lagos Island General Hospital and later died at Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos a few weeks later due to complications from the burns.

Looking at the picture from the article, Haliya’s buttock peeled off from the right cheek down to her upper thigh while the left part looked darkened – sad is understatement.

3rd or 4th degree burn? Oh, well, the poor girl died in pain.

The fact that Haliya sat long enough to hurt that much shows how terrifying the little girl was – too frightened to go against the teacher’s authority.

There are several ways to get message across to toddlers of Haliya’s age. Many nursery schools use time-outs by separating offending children from the group and it worked. Hard to see how a teacher could not foresee danger from such a punishment.

How I wish Lagos State Department of Criminal Investigation in charge of this case makes it a point to publish the outcome – this is the only way we can change attitude.