Nigerian boarding school experiences
I spent all 6 of my secondary school years in boarding school so I can tell you that there are benefits to it. Boarding schools teach children the importance of routine and structure, while also helping them become independent. However, there is also a culture of bullying in Nigerian boarding schools that isn’t talked about properly. I say “properly” because when the conversation does come up, it’s usually in the form of banter ending with the declaration that this culture of bullying is a rite of passage. An almost decade-long series of hazing rituals needed to toughen up children as opposed to what it really is; a vicious cycle of abuse.
To prove this point (and to carry on a conversation started by Twitter user @ozzyetomi), I asked 5 ex-boarding school students to share their worst bullying experiences. These are their stories.
Nigerian boarding school experiences
“There was this senior who would wait for me in my corner whenever he heard that my parents had come to see me. As soon as I returned to the dorm with the provisions my parents brought me, he would go through them, picking all the stuff he wanted, while I stood by like a teary-eyed vulture waiting for a lion to finish with a carcass. I once reported to our housemaster but all he told me was to stop being selfish and learn to share.”
“When I was in JSS2, there was an SS3 student who began picking on me. She would take every opportunity she got to punish or beat me, which was strange because we’d never interacted and I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything to offend her. A few weeks after the bullying started, I was lying under her bed one night after lights out as punishment for not dressing properly (I’d worn bathroom slippers instead of sandals to night prep) when I felt a hand rub my thigh. I turned around in shock to see who it was and it was this senior with her hand to her lips, signalling for me to be quiet. Incidents like this went on until she passed out almost a year later. I never told anyone. No one was going to believe me.
“A senior asked me to give him milk and I lied that I didn’t have, hoping this would deter him. It didn’t. After opening my locker and finding my unopened tin of milk, he dragged me to his dorm. When his classmates asked what happened, he told them and they screamed as if I’d committed some grave offence. They then proceeded to beat me like a thief. I was made to hang from the ceiling while they spun me around and beat me with belts and sticks. I reported to the principal and all he did was yell at them and make them cut grass. This made things much worse for me because as soon as they were done, they came straight to my dorm and took me for another round of beating, daring me to go report again.”
“I was slapped 4 times across the face by the food prefect for using my hand to struggle with a strong piece of meat during lunch. (We were not supposed to eat with our hands). Not long after, pus began coming out of my ear. Going to the clinic meant I would have to say what caused it, putting the senior in trouble and causing future beatings for myself so I kept quiet and hoped it would stop soon. It didn’t and began to hurt all the time. Long story short, I still can’t hear properly out of my left ear.”
“Because I wanted to avoid being bullied in school, I quickly found a school father to protect me. He was an SS3 student nicknamed ‘Father Abraham’ because of the large number of school sons he had and that he was much older than his classmates. He was well-respected because of his age and to me, this meant that none of the other seniors would mess with me. I wish someone had told me at the time that I’d gone from the frying pan to fire. He began to molest me. He told me it was because I was his favourite and that he loved me the most out of all his school sons. He also asked me not to tell anyone and because I liked being special, I didn’t. This went on until he passed out. I found out from a ‘school sibling’ a few years later that ‘Father Abraham’ molested him too while telling him the same things he told me. I guess I should’ve started this story by saying I was in a child sex abuse ring and didn’t know it. Lol”
*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.