A clear danger to girl-child education and public morality was recently identified in Lagos. The culture of female sexual molestation and outright rape, which has been on the rise in the country in recent times, has been reported to have taken root in some Lagos secondary schools, especially those on the Island.

This troubling development hit the state in bold relief some days ago as two male students of Ireti Grammar School, in what has been described in some quarters as a secondary school graduation ritual, chased two female students of Falomo Senior High School to the back of an office, and attempted to rape them in broad daylight.

The sad incident, which took place after the students completed their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), was in the full glare of other excited students who cheered the aspiring rapists on, and even prepared to take pictures with their phones, as the errant boys cut one of the girls’ skirts with a pair of scissors and climbed on her.

But for the quick intervention of a brave, public-spirited worker in a nearby office who saw what was going on, and pulled the boy off the girl, the girl would have suffered a most ignoble violation of her body, in full public glare! This most despicable, end-of-school tradition is said to have been going on in some schools for as long as many can recall.

We strongly condemn this bestial, end-of-examinations ritual. It is a reprehensible practice that should not even be mentioned in any decent society.

We commend the worker who stopped the rape and alerted the public to the incident on social media. A number of female students were also reported to have admitted being raped by fellow students in similar circumstances.

We commend the Lagos authorities and the police for arresting and charging the male students involved in this incident to court. It is important that the incident is thoroughly investigated, and the offenders brought to justice, if they are found guilty of this allegation.

It has, however, become pertinent to ask the following questions: What, for instance, has happened to our public morality and what is the fate of our nation in the hands of misguided youngsters who are the future of the nation? Where have the school authorities and officials of the state Ministry of Education been? Where are the parents of these child perverts? And indeed, where are our police and other security agencies? It is unbelievable that schoolgirls are being raped with impunity at the nation’s famed “Centre of Excellence”.

What the two male students who have since been charged to court attempted to commit is rape, and the law is very clear on this. Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act (Cap. 77. LFN. 1990) provides that “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.” And the penalty is life imprisonment, which normally amounts to 14 years in jail without the option of a fine. With rape cases too, once the alleged culprit has attained the age of 12 years, such is deemed legally liable.

As has been the case particularly in many societies, it is possible that the dastardly tradition has subsisted because rape is often not reported enough because of the stigma usually associated with it. Many victims would rather keep quiet and suffer in silence than admit to anyone that they have been victims. This attitude is changing for the better and must, indeed, change. Rape is an affront to the victim and the society at large. It must be promptly reported and dealt with in any society that desires progress and wholesome development.

This is why the state authorities must go the extra mile to make this incident a test-case for the campaign against rape in the state and the country at large. This should be with a view to conveying the message that such impunity would not be tolerated, especially among our youth who are the future of the country. The schools where this kind of infraction has been going on for years without it being reported must also answer for it. The school authorities, all considered, cannot absolve themselves of complacency and duplicitous acquiescence on this matter.

There is a reason they were put in authority over those schools and they cannot in good conscience abdicate that responsibility.

If they had promptly discharged their responsibility by reporting to the police and their supervisors in the Ministry of Education the very first time incidents of this nature occurred, the criminal tradition could have been nipped in the bud.

Even now, it will be necessary to know what they did about reported incidents, including the latest one. This latest incident signposts a total breakdown of law and order, and the moral failings of the society. There is no mediation for this, and the matter must be taken up with all the seriousness that it deserves.

We also need to ask what happened to wholesome education and extra-curricular activities in our schools? Gone appear to be the days when secondary school students took great pride in belonging to debating and literary clubs, Man-o-War, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and the like. Nowadays, cultism, terror and rape gangs and such other anti-social groups are on the rise among our youths. Everything that is necessary should be done to stop these untoward activities and bring our youths back on the right track.