By the time you are reading this piece, you probably would have watched different video clips of the mother of a 14- year old Senior Secondary (SS) three student of Queens College, Yaba, Lagos struggling fiercely and holding tightly the shirt of the uniformed security personnel of the 92- year old secondary institution. In the noisy background, one could hear some others urging the woman to release the security personnel, who was clad in blue uniform, from her strangle hold. Another video clip that has gone viral is one where some people were struggling to hold up the young girl’s head in order to take her picture while the traumatized 14-year old, who I gathered never knew anything was on her lashes until fellow students drew her attention to it, held tightly to her mum in order to prevent this.
The voice of a man and a woman could be heard in the background. The man was urging that the young girl’s picture should be taken while the woman could be heard saying, ‘we have snapped her, we are even going to video her, see what she pasted on her face. She even has painting on her fingernails’. In another clip as the mum of the young girl moved away with her daughter in tow, the same woman and another male voice could be heard saying, ‘ that’s the end, go and don’t come back to Queens college’. As this drama was playing out, one could see some of the students watching from the sideline, one wonders what was going on in their young impressionistic minds.
Looking at the videos, I watched three different clips ranging between 30 seconds and one minute, I felt quite sad. Sad for my country, sad at our situation, sad that we have become a nation that seems to have lost its moral compass. Indeed, what happened at the gate of Queens college is a reflection of the reality of the current Nigerian society. A society where there seems to be a blurred line between the good and the totally condemnable. A society where parents are daily shirking their responsibilities as role models for their children, when they see nothing wrong in displaying crass, tout-like behavior in public, irrespective of who was watching.
From the video clips and the information gleaned from here and there, the mum had arrived the school’s gate with her daughter in tow, a boarder who was just returning to school. She was stopped at the entrance of the institution because of the way the girl was made up. She had on artificial eyelashes and also painted her nails. We are not sure of the colour on her nails, could it have been fire red paint? In any case, she was stopped at the entrance because of the improper way she was coming into the school. However, one question that I would want answered is whether there are written rules about what is allowed and not allowed. I have searched online to see whether the college has such rules and regulations, though there was nothing like that on the college’s website, I understand that there is a prospectus that contains the dos and don’ts for students of Queens College. It was however silent about whether a student could put on eyelashes and paint her nails. However, it goes without saying that secondary schools in Nigeria have unwritten rules and Queens College is no exception, that fixing of hairs, long braids, eyelashes and painting of nails are not allowed. The schools have a strict code of dressing that the students must adhere to.
I however have issues with how the entire debacle turned out. The young girl was put through certain harrowing experience that should not have been. She is 14 years old, adolescence on the threshold of adulthood, no matter how big she is, she is still a young girl whose character and personality are gradually evolving. If one wants to go through the psycho-analytical theory of Sigmund Freud, that age is a delicate time, a transition period, “between childhood and adulthood…a stressful period of life characterised by discernible physical, mental, emotional, social and behavioural changes. Rapid and dramatic physical development and growth mark adolescence, including development of sexual characteristics”. It is the period parents and teachers have a lot to do in forming the personality traits that would be part of these young adult’s character- a girl just witnessing the characteristics of adulthood. She probably does not see the harm in fixing lashes or painting nails to school. She believes that they are part of what is expected at her age and her budding growth. But there is time for everything. As a secondary school student, there are rules that must be adhered to. Her freedom would come in good time, to be a proper adult.
Unfortunately, the mother that should point her in that direction, to let her understand that there is a time for everything, that certain things are not allowed at certain age. Ecclesiastes 3:1 said: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”. The mother failed woefully in this task. She left the house for school with her. If she felt the girl was an adult who needed to paint nails and fix lashes, why did she follow her to school instead of allowing her to go on her own the way an adult would? As a boarding house student, she was supposed to be in school and should have returned to school in good time, not during the week, but a weekend. Her mother probably saw nothing wrong in encouraging her to flout the school rules. People have said that she left the school to attend a wedding where she was a bridesmaid. But weddings are conducted on weekends, she should have been back in school on Sunday evening. Now why did a woman who clearly knew she was wrong, compounded the problem by creating a scene which drew the world’s attention to her and her daughter? I had expected that they would have quietly gone to a corner, remove the eyelashes and clean the girl’s nails. That should have been the reasonable thing to do. It clearly shows as parents, we are derelict in the discharge of our responsibilities.
I decided to investigate further. My findings revealed that problem started when she learnt that her daughter would be called out to the front of her colleagues and probably publicly shamed during the morning assembly. She did not want this, she was equally angry that some people were taking pictures and videos of what was happening.
In this, I feel the school should have handled the matter more delicately. There was no reason for the situation to have degenerated to the level it did. Surely, there are laid down procedures for handling such infringements. And if there are infringements to rules, it should not be resolved by and at the school’s gate house or by the security personnel. Now, taking the young girl’s picture and having a video recording would not do her any good but further harm her. Gladly, the different stakeholders have come into the matter. The Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) of the school has made its position known. It condemned in ‘totality the action of the parent’ and ‘stands by the management in enforcing discipline in the school’. The Association also said it would invite both the parent and the student for discussion with a view towards finding a common ground in order to prevent future occurrence. It added, ’the lesson we need to take home on this, is simply that QC (Queens College) will not tolerate violation of its well settled rules and regulations’.
I also learnt the Lagos State government has sent its officials to the school to find out what transpired. A disciplinary committee has also been set up to which the mother, daughter were invited. The angry father who learnt of the incident like every other Nigerians on social media has also been to the school and was clearly embarrassed by the entire incident. One issue that will come out in the investigation, is how the girl left the school in the first place. That is an area I would not want to go into now in order not to further traumatize the poor girl and in keeping with the school’s mantra as encapsulated by the Principal, Mrs. T. O Yakubu-Oyinloye that; ‘every girl child committed in our care is guaranteed quality education under skilled instructors’ with the aim to ‘establish a solid foundation … through their academic and professional journey in life’ while also showing commitment to the, ‘the physical, social and psychological development of our Students, edging them to become responsible and impact- driven members of society.’ In all these, the blames should be squarely laid where it should be. All the parties have a share of blame in what happened.
And as the PTA said, there should be a common ground for all the parties in the matter with the ultimate aim of protecting the young girl. This is not a time to use a sledge hammer to kill a fly