PARENTS: Something tells me I may not be qualified for what I am about to write but because I am first a woman, then a mother; on the contrary, I think I qualify to delve into this matter.
So, having qualified myself, let me tell you a one-sided story.
So, I went to a school, one of the secondary schools here in Lagos. I went with a friend to visit her child. My friend was busy with her kid while I allowed myself the luxury of looking around.
I observed children racing towards their parents as their cars drove in. I also observed those who were still awaiting their parents staring hard at the gate, at anything moving in or out of the school gate.
That was when I saw him. He wasn’t looking towards the gate; nor was he among those hopping around because his parents had arrived with goodies; and he wasn’t even among the different clusters of students who had resigned themselves to the fate of never getting visited by parents or anyone from home.
This boy, a very handsome boy I should say, the one I now began to observe closely, was tall and gangly, but awkward in the way children who grow too quickly; you know those who aren’t aware of how fast their bodies have grown and haven’t adjusted to it just yet.
His house wear was sitting awkwardly on his broad shoulders; his trousers had several layers of loose cloth behind. Your average teenager with his looks would have pulled it up or secured it in place with a belt.
He would also have adjusted the shirt to sit well on his large bones. But not this kid, this man- child who looked like he was chanting something, no, make that mumbling something.
He had a fixed smile on his face and he was pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth; there was almost a rhythm to his pacing.
There was something not right here. So I asked my friend’s daughter, “who is that kid?”
She looked in the direction I had nodded and though there were several other kids with their parents in that general direction, she knew who I was referring to.
“He’s a new boy in school; you can say he is special. He was brought back from the US and you would think they should at least treat him differently since he is ‘special’ but not our school. They make him do everything everyone else does here.”
With that, she turned back to continue with the food her mother had brought for her. Me, I wasn’t done.
“What exactly do you mean?”
‘Look at him like that, if a ‘small boy’ tells him to strip and remove all his clothes, right here in the midst of everybody, he will do just that.”
My heart dropped as I watched her return to her food; then I turned my gaze back to the man-child.
“That boy doesn’t belong here!” I said.
“We all know that but it’s a good thing he is not violent,” she replied between mouthfuls.
Then she revealed:
“Many students just ask him to start dancing or start doing one silly thing or another, and he will do it. Can you imagine?”
Yes, I can. Kids can be mean and this man-child is easy picking for bullies. I found out before I left that school that the man-child was brought to the school by his step-mother; his own mother is late.
Step mum, I was told, ‘persuaded’ the boy’s father to bring him down to Nigeria and enroll him in a school, knowing well enough that he belongs to a special school for kids with his kind of mental challenges.
Further inquiries from a source within the school revealed that the man-child, like my friend’s daughter had said, will do anything he is instructed to do, regardless of who instructs him.
“In fact, one student was expelled when we caught him fiddling with the boy’s penis. Obviously, he (man-child) was lured to a corner and asked to remove his clothes, which he did.
We found the other boy playing with his penis. That stupid boy was expelled that very night: we called his parents to come for him!”
Oh, Lord! That’s good though, expulsion for the one who got caught. But what of the many who got away with playing with this boy’s penis? I wondered.
“He is not learning,” my source told me.
And is that surprising?
There are no teaching aids or teachers or facilities for children with special needs in the school, so how is he expected to learn anything?
“However,” my source told me, “if you read a full chapter of any text, Bible, Biology textbook, Government textbook, any book to him, he will repeat everything to you verbatim!”
He’s autistic! Or maybe he’s not, I already said I wasn’t qualified to discern these things but isn’t that a trait of autism spectrum?
“Why is he here then?” I asked again.
“His stepmother wanted him out of the way,” was the general conclusion from two other people I spoke to. Otherwise, no one had any answers. I was still curious.
“Don’t be quick to judge” my sister warned me when I unloaded the story to her. “You’ve only heard one side, find out the other,” she said.
Much as I do not want to be quick to judge, I know no parent, no mum, real mum, will send her child with this sort of challenge to a school where they cannot cater for his special needs.
And speaking of special needs, isn’t the US supposed to be one of the best places for kids like this? Why bring him here?
What of his mother’s people? Can’t they be contacted to save one of their own, assuming the dad is so love struck and stuck in-between step-mother’s legs to think straight?
But there are no links… for now, no one I spoke to knows the name and address of the people I could talk to. I am assuming they would want to talk to me.
Something tells me I won’t rest until I get to know what the real issue is and I will certainly update you.