I laughed as little Success Adegor ranted about preferring to be flogged instead of being sent home from school for owing fees.
I laughed so hard and loud. But Ms. Adegor’s story wasn’t funny. We really shouldn’t be laughing. I shouldn’t have laughed. I was stupid for laughing. I am sorry for laughing.
“No be say I no go pay o. Dem go dey pursue person. Instead of them to flog person, dem go dey pursue person. Dem go flog me, the cane e go taya…dey go taya for flogging. As dem say dem stubborn, I tell dem say I stubborn pass dem…”, seven-year-old Adegor said in that flawless, sonorous pidgin that is the trademark of the good people of Delta State, south of Nigeria.
She preferred to be flogged mercilessly by her teachers instead of being chased from her classroom because she hadn’t paid school fees, Adegor said, furious and ballsy all at once.
“As dem say dem stubborn, I tell them say I stubborn pass them”, she muttered again and again as she trudged home.
Adegor’s video immediately caught fire. Before long, celebrities and well-meaning Nigerians were queuing to pledge their financial support for her, Delta State government officials showed up in Ms. Adegor’s home with wads of cash and scholarship promises; and the Headmistress of Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1, Sapele, Mrs. Vero Igbigwe, was suspended by the Delta State government for imposing “illegal examination” fees on pupils.
Adegor’s candid take in that 29-second clip has turned her into a meme and viral sensation; and her school fees will probably be paid by state governments and benevolent Nigerians until she graduates from university. Such has become her luck.
However, there are millions of school kids across Nigeria who are still going through Adegor’s ordeal—who will still go through Adegor’s ordeal in a few years hence. These kids are not on Instagram.
There are millions of kids across Nigeria who, like Adegor, attend ‘pako’ (ramshackle) primary and secondary schools and who receive lectures under mango and orange trees.
Adegor’s Sapele school is a dilapidated, dingy, unkempt affair. The ceilings no longer exist and the walls are dank and dark from worn out paint.
Across Nigeria’s chaotic roads are millions of children of school age who have been forced into a life of hawking on the streets to fend for themselves and sometimes, for their families.
Adegor’s story is therefore a metaphor for the current state of children across Nigeria. Her 29-second video clip should therefore be seen, not as another comedy offering, but as a sad reminder of how our nation continues to imperil the future of its youth and kids.
Education should be free for kids Adegor’s age. Or affordable at least. But there she was, hitting the streets after she was chased from school, because her parents couldn’t pay the exam fees…Guess how much the exam levy was? N900.
“Dem go flog, flog, flog, dem go taya for flogging….”
The solution for the Adegors doesn't lie in handouts and sporadic acts of benevolence, because really, there's only so much benevolent individuals can do. The solution lies in fixing Nigeria’s broken system. The same system that has crippled the education sector. The same system that has killed the economy and made parents unable to afford N900. If Adegor taught us anything this year, it is that leadership has failed Nigeria.
Adegor's dream is to become a lawyer someday. With the groundswell of support now being channeled her way, she could well turn out one. However, months from now, when her school clip no longer generates massive views on social media, the least Nigeria is expected to have done is begin the implementation of a plan that makes the system work for every child.
Otherwise, this our economy would finally collapse on all fours. Because we would have "flogged, flogged the economy with our own poor choices...the Naira sef e go taya.."