On several occasions, Dowen College, a boarding school in the affluent Lekki area of Lagos State, has been accused of harbouring teenage bullies intimidating fellow pupils in its dormitories.
The school was also accused of poor monitoring and failing to punish pupils found to have bullied other pupils.
The failure of the school management to deal with these complaints decisively, in part, led to the claims that Sylvester Oromoni, a pupil of the school, was killed by injuries he sustained after he was attacked by bullies who tried to force him into joining a secret cult, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
This claim was first made by Sylvester Oromoni Snr, father of the deceased, who still insists that his son was bullied many times before he died. Mr Oromoni relied on a statement he claimed was made by his son moments before he died.
Although Mr Oromoni alleged that the torture meted on his son by five boys of the school led to his death, an investigation earlier undertaken by this newspaper found that Sylvester died due to his parents’ preference for miracle healing over orthodox medical treatment, and the failure of a doctor who later treated him to properly diagnose his ailment.
Also, results of medical examinations before he died and independent autopsies later conducted on the deceased showed that the football-loving pupil had no physical injuries suggesting he was bullied or physically abused.
One of such complaints of bullying the school failed to address was made by Sylvester’s sister, Amanda Oromoni, who was also a pupil at the school. According to Mr Oromoni his son, before the recent controversial incident, had accused three boys of beating and asking him to describe his own sister’s private parts.
“He told them he had seen his sister’s nakedness but that he could not describe it to them,” Mr Oromoni recalled. “Based on that, my daughter complained to the school authority and even wrote a statement on the matter. She had even complained to a senior teacher in the school, Mr Adeyemi, who pledged to address the matter but he never did.”
“My daughter insisted that she was going to call his father; she was worried that his brother was not safe in the school but they begged her not to call me. They were saying ‘are you not a Christian? Why do you have to tell your father about this? If they had followed up with this incident, maybe this other one would not have happened,” he added.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Jerry Adeyemi, a senior teacher in the school, he admitted he was informed about the matter. He, however, insisted the boys involved in the matter were punished for two weeks. Asked to describe the kind of punishment given to them, he pledged to get back to this newspaper but he failed to do so.
“The sister was not just aware that the boys, especially Benjamin Favour (one of the five pupils accused of physically abusing Sylvester), was punished,” he said. “In fact, the boy was particularly punished for two weeks; his roommates were there, they can testify.”
But the school management seems to be unaware of this serious incident. In an interview with Channels, Folarin Shobo, a member of the advisory board of the college, said there was no such report of bullying as claimed by Mr Oromoni.
“There has been a deep-rooted investigation and to the best of our knowledge as an institution, there was no case of bullying,” he said. “There is no reported case from any quarter. Dowen takes serious exception to bullying. Any reported case is taken very seriously. The school has zero-tolerance for bullying.”
Dowen College forbids bullying but offenders remain
In a code of conduct handbook seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Dowen College truly frowns on bullying among pupils. “Using abusive words, fighting, bullying another student or being aggressive is not allowed,” the handbook stated in parts.
However, a check by this newspaper revealed that several bullying cases reported in the school were lightly treated or simply ignored.
In a zoom meeting organised in December 2021 by a network of concerned parents and educators, a parent, a fair-complexioned woman, claimed her son was bullied and beaten.
At the meeting, a former teacher at Dowen College, simply identified as Samuel, claimed he resigned from the school due to lack of proper supervision of pupils.
“From the first day they moved the children from the hired building into the permanent hostel, it was a time bomb waiting,” he said of Dowen College. “Eventually I resigned. I left there and went to Atlantic Hall because of that situation. The children are not well monitored. I shouldn’t say so much about a place I am not working.”
Mr Samuel was interjected by the aggrieved woman who chided him for not revealing such information to the public before the recent tragic event at the school.
“Why did you keep this for nine years and then you left the school?” she asked, narrating how her son was filmed while he was being bullied. “My son was a victim. They did exactly what they did to Sylvester to my boy. They put off the light; they beat him; they were dancing around; they put a box on his head – seven of them. They forced my son to kneel down; they put a suitcase on his head; they were dancing around him like an acoustic thing.”
Several weeks after the video of the zoom meeting went viral online, Dowen College did not debunk claims made by Mr Samuel and the angry mother who claimed her son was also bullied like Sylvester.
However, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Adeyemi, a representative of the school, said the woman exaggerated the story of her son being bullied.
“I know the woman and I know the case,” the senior teacher said. “The boy was not actually beaten; he was made to kneel down and was made to carry something. But he was not beaten. But she didn’t like what she saw — any mother won’t like it. She just said all she said to exaggerate a little to attract sentiments.”
Mr Adeyemi claimed the pupils were suspended and their phones confiscated because, in the first place, “they were not supposed to have phones with them”.
“You sometimes when you punish and you didn’t let the parent of the person being bullied to know, he/she may not be aware,” he added.
Meanwhile, for several weeks, this newspaper requested records of disciplinary actions taken against pupils for bullying their colleagues, but none of the representatives of the school was willing to provide any. Mr Adeyemi claimed the records are locked up in the school and no one has access to them.
On the claim that Sylvester was bullied, staff members familiar with the structure of the school’s dormitories told this newspaper that there was no way Sylvester could have been beaten as described by his father and at least two or three pupils would not be aware.
“We asked students from the room where they said the thing actually happened,” Mr Adeyemi, said. “We also interviewed hostel mates too but all of them said he was not bullied.”
He said Dowen College could not have sacrificed 495 pupils for just five pupils accused of bullying.
“Does that make any sense?” he asked. “But they want to force us to agree that these boys did it while they did not.”
“If these students were found guilty of bullying the boy, we would have dismissed them and they would have gone to another school. But, we can’t punish them for an offence they did not commit,” he added.
Mr Adeyemi insisted that some of the pupils accused of beating Sylvester were not even around in school at the time of the incident.
“Two of the students are not even boarders, they come daily from home and one of them goes home weekly every Friday,” he said. “One of them is autistic and I teach him. He’s in my class, he hardly talks. Although he’s intelligent, he hardly relates with anybody. There is another tall one who is very meek and he’s the youngest among them.”
When this reporter asked Mr Adeyemi to reveal the names of the accused pupils who are not boarders for proper verification of his claims, he declined and refused to comment further.
“It’s a lie. That school is very porous that any student can enter at any time to do anything,” Mr Oromoni said, responding to Mr Adeyemi’s claims.
Sylvester’s Parents insist their son shouldn’t be taken to the hospital — Dowen College
At Dowen College, ailing pupils with critical health conditions are taken to the nearby Lifeline Children Hospital, which is just “a three minutes drive away from the school premises in Lekki”, PREMIUM TIMES was told.
When contacted, a representative of the hospital, who simply identified himself as Ayo, said several ailing pupils of the school have been referred to them for proper medical care.
The school, however, said permissions are sought from parents before taking their children to the hospital after they might have been given first aid treatments at the school’s sickbay. The school also said Syvelster’s case was not an emergency when he was handed over to his parents.
“We asked the parents if we should take their son to hospital and they said no,” Mr Adeyemi of Dowen College said. “We could not have acted against the wishes of the parents.”
Mr Oromoni did not respond to telephone calls made to him seeking to clarify if his family indeed told the school not to take his son to the hospital.
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