How anger-driven parents shun protocols, attack teachers for punishing pupils

 How anger-driven parents shun protocols, attack teachers for punishing pupils

In a startling trend, parents are increasingly confronting teachers about disciplinary actions against their children, resulting in physical altercations turning classrooms into battlegrounds, GODFREY GEORGE writes

Blood flowed down Favour Akide’s face like tiny strings of sweat. He first thought that what he felt on his checks was sweat. But, when he felt it with his palm, he saw the thick red liquid plastered on it.

His head had just been hit by the mother of a Primary Four pupil, ThankGod (surname withheld), to whom he taught phonics and reading. Six weeks after taking up a job as an assistant classroom teacher at a popular school in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, after searching for a job for three years, Akide met the shock of his life.

He said he had asked the seven-year-old to do an assignment the second week he resumed but she came back with the assignment undone.

“I told her to take it back home that Monday and make sure she got an adult to help her with it. She said she would but she didn’t. In fact, I saw the textbook on the table when I was clearing out things in the classroom that day.

“The next day, Tuesday, I asked her where the assignment was and she told me she forgot the textbook at home. Of course, that was a lie; the textbook was with me. So, I told her to do the assignment and bring it on Wednesday.

“On Wednesday, she came without the book and the assignment. I laughed and cautioned her to stop lying, adding that the book had been with her all the while. I gave it back to her and attached a note to her parents to, please, help her do the assignment.

“You would imagine the shock on my face when she came back with the same book undone. The note was still there. I opted to call her parents to tell them but their numbers rang out. My supervisor also called but it rang out,” he explained.

He added that he sent a letter to the parents through ThankGod that same day but she still came back with the letter, the note attached to the book earlier, and the assignment undone.

This angered Akide who said he asked the pupil to explain why she refused to do the assignment for one week while she knelt. He also stated that he caned her on her palm and ordered her to do the assignment at home.

The teacher said he was surprised when the young girl finished the assignment within minutes which made him cane her some two more strokes on her palm for ‘stressing him out’.

“The girl was even laughing. The entire class laughed as well. I was shocked when around 3 pm, while I was marking some scripts after everyone had left, a woman with thugs came in with ThankGod into the school premises, looking for me.

“I came out and ThankGod pointed at me. The woman used something – I think a stone or so – to hit my head. The other guys she had come with began to hit me.

“They hit so hard that I fell and sprained my ankle. I kept asking what I did wrong but they didn’t respond. They even beat up the guard who had come to rescue me; I was practically beaten to a pulp, and I could not do anything,” he said.

“It was after they were done that the woman said I beat up here child mercilessly for failing to do an assignment. I told her it was a lie and that I had only canned her on her palm a few times after she had failed to do the assignment.

“These thugs held me down and ThankGod was asked to slap me. She did. She was also asked to spit on me. She did.

“I have never felt that humiliated in my life. I am 34 years old and I have a daughter who is two. If anyone had told me that a young girl would spit on me for simply doing my job, I would not believe it,” he said, breathing fast.

Before the headteacher arrived to arrest the situation after she was called by the guard, the woman, her daughter, and thugs had left the premises. Akide said he was taken to a hospital where his head had to be stitched because, according to him, the cut was deep.

The 34-year-old said though an official report was submitted at a police station in the area, he was surprised the next day when ThankGod showed up at school like nothing happened.

“It was like a dream. I had come to school to pick up some of my personal effects so I would be able to work from home and I saw the girl, whose mother brutalised me the day before, sitting on her seat like nothing happened.

“I went to the headteacher and she told me she was handling it. She wrote a letter suspending the child and asked her to tell her parents to visit the police station to answer their case.

“Our lawyer also wrote them days later but the woman (the pupil’s mother) did not show up. The policemen are taking too much time to handle this matter, but I will wait for them to do what they have said they would do,” he added.

The teacher further said the incident had dampened his mood and weakened his morale, adding that going to class had been difficult for him.

“Sometimes, I want to cane a child but I just look away. I don’t talk too loudly; I don’t shout. For anyone who fails to do an assignment, I just put two big question marks on that page and move on to something else. I just decided to focus on teaching only those willing to learn.

“I am also considering a change of job. Imagine a young girl spitting on her teacher. This is a girl who couldn’t spell her name until I started teaching her weeks ago.

“I am a qualified teacher. I have an Education degree and I am registered with the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria. It is just so embarrassing what we go through in this job,” he lamented.

Beaten to death

Unlike Akide, Sunday Onyisi-Ufah was not as lucky. He was snuffed out by the father of one of his pupils for punishing his daughter. It was a Wednesday in October 2023 when Sunday arrived at work, unaware that that day would be his last.

Sunday PUNCH  learnt that the drama started after certain pupils of the school in the Agbor Local Government Area of Delta State allegedly scaled the school’s fence to steal and drink an old man’s palm wine. The unidentified old man, when he noticed his palm wine had been tampered with, subsequently reported it to the school authority.

The pupils were immediately identified and then caned as part of disciplinary measures to stop them from repeating the act. A teacher familiar with the matter told our correspondent that one of the pupils informed his father of what had happened.

The source said, “After school that day, he then made several threatening calls to the late teacher. The parent later showed up at the school. After a long argument, the parent brought out some dry cane and began to flog the late teacher, who in the process slumped and did not get up again.

“The teacher gave up the ghost before they got him to Agbor Central Hospital. Sunday was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.”

Several sources describe the late Ufah as a devout Christian, physics guru, and child evangelist who had a flourishing teaching career for decades, mentoring and leading children to Jesus Christ.

The Delta State Police Command’s spokesman, DSP Bright Edafe, who confirmed the incident to our reporter, disclosed that the father of the pupil had been arrested.

“Yes, it’s true. The said man involved has been arrested and is currently detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department for further investigation,” he said.

Louts assault Ogun teachers

In January 2022, a secondary school pupil, identified as Joshua Joseph, and his parents, one Tuesday morning, reportedly hired louts who invaded the Toyon High School, Ere, Ado-Odo, in the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State. Their mission was simple – find the teachers who punished Joseph and beat him up.

It was learnt that three teachers were brutalised by the hoodlums, who also vandalised a vehicle on the school premises. This came a few weeks after the mandatory undertaking forms were signed by parents as part of efforts to curb such acts in the state.

This became important after more than four teachers were mercilessly beaten by pupils in connivance with hoodlums in the last quarter of 2021.

In Joseph’s case, our correspondent gathered that the pupil and his parents invaded the school with louts and inflicted injuries on three teachers. He had been earlier prevented from entering his classroom because of his hairstyle.

A teacher, identified as Kabir Azeez, had told him to cut his hair to the ‘school’s approved haircut’ before entering the class, but Joshua was said to have returned to the school with his mum and the louts, who descended on the teachers.

An eyewitness who did not want his name in print had said, “Three teachers were beaten – Messrs Abel Thomas, Kabir Azeez and Adegun Adekunle. The car that was destroyed belongs to Jolayemi Jeromu. One of the thugs, Posu Baale, was the one who smashed the car’s windscreen.”

The school teachers invited the police after locking up the suspects in the computer room. The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, in a statement, said a man, Oyedele Joseph, and his wife Elizabeth Joseph, were arrested for unlawfully invading the school.

Oyeyemi said one of the teachers, Thomas, was attacked for “having the effrontery to beat their son, Joshua Joseph, an SSS3 pupil of the school.”

Several stakeholders in the state condemned the act, but not much was heard after that on whether legal steps were taken to address the issue.

Ogun, a red zone?

In October 2021, no fewer than four cases of attacks on schools were recorded in different public schools in the state.

On October 12, the police said they arrested a 35-year-old Abidemi Oluwaseun for invading Baptist Girls College Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, the capital of the state, with louts to attack a teacher, whom he accused of beating his 15-year-old daughter.

The teacher had flogged Oluwaseun’s daughter and others for disturbing his class, mocking him, and distracting other pupils. Aggrieved, the father hired two others, Fayesele Olabanji, 25, and Alebiosu Quawiyu, 24, stormed the school in an unregistered vehicle, armed with a cutlass, and threatened to attack the teacher.

When they were arrested by the DPO of Kemta Division, CSP Opebiyi Sunday, Oluwaseun confirmed hiring the other men to teach the teacher who beat his daughter the lesson of his life.

In Unity High School, Kajola Ibooro, in the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of the state, three teachers, including a nursing mother, were attacked by miscreants, who were reportedly hired by some pupils to unleash mayhem on them.

The nursing mother, identified as Mrs Oyadoke, who reportedly went through a caesarian session 10 months earlier, was attacked when she tried to caution an aunt of a pupil, who was having an altercation with the school principal.

According to a report by one Olufemi Ayannuga of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools’ press crew, the aunt, who was infuriated with Oyadoke’s interference in the brawl between her and the principal, rushed out to hire louts, who reportedly dragged the nursing mother on the floor, while inflicting injuries on her body through serious beating.

Similarly, pupils of Community High School, Ijoun, in the Yewa North Local Government Area were said to have hired hoodlums to attack and send their teachers away from the school. It was learnt that the hoodlums stormed the school premises at about 10.45 am and freely used weapons such as machetes and axes on Stephen Oyelekan and Kayode Olatunji.

The Ogun State police command said four pupils were later arrested in connection with the ugly incident.

In the same vein, an elderly Mathematics teacher identified as Owolabi at Comprehensive High School, Itori, was beaten up by an SSS 3 pupil. It was reported that the Mathematics teacher was teaching SSS 1 pupils when the ‘attacker’ rudely burst into his class and started beating a girl.

As Owolabi attempted to stop the boy from maltreating the girl, who was in his class at the time, the SSS 3 pupil “descended heavily on the innocent teacher, beat him mercilessly with heavy blows,” a source had disclosed.

The unruly pupil was reportedly apprehended by the police and operatives of the Amotekun Corps were deployed to the school as teachers panicked that his gang members in the school might attack them.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that some secondary school pupils are reported to be members of various cult groups. Aside from cultism, teachers who spoke with our correspondent anonymously explained that some boys were involved in Internet fraud, otherwise known as ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’.

“The moment they start doing ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ or when they join cult groups, they become so unruly that nobody can talk to them or scold them. Many of them are already smoking and drinking all manner of substances; that’s why teachers are now careful to avoid being attacked by their pupils,” a teacher disclosed.

The Jericho incident

In November 2021, a trending video in Ibadan, Oyo State, showed the moment a woman, said to be the mother of a pupil, stormed the Jericho High School in the state with louts to beat up a teacher. The male teacher’s offence was ‘punishing her child without her permission’.

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Speaking in Yoruba as she hauled stones at the teacher, she asked him to never touch her child in his life, adding that he had no right to punish her child without her express permission.

In the video, the mother, who was clad in a two-piece Ankara outfit, could be seen throwing stones at one of the teachers who tried to stop her from hitting her target. But, her louts, armed with sticks and canes, dragged the teacher and caned him several times.

The state government condemned the incident and called for an investigation. However, several years later, not much was heard about whether the matter went to court and if justice was ever served.

DSS operatives storms FGGC, brutalise teachers

In February 2017, men suspected to be operatives of the Department of State Services stormed the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, Cross River State, and beat up a few teachers and other staff members. This made the school’s lawyer, Baba Isa, send a demand letter, asking the DSS to apologise and pay compensation to the brutalised staff.

Isa, in a statement, stated that a female relative of one of the school’s senior pupils led the attack because one of the teachers had flogged her for flouting the school’s rules.

Narrating how it all started the lawyer said, “Mr Owai Owai, a Civic Education teacher of over 17 years standing came to class that fateful Thursday (last week) morning and found a junior pupil sweeping the class of the SS3 pupils when lessons were going on in the class of the junior, against the school rules that junior pupils should not be found sweeping the classes of seniors during school periods.

“Owai was able to fish out about 10 seniors who asked the juniors to sweep their class during school period contrary to school regulations. He punished the seniors by flogging them on their palms, two strokes of the cane each.

“One of the seniors, Grace Loveth Asuquo, grabbed the teacher by the collar of his shirt, protesting her flogging. The teacher was shocked and gave her more strokes for her action. She told the teacher in front of other pupils that her parents would burn down the school that day and stormed out of the class.”

According to the lawyer, Owai continued teaching, unknown to him that Grace had called her mum, who in turn called her sister who was a DSS operative.

“Halfway through the class, the pupil’s mum, her aunt (the DSS operative), and another man stormed the class, Gestapo-style, took the teacher’s canes, and flogged him mercilessly before his alarmed pupils.

“When the canes broke from the trashing of hapless Owai, they descended on his frail frame and rained torrents of blows and kicks on him. The screams of the pupils alerted the teachers who came to the rescue,” he stated.

Isa said the DSS operative called for reinforcement and three Hilux loads of DSS operatives stormed the school.

“The operatives went berserk and started shooting indiscriminately and hitting teachers with anything they could find – blows, kicks, stones, gun butts! Several teachers sustained injuries from the assault and battery,” the lawyer added in his pre-suit.

The lawyer said the entire staff members and pupils of the Federal Government Girls College community were traumatised and frightened.

The DSS did not give a response.

The matter was said to be settled out of court eventually but no details of the settlement were made available to Sunday PUNCH.

Teachers’ right to discipline pupils

Nigerian teachers, like educators in many other countries, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to disciplining pupils in the classroom.

While the specific rights may vary depending on school policies, educational regulations, and legal frameworks, some common rights a Nigerian teacher may have to discipline a child in the classroom, according to documents available on the TRCN website, including the authority to maintain order, use of reasonable discipline, enforcement of school policies, protection from violence or harassment, among others.

An educationist and child rights advocate, Mercy Chepaka, said teachers had the right to establish and maintain order in the classroom to create a conducive learning environment for all pupils.

“This includes setting and enforcing rules, managing pupil behaviour, and addressing disruptions or misconduct promptly and effectively.

“They also have the right to use reasonable and proportionate disciplinary measures to address student misconduct or misbehaviour. This may include verbal warnings, loss of privileges, extra assignments, detention, or temporary removal from the classroom.

“However, discipline should be administered in a fair, consistent, and non-discriminatory manner,” she said.

Another educationist and school administrator with the 16 Plus School, Lagos, Aniedi Akpan, speaking on the rights of teachers said, “Teachers have the right to enforce school policies and regulations related to pupil conduct and discipline.

“These policies may outline expectations for behavior, consequences for rule violations, and procedures for addressing disciplinary issues. Teachers are responsible for ensuring that pupils are aware of and adhere to the policies.”

He, however, added that it was also the right of teachers to work in a safe and respectful environment free from violence, harassment, or intimidation.

“They are entitled to protection from physical, verbal, or emotional abuse by pupils or parents and can take appropriate measures to address and report such incidents.

“It is the right of teachers to communicate with parents or guardians regarding pupil behavior, academic progress, and disciplinary concerns. They can involve parents in developing strategies to address behavioural issues and work collaboratively to support the pupil’s development and well-being.”

Similarly, the head teacher of an international school in Akwa Ibom State, Sifon Isaac, said when it comes to discipline, teachers have the sole right to exercise what he termed as ‘professional judgment’ in determining appropriate disciplinary responses to pupil behaviour.

Isaac said, “They can consider factors such as the severity of the offence, the pupil’s age and maturity level, individual circumstances, and the effectiveness of previous interventions in making disciplinary decisions.”

The educationist, however, added that it was important to note that while teachers had the right to discipline pupils, the rights must be exercised within the bounds of the law, ethical standards, and respect for the rights and dignity of pupils.

According to him, discipline should be administered fairly, consistently, and with the best interests of the child in mind, aiming to promote positive behaviour, foster responsibility, and support the pupil’s overall development.

Corporal punishment

In Nigeria, the issue of corporal punishment in schools continues to be a contentious topic, with reports of some teachers resorting to brutality in the name of discipline. Some argue that while the intention behind such disciplinary measures may be to instil obedience and maintain order in the classroom, the long-term effects on the overall development of the child are profound and concerning.

Several scholars have spoken of Nigerian teachers’ brutality and explored its detrimental impact on the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of students.

For a senior psychologist with the Remz Institute, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, no child in the 21st century should be canned by any teacher or parent. According to him, this defeats the sole aim of discipline which should be love and not harm.

However, some educationists think that a little spanking here and there would not kill a child who indeed wants to be disciplined.

Corporal punishment, defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain as a form of punishment, remains prevalent in many Nigerian schools despite efforts to end it. From being subjected to caning, slapping, or even more severe forms of physical abuse, pupils often endure humiliation and trauma at the hands of their teachers.

The justification for such acts typically revolves around maintaining discipline and ensuring academic excellence. However, the repercussions of this approach extend far beyond the classroom.

Essien, further speaking on the matter said, “The use of forceful measures such as beating or whipping can cause injuries ranging from bruises and cuts to more serious conditions like fractures or internal damage. These injuries not only compromise the child’s physical health but also create a climate of fear and intimidation, undermining their sense of safety and security in the school environment.

“Moreover, the emotional toll of experiencing violence at the hands of authoritative figures can be devastating for children. Being subjected to corporal punishment erodes their self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to feelings of shame, humiliation, and inadequacy.”

The psychological trauma inflicted by such acts, according to him, could manifest in various forms, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, impairing the child’s ability to learn and interact with others positively.

A school proprietor of the Wisdom Breed School, Kano, Kingsley Onuche, said corporal punishment perpetuated a cycle of violence and aggression, normalising abusive behaviour as a means of resolving conflicts or enforcing discipline.

He added, “Instead of fostering a culture of mutual respect and empathy, it cultivates an atmosphere of hostility and resentment between teachers and pupils. This adversarial dynamic hinders effective communication and collaboration, impeding the development of essential social and interpersonal skills crucial for success in life.”

What the law says

The Nigerian Constitution does not explicitly address corporal punishment of pupils by teachers. However, several laws and regulations guide this issue.

For instance, the Child Rights Act (2005) which has been adopted by many states in Nigeria, prohibits the use of corporal punishment against children. According to the Act, every child is entitled to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, abuse, or maltreatment, including corporal punishment, torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment.

Also, various education laws and regulations in Nigeria may contain provisions related to discipline and conduct in schools. While some may permit the use of reasonable and moderate forms of discipline, such as detention or suspension, they typically prohibit excessive or abusive forms of punishment, including corporal punishment.

Furthermore, several school policies, human rights instruments, professional standards for teachers, and other codes prohibit harming a pupil in the guess of correcting or disciplining them.

Caning banned in Ogun, Anambra, Ekiti

Several states in Nigeria have banned corporal punishment in schools, either through legislation or policy directives. Some of these states include Lagos, Ogun, Anambta, Ekiti, Cross River, and Rivers states.

However, there are still cases of teachers inflicting physical harm in the form of caning or hitting a pupil they teach.

For instance, despite the ban on corporal punishment in Lagos public and private schools, through the Lagos State Education Law, several teachers have been found wanting. In 2021, a 12-year-old boy, Emmanuel, was allegedly flogged to death by a teacher in the state for failing to do an assignment.

In Nigeria, some laws and regulations address violence or assault against teachers by parents or guardians. While the Nigerian Constitution and various statutes do not specifically mention ‘brutalising teachers for punishing their wards in school,’ there are legal provisions that protect teachers and educational workers from assault, harassment, or intimidation.

A lawyer, Mrs Selena Onuoha, shedding more light on the matter, said the Criminal Code Act, Penal Code Act, Child Rights Act, and several conventions prohibit assault of any form on teachers.

She also urged parents who feel the rights of their children had been violated to press charges and not take laws into their own hands.

She added, “The Criminal Code Act, which applies in the southern states of Nigeria, contains provisions related to assault and bodily harm. Section 351 of the Criminal Code Act defines assault as the intentional application of force to another person without their consent or the threat of such force.

“Assaulting a teacher for disciplining a pupil could fall under this provision, and offenders could be prosecuted accordingly.

“In the northern states of Nigeria where Islamic law or Sharia applies, the Penal Code Act contains similar provisions related to assault and bodily harm. Section 240 of the Penal Code Act defines assault as the intentional use of force against another person, which could include assaulting a teacher for disciplinary actions taken against a pupil.”

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