The recent outbursts over the infiltration and rising incidents of cultism and cult-related activities in primary and secondary schools in Abia State, should not only raise concern, but also be taken as a matter of monumental contempt for a sane society.
The foray of primary and secondary school children into cultism, or secret cults, in the first instance, is a rude demonstration of high level of decadence in some homes and families, which is being fostered particularly at this time when the society is ever more fractured morally. Although the Abia State government, recently took a decisive step when it organised a one-day Stakeholders’ Summit under the auspices of the state’s Ministry of Education to torchlight some knotty educational issues and specifically the menace of cult activities in schools.
At the stakeholder’s summit, held at the Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, were top government functionaries, led by the Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, who represented Governor Okezie Ikpeazu; traditional, religious and community leaders, members of academia, the Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) and various security agencies, as well as school administrators/managers and parents.
The governor expressed shock over the development, and called for more attention at the home and school fronts to the development of the children. On the other hand, he cautioned parents on the critical need to foster a strong parent-children relationship, as well as introduction of stiffer punishment measures and discipline both at the level of schools and homes. According to Governor Ikpeazu: “Our society is becoming a violent one given the spate of cultism, killings, armed robbery, kidnappings, herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks, as well as banditry and rape that are on the increase daily.”
He did not only stressed the need for a close watch on the moral upbringing of children at home and schools in order to avoid a state of anarchy in the nearest future, but also warned that any person or groups encouraging such unwholesome behaviour in the schools and society should desist from doing so for a better tomorrow for the children. Therefore, the state’s Chief Executive also called on parents, care givers, churches, traditional rulers and especially the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to step up action in the fight against peddling and consumption of hard drugs, which to him, are a triggers for most of the heinous crimes being committed. The summit blamed parents and society for poor parental care and for consistently neglecting the National Policy on Education (NPE) for cultism and cult-related activities in primary and secondary schools.
This, it re-affirmed through unnecessary pressure mounted on the children by parents and caregivers placing them in classes that are above their age and reasoning capacity, with the impression that the end justifies the means, as well as engaging in other attitudes that would not augur well for the development of the child.
It is commendable that the summit followed up with a call for concerted efforts on the part of all and sundry to join hands to demand an education that will develop knowledge and creativity, innovations and enterprise, civic and democratic values, skills and abilities, as well as the awareness needed for everyday and professional life. Besides, the summit advocated a law to be enacted by the state government without further delay that would stipulate stiffer penalties and sanctions for the deviants of the crimes in order to serve as deterrence to others.
While we give kudos to the state government and other key stakeholders in the state’s education project for taking such a proactive measure through the summit, we want to also point out that the exercise should not end up becoming another mere jamboree of wasteful spending, but will actually muster enough courage to come out with meaningful and applicable resolutions that will bring to an end and eliminate cultism in the state’s schools. In a country where the end justifies the means, the issue of cultism in primary and secondary schools should entirely be something of concern to every right thinking person, and should not be treated with kids’ gloves.
Like other stakeholders, we believe that no matter how robust the attendance and debate at the summit could have been, without concerted and deliberate efforts on the part of the state government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), security agencies and parents, the exercise would amount to naught.
Today, the Nigerian society is awash with criminality, especially among the youth, which are traceable to prevailing moral laxity, decadence, gross indiscipline especially in the home front, which has unfortunately abdicated its responsibilities to the school. Beyond the summit, parents, homes and particularly the children’s immediate communities/ environment should rise up to the challenge of bridging the moral gaps by instilling or inculcating in the children the character of discipline, honesty, uprightness, hard work, responsiveness and integrity.
Like parents and homes, if the crime rate is to be reduced in the society, the government at all levels has an active role to play by implanting good governance that will cut all developmental barriers and address the social and emotional needs of the people. We, therefore, urge Governor Ikpeazu to be firm with the outcome and recommendations of the summit by being ready to wield the big stick against any pupil or student engaging in cultism, while parents of such children should not be spared from the wrath of the law. Because without taking such courageous action, the efforts so far expended in trying to rid the school system of cultism would be an exercise in futility.