How past bullying complaints at Dowen College caused inaccurate claims about Sylvester Oromoni’s death
On several occasions, Dowen Collegea boarding school in the affluent Lekki area of Lagos State has been accused of harboring teenage molesters bullying their fellow students in its dormitories.
The school has also been accused of poor supervision and failure to discipline students accused of bullying other students.
The failure of the school administration to decisively address these complaints, in part, led to the allegations that Sylvester Oromoni, a student at the school, was killed by injuries he sustained after he been attacked by bullies who tried to force him to join a secret cult, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
This claim was first made by Sylvester Oromoni Snr, father of the deceased, who still insists his son was bullied several times before his death. Mr Oromoni relied on a statement he said was made by his son moments before he died.
Although Mr Oromoni alleged that the torture inflicted on his son by five boys at the school led to his death, an investigation undertaken earlier by this newspaper revealed that Sylvester had died due to his parents’ preference for miraculous healing rather than orthodox medical treatment, and the failure of a doctor who later treated him to correctly diagnose his ailment.
Furthermore, the results of medical examinations before his death and independent autopsies later carried out on the deceased showed that the football-loving student had no physical injuries suggesting that he had been the victim of bullying or physical abuse. .
Complaints not addressed
One such bullying complaint that the school did not respond to was filed by Sylvester’s sister, Amanda Oromoni, who was also a student at the school. According to Mr Oromoni, his son, before the recent controversial incident, accused three boys of beatings and asked him to describe his own sister’s private parts.
“He told them that he had seen his sister’s nudity but could not describe it to them,” Mr Oromoni recalled. “Based on this, my daughter complained to the school authority and even wrote a statement about it. She had even complained to a head teacher at the school, Mr Adeyemi, who was committed to fixing the problem, but he never did.
“My daughter insisted that she call her father; she was worried that her brother would not be safe at school but they begged her not to call me. They said ‘aren’t you a Christian? Why do you have to tell your dad? If they had followed this incident, maybe this other one would not have happened,” he added.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Jerry Adeyemi, a head teacher at the school, he admitted to knowing about the matter. He insisted, however, that the boys involved in the case had been punished for two weeks. Asked to describe the type of punishment inflicted on them, he undertook to return to this newspaper, but he did not.
“The sister was not only aware that the boys, especially Benjamin Favor (one of five students accused of physically assaulting Sylvester), were being 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 ignore this serious incident. In an interview with Channels, college advisory board member Folarin Shobo said there were no reports of bullying as Mr Oromoni claims.
“There was a thorough investigation and to our knowledge as an institution there were no instances of bullying,” he said. “There are no reported cases from any ward. Dowen takes a serious stand against bullying. Any reported cases are taken very seriously. The school has zero tolerance for bullying.
Dowen College bans bullying but offenders remain
In a code of conduct handbook seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Dowen College really frowns on bullying among students. “Using abusive words, fighting, bullying another student, or being aggressive is not allowed,” the multi-part manual says.
However, an audit by this newspaper revealed that several reported cases of bullying in the school were either treated lightly or simply ignored.
In a December 2021 Zoom meeting organized by a network of concerned parents and educators, a parent, a fair-skinned woman, claimed that her son had been bullied and beaten.
At the reunion, a former Dowen College teacher, identified simply as Samuel, claimed he quit the school due to a lack of proper student supervision.
“From the first day they moved the children from the rented building into the permanent hostel, it was a ticking time bomb waiting,” he said of Dowen College. “Finally, I quit. I left there and went to Atlantic Hall because of this situation. The children are not well supervised. I shouldn’t say the same about a place where I don’t work.
Mr Samuel was challenged by the aggrieved woman who berated him for not revealing such information to the public before the recent tragic event at school.
“Why did you keep this for nine years and then quit school?” she asked, recounting how her son was filmed being bullied. “My son was a victim. They did exactly what they did to Sylvester to my son. They turned off the light; they beat him; they were dancing everywhere; they put a box on his head – seven of them. They forced my son to kneel down; they put a suitcase over his head; they were dancing around him like an acoustic thing.
Several weeks after the zoom reunion video went viral online, Dowen College has failed to debunk claims 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 school representative, said the woman had exaggerated the story of her son’s bullying.
“I know the woman and I know the case,” the head teacher said. “The boy was not actually beaten; we made him kneel down and we made him carry something. But he was not beaten. But she didn’t like what she saw – any mother won’t like it. She just said everything she said to exaggerate a little to attract feelings.
Mr Adeyemi claimed the students were suspended and their phones confiscated because, in the first place, “they weren’t supposed to have a phone with them”.
“Sometimes when you’re punishing and you haven’t told the bullied person’s parent, he/she may not know,” he added.
Meanwhile, for several weeks, this newspaper demanded accounts of disciplinary action taken against students for bullying their colleagues, but none of the school officials would provide any. Mr Adeyemi claimed that the files were locked in the school and no one had access to them.
On the allegation that Sylvester was bullied, staff familiar with the structure of the school’s dorms told this newspaper that there was no way Sylvester could have been beaten as described. by his father and that at least two or three students would not know.
“We asked the students in the room where they said the thing actually happened,” Mr Adeyemi said. “We also interviewed fellow hostel mates, but all said he had not been bullied.”
He said Dowen College could not have sacrificed 495 students for just five students accused of bullying.
“Does that make any sense?” He asked. “But they want to force us to accept that these boys did it when they didn’t.”
“If these students had been found guilty of bullying the boy, we would have fired them and they would have gone to another school. But, we cannot punish them for an offense they did not commit,” he added.
Mr Adeyemi insisted that some of the pupils accused of beating Sylvester were not even at school at the time of the incident.
“Two of the students aren’t even boarders, they come home every day and one of them goes home every week every Friday,” he said. “One of them is autistic and I teach him. He’s in my class, he barely speaks. Although he is intelligent, he has almost no relationship with anyone. There is another big one who is very gentle and he is the youngest of them.
When this reporter asked Mr. Adeyemi to reveal the names of the accused students who are not boarders for proper verification of his claims, he refused and declined to comment further.
“It is a lie. This school is very porous and any student can enter it at any time to do anything,” Mr Oromoni said, responding to Mr Adeyemi’s claims.
Sylvester’s parents insist their son not be taken to hospital — Dowen College
At Dowen College, students with critical health conditions are taken to nearby Lifeline Children’s Hospital, which is just “a three-minute drive from the school premises in Lekki”, PREMIUM TIMES said.
When contacted, a hospital representative, who simply identified himself as Ayo, said several sick students at the school had been referred to them for proper medical attention.
The school, however, said permission was sought from parents before taking their children to hospital after they could have received first aid at the school infirmary. The school also said Syvelster’s case was not an emergency when he was released to his parents.
“We asked the parents if we should take their son to the hospital and they said no,” said Mr Adeyemi of Dowen College. “We could not have acted against the wishes of the parents.”
Mr Oromoni did not respond to phone calls made to him while searching to clarify whether his family actually told the school not to take his son to the hospital.
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