The authorities at Gaskiya Senior College, Badia, Ijora, Lagos, Nigeria have expelled a female student from the school for praying after school hours, while six others were suspended.
The students, who are the executive officers of the Christian Students Union in the school, were also allegedly branded as cultists by the principal of the school, Mrs. Shobowale, an act the students and their parents denied, saying they were being persecuted for their faith.
We gathered that the 12 students of the fellowship were holding their prayer meetings on Tuesday, 2 April around 3.30 pm, when the principal of the school ordered the security man of the school to tell the students to leave the premises at about 5.00pm.
While they were still praying and with their eyes closed, the hand of one of the female students, Jennifer Emmanuel mistakenly hit the principal, an act that infuriated the principal who subjected to several strokes of the cane.
We gathered that in the morning assembly of April 3, 2013, the principal allegedly paraded the 12 students to the whole school as cultists and subsequently placed on seven days suspension from the school, while those of them who were prefects among them were demoted.
Parents of the affected students were said to have begged the principals to stay action on the students, but to no avail, as the matter was reported at the Education District IV, with the students branded as cultists, while a letter, with the heading: “Re-emergence of Cultism in the School” was also sent to the District.
On 7 May, the principal of the school placed six of the students, all in SS 2 on indefinite suspension from the school and had not been recalled as at the time of filing this report while the girl, whose hand hit the principal while closing her eyes during prayer, Jennifer, was expelled from the school. The names of the affected students are John Otega, Michael Change, Valentina Okoye, Valentine Okoye, Faith Okolie, Chidinma Chidozie and Jennifer Emmanel, all SS2 and Igbo students.
Parents of five other students in SS 3, were forced to report to school whenever their wards were writing papers in the West African Examination Council, WAEC, following insistence by the school authorities that they had to be monitored.
The letter written by the principal to the parents of the SS3 students read: “Re-emergence of Cultism in the School: Consequent upon your child action of insurgency on 2nd April, 2013, the school has resolved that your ward be accompanied by one of his/her parents to come and write the WASSCE examination.
“Each parent is to stay with his/her ward throughout the duration of the examination and must leave the school compound together immediately after the examination. Any day he/she comes unaccompanied, he/she will not be allowed into the school compound. Also, in the letter of expulsion issued to the parents of Jennifer, the principal alleged that she slapped her and the security personnel. The letter of expulsion dated 7 May, 2013 reads: “This is to communicate to you the decision of the Ministry of Education that your ward, Jennifer Emmanuel is thereby dismissed from the school with immediate effect. The dismissal is consequent upon her grievous offence of slapping both the security personnel and the principal of the school on 2nd April, 2013. By this decision, your ward henceforth ceases to be a student of this school.”
More so, in the letter of suspension of six other students dated 10 May, 2013, the principal said it was consequent upon their disobedient to the school authority by holding a prayer meeting on 2 April, 2013.
The affected students denounced allegation of assault levelled against them by the principal, insisting that the expelled Christian student only hit the principal as her hands were moving about during prayer, while her eyes were closed and demanded for justice to be done.
Parents of the suspended students, Mrs Goodness Chidozie, Mrs Beauty John, Mrs Felicia Okolie, Mrs Jacita Change, Mrs Tina Emmanuel and Mrs Chinweogo Okoye, in a letter accused the principal of persecuting their children who are serious Christians that could not be involved in cultism and called on Governor Babatunde Fashola to investigate the matter.
“Our students are still at home doing nothing, but cry for justice. What has these Christian students done to deserve this painful humiliation. If this is how school principals are, we think such principal does not deserve to be a principal and should be sacked,” they decried.
The aggrieved parents wanted the state government to invite all affected people in the matter to the government secretariat so that the truth could be known as their children could never be cultists in broad day light while they were actually praying.
They lamented that their children had been at home for over two months due to the illegal suspension of their wards as the students were now likely to repeat due to the unwarranted action of the principal. A Christian-based organisation, interested in the matter wondered if leaders of the Christian Students Union praying in broad day light and in public could be classified as cultists, especially when cultists operate at night, urging the state government to investigate the matter urgently as the future of the students hand in the balance and also vowed to pursue the issue to a logical conclusion.