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Romane Elliston | Schools: society’s incubator

Published:Saturday | April 13, 2019 | 12:00 AMRomane Elliston/Contributor

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.’’

– Kurt Vonnegut


When you have successfully gone through a secondary education system and you see how some of your classmates behave, how they treat their teachers, and their attitude towards their schoolwork, if you are anything like I was, then you’d shriek at their uncouth behaviour and perhaps even lose hope in humanity. In fact, the thought becomes even more daunting and detrimental when you realise that these untamed individuals will be the adults of tomorrow.

‘‘Schools – society’s incubator.’’ This simple but profound statement posits that schools are a birthing ground where behaviours and personalities are nurtured. They reflect the wider society through their various clubs and programmes. And where they have principles, structures and sanctions, these mimic the wider society’s judiciary/penal system.

Similarly, to the wider society, in schools you will find corruption, but at that level we desensitise it and call it ‘bias’ or ‘favourtism’. This can be seen with high academic achievers and star athletes who receive special treatment or exemption from sanctions, the common teacher’s pet, and voting in clubs and societies or for the position of class monitor based on friendship, popularity or teacher ‘influence’ (choice – bias).

Furthermore, within schools is the emergence of bullies and cliques, which eventually escalate into society’s menace and gangs. In fact, many of these habits are trained at school. Students steal, fight, vend and extort, and where there is no reasonable sanction, these delinquents become empowered and are given time to hone their craft. Resultantly, it can be said that schools groom society’s monsters.

Recently, at the Calabar High School, there were reports of an altercation between some students of the track team and a physics teacher over some mattresses during physics and track camps. Notwithstanding the nitty-gritty, my concern arises from the fact that, according to the allegations, the athletes felt empowered enough to get confrontational with a teacher. Furthermore, the credibility of the teacher was debased by the administration because it conflicted with that of these star athletes, ‘‘the schools ambassadors’’.

Eventually, the students were suspended but they could attend training. However, when I used to attend the institution, a suspension meant staying home and being prohibited from participating in school events for the duration of the suspension. But because the concerned individuals are track athletes, they were exempted. Therefore, what message are we sending to the students, who will be tomorrow’s leaders? Are we saying that it is acceptable to break the rules based on our societal position? This type of behaviour only proliferates the corruption and disorder which already exist within the country.


Quite interestingly, another incident came to light recently, according to The Observer, where a student was expelled for selling. It was alleged that he was selling an illegal substance in his products, though, according to the same source, there was insufficient evidence. In light of the previous incident, we are now left asking, why was he expelled, but the athletes received a pat on the shoulder for allegedly assaulting a teacher?

My focus is not to prey on Calabar or any other school specifically, but rather to shed light on the level of corruption which exists within our schools. We are tasked with training tomorrow’s leaders but are instead grooming monsters.

Furthermore, based on all the schools that I have been to, athletes, at large, are usually blatantly in violation of school rules and codes of conduct: hairstyle, uniform adjustments, disrespectful, vending, you name it. Yet still they continue to take residence at the institutions, and those who receive the boot were unfortunate enough to not be a star performer. So, what kind of leaders are we creating?

Quite frankly, I have many problems with the education system, and what annoys me the most is that the education ministry has its surveys and so forth, which are intended to highlight issues and address them, but at the end of the day, nothing ever changes. And do you know why? The answer is simple, really, nothing will ever truly change because the education system as it stands benefits someone and the individual(s) respective interest.

All in all, it is undeniable, irrefutable, that schools play a preponderant role in the construction of our society, particularly through the hidden curriculum. And until we become deliberate about the hidden curriculum, and properly groom our students, then nothing will change.

Again, what type of leaders are we creating?

Romane Elliston (BEd Spanish and French) is a writer and motivational speaker. Email feedback to and