“You cannot be here, who are you? Nobody is allowed here now because of what is going on. Can’t you see the place is hot? The tension is much here!”
This was the welcome I got at Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, where the death of Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year-old JSS 2 student, has stirred controversy on social media, forcing the Lagos State Government to shut down the school indefinitely.
Sylvester’s family had said the teenager revealed that he was assaulted by students belonging to a cult group in the school for refusing to join their fraternity.
“The boys they mentioned were also reported to the school last term when they bullied Junior and collected all his foodstuffs and clothes,” Sylvester’s father told The Cable.
“I have two daughters, one of whom earlier graduated. I had to remove the second after this incident. They asked this boy to describe the sister’s privates and this got to us.
“They put fear in him so much so that, when you ask him, he might keep to himself and say, ‘They will kill me’. This way, we didn’t know what to do. I considered removing him, [but] reconsidered [it], since his sisters were still in the school. The new incident came to my knowledge on November 21st after the school called my wife to notify us that our son was in the school clinic injured.”
However, Dowen said Sylvester sustained the injury that led to his death while he was playing football with other students on the pitch.
“Preliminary investigation showed that there was no fighting, bullying, or any form of attack on the boy. He made no such reports, neither to his sister who is also a student, nor any other students, prefects, house parents, medical staff, or any of the management staff. The school has two regular nurses and a qualified medical doctor that promptly attends to students. [We] will not tolerate any acts of cultism, which is why there is nothing like that,” said Dowen in its reaction.
A REPORTER’S DIARY
In the midst of the controversy, I visited the college on Friday, not identifying as a reporter, but a regular citizen so no one would be unnecessarily careful with information, and because the school had consistently shut reporters out.
I hoped to gather information on the events that led to Sylvester’s demise.
‘THIS PLACE IS HOT’
Security officers surrounded me on arriving the school premises, attempting to get me off the area. They said the entire management staff was in a meeting at the Lagos State secretariat in Alausa, and that they were given strict instructions not to allow any visitors in, save parents who wanted to pick their wards for the weekend.
A notice at the gate read, “Please no visitor [is] allowed into the premises. Thank you.”
Across the road, I spotted the school hostel from where parents were withdrawing their wards. I would later learn from one of the workers in the school that it is not unusual for parents to take their wards home for the weekend.
Although efforts to get more information from security officials and house masters proved abortive, a worker in the school showed me the only football pitch in the school. It was a sand-filled area outside the hostel premises, overlooking the road separating the school from the hostel.
It was a short distance from the hostel entrance, and any activity done here would be seen by the security personnel.
With this new knowledge, I wondered if there was anything to the school’s claim that he died from injuries sustained on the pitch. Only a tiny entrance leads to the pitch from the hostel, and nothing of that magnitude could have happened without the knowledge of the school’s security officials who were positioned very close to the pitch. They would have cried out, and the student would have got adequate care.
I made attempts to ask the security officers what happened, but they would not talk to me. However, someone who knew Sylvester said something else and it got me thinking.
SYLVESTER LIKED TO PLAY WITH SENIORS
A caterer in the school told me that he knew Sylvester. He said he was strong and liked to play with seniors.
Asked where the match took place, he said it happened on the basketball court, where seniors preferred to play football. The court is within the hostel.
“I don dey this school for eight years. That boy – I sabi am well well – he de like to play ball with senior,” he told FIJ.
“That day, he play ball; dem jam am; he go clinic. After dem treat am, he still come outside come play ball again.
“Juniors dey play outside for football field, but you know say the students many, so seniors de always use basketball court to play ball. That boy – he strong well well – na JSS2 he dey, but he dey like follow senior play. And you know say if I strong pass you and I jam you, no how wey your body no go feel am.
“I surprise when dem say the school get bush and cult. Na from here to here e be. No where to hide anything, if cult de, you go know.“
‘OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES MATTER’?
Sylvester passed away after going through severe pain. He would have celebrated his birthday tomorrow, December 4.
His dad has, however, told The Cable he would go ahead with the celebration.
“I’ll have a cake baked,” he said. I’ll cut it on his behalf.”
Back in the school, FIJ spotted over 13 banners fixed around the school fences which read, ‘Our Children’s Lives Matter’. That is currently contestable in the court of public opinion but may have been established, say, in the next 13 weeks.
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