Amidst the uproar, study on corporal punishment shows many Nigerian brands can still thrive off of dysfunction

The issue

There is a codependency between parents/guardians and the institutions of education that takes the burden of childcare from the former, if only briefly, and promises to train their beloved little ones into upstanding members of society. Such codependency often makes many forget that these institutions, whether owned and operated by the government or private entities, are at their core brands that could shine bright through the positive stories they project over time – or dim and wane because of the negative stories. Yet, it seems every so often, a tragic story related to these institutions slips through the cracks and shocks the public into asking, how come?

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a good percentage of Nigerians swear by the effectiveness of violence towards children, in the form of corporal punishment and subservience to all forms of authority that promote ‘senior-bullying’ in training children into respectable members of society. On the heel of this mass delusion trails tragedies like Sylvester Oromoni’s and countless unnamed ones that fly easily under the radar.

It seems unthinkable that parents/guardians will pay good money to have their wards/children tortured – to death in rare cases, which is highly likely because they don’t. However, the questions that arise when a society is forced to contend with the ugly underbelly of its outward projection of perfection, as Nigeria is recently forced to contend with what could be the result of its complacency on violence against children, are many.

‘How did it get to this?’ leads the pack because the hope of countless who believe some unspoken rule will stay in the hands of violators at a merciful point that is just enough correction for an erring child is shattered. Overall, people agree that when emotions are high from a shared tragedy, this should be unacceptable. We may agree that there should be no room or loophole that allows violence against children. Hardly, however, is this discourse seen through a brand-consumer perspective.

The Question

A codependency arrangement, however tied, relies on a need-met basis. Parents need education institutions they can rely on to provide the education and support their wards/children require to flourish in society. These institutions provide that need, meaning both parties are entwined in this fulfilling exchange.

What happens when the provider of needful support, in this case, the brand, goes rogue and such a relationship births a tragedy?  To begin with, what guides the decision making that leads to parents choosing certain institutions above others where money is not a consideration? Do parents/guardians consider schools as brands to be engaged no different from a Sardine brand – indulged according to uncomplicated criteria like taste and affordability? 

Or do they only consider these institutions as brands to the extent that they can vouch for their ability to deliver based on the single story from a relative or family friend who has visited the institution and appears to be doing well for themselves? Would parents/guardians consider scandals like the one consuming Dowen College reason enough to write off an institution as a potential school to send their wards/children?

Above all, how much of the nightmare of violence against children bedevilling our society because parents/guardians allow it to happen because they sincerely believe it is for the good of their child/ward?

What The Streets Are Saying

If the numbers say nothing else, a staggering number of Nigerians are unsure about letting go of the belief that a bit of whipping here and there is essential to building a stable society. A Culture Intelligence from RED survey reveals that 61.2% of Nigerians, while swearing to have reservations against corporal punishment, think a little punishment never killed anyone. The rest swear by its efficacy, and the more, the better.

Yet, whether as a bit of irony or a sheer determination to keep things under wraps, 55.6% consider public scandals like that Dowen College enough reason to write off a school as a potential institution to send their wards/children – which does not portend finality for the others who participated in the study. 

Another 38.9% demand a say in what level of punishment is comfortable in their books, with a majority of that percentage at 61.1 explaining that they find conflict resolution involving a Parent and Teachers (PTA) meeting adequate. Yet institutions that go overboard persist because most Nigerians, and perhaps a decent majority of people the world over, consider these institutions as brands only to the extent they admit they have been in business for a while and no more.

Dowen College – a brand by every definition of the word – is in the news for alleged complicity in an alleged bullying incident that allegedly led to the death of the school’s pupil. The collective response of Nigeria demands justice, a thing hoped for.  In that collective, however, lies little recognition of the power that Nigerians, as consumers, wield to prevent a future recurrence of similar tragedies like Sylvester Oromoni.

A recognition that brands, whether they supply the soap we use to clean laundry or the education our wards/children require to become members of society, are only as invaluable as the contribution they make to make our lives better. Yet, the numbers, as they are, speak of the awakening of Nigerians to this truth. 55.6% is enough potential business loss to stir these institutions to action – at least the privately-run ones.

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