We have a nasty culture around here; the kind that stifles the truth; the kind that stops you from voicing any ill just because a few feathers will be ruffled or simply because of shame.
Growing up, I attended an after-school lesson, it was nothing serious, my guess is my parents like many parents just wanted to get us kids engaged in something after school because the alternative would be us rolling old tyres down the streets, playing hopscotch, (suuwe) or tenten or some childish game we found to fill up the time before national television came on at 4pm.
So, we children in the neighbourhood would assemble in class under the fierce looking teacher down the street, teacher Segun. He was a member of some white garment church because he sometimes wore his sutana to class. Meaning, half the time, he did not wear shorts or trousers under that sutana. For those of us who don’t know sutana, it’s the long white gown worn by members of white garment churches.
So, teacher Segun always came to class with a freshly cut cane to keep us rowdy lot at our best behavior (some 20 or so children). The cane did more than make us behave well during his lessons; it ensured we didn’t speak about his serial abuse of one particular girl amongst us. She was in class two with me, meaning she would have been about seven or at most eight years old.
You see, our teacher Segun, was always fingering Yinka. Fingering as in put his hand under her dress and keep it there for the whole of the time he was taking us through our times table! Those periods were long and difficult periods.
The other hand, of course wielded the freshly cut cane. So Yinka would always be seated in front, on a bench and teacher would sit on the other bench meant to serve as table and have his hand permanently under her dress. And we all would watch from teacher to Yinka, not sure what we were seeing, yet knowing it was so wrong and of course, this made it all the more difficult to memorise the times table.
Did we report when we got home?
Dem no born us well to report to our parents! Neither did Yinka, because the abuse didn’t stop until my mother discovered I wasn’t learning anything at the lesson and pulled me out of that class.
There are many Yinkas out there, too many to count. And there are many like me, who witnessed it and lost their tongues from fear of being disbelieved and beaten black and blue for lying against an adult, (as if he would ever admit to it).
Adults always speak the truth in our culture and children lie, in fact, among the Yorubas, you daren’t call an elder a liar, it’s a taboo! So how would a child dare call attention to abuse from the so called elder?
So, many people like teacher Segun are getting away with abusing kids under their care. And from the looks of things, the police isn’t helping matters. Last week, I read in a national publication of a woman whose 11-year-old daughter had been repeatedly raped by one Imam. The girl was sworn to silence with a threat of bodily harm to her mother, who is a single parent. Of course, the distraught mother reported the matter to the Police after she finally got her daughter to confess. Unfortunately, it was the little girl’s word against the ‘revered imam’, who was released on bail, ‘for lack of real evidence’. And guess who got the blame, shame and scorn? The mother, for being careless and then the girl, for being an evil child who enjoyed the sexual acts not once or twice but three times over!
And the stories are endless; many adults who are now recounting tales of abuse from relatives, kids suddenly withdrawing, scared of opening up; parents frustrated and often worried about exposing their ward’s abuse to the general public.
Until we expose these culprits and punish them for their acts, this culture of silence will continue and this will embolden perpetrators who go from conquest to conquest while their victims get no closure, but instead are made to relive the pain over and over again.