SCHOOL THUGGERY THREATENS STATE SECURITY

By Allieu Sahid Tunkara
Model Junction along Circular Road in central Freetown, once a peaceful environment, has relegated to a notorious flashpoint for frequent clashes between pupils and security operatives.
It is usual scenery for the army and the police with canes in their hands to chase pupils out of the main street owing to riotous and disorderly behaviour.
Model Junction saw one of the worst forms of violence disrupting the calm and serene atmosphere at Circular Road by irate pupils from various secondary schools singing songs and chanting slogans of violence.
Apparently, the situation appeared as if the pupils were returning home after a football match.
As they passed by along Circular Road, the violent pupils brandished sticks and other offensive weapons at peaceful members of the public.
Undoubtedly, panic and fear overcame them, and most, if not all, dashed for safe havens.
In such situations, teachers and other school authorities are completely helpless in the face of such lawlessness as they too are at the mercy of the pupils.
As no one seemed to be in control during the violence, shops were closed down, internet café shut down, houses locked up to forestall looting by pupils.
Correspondingly, petty traders and roadside vendors fled for their safety, commuters took to their heels, and mothers restrained their little children from venturing the streets; men and women rushed into their parlours and bedrooms to escape the impending danger.
Despite these stampedes being the product of the danger posed, some members of the public are unwary and clueless, and thus fell victim to the pupil’s raid.
As violence boomerangs, mobile phones, laptop computers and other properties running into millions of Leones were carted away, missiles were thrown at dwelling houses, and vehicles partially damaged thus occasioning huge financial losses to the owners.
Mabinty Sesay is a petty trader at Model Junction dealing in assorted goods including rose apples. She was a victim of the violence that erupted on the fateful day.
Mabinty told Nightwatch that she was busy attending to customers when she heard frightening noise on the street that made her panic-stricken.
‘’ I watched around, and saw the pupils approaching in a rowdy manner. I immediately ran away leaving my business behind,’’ she recounted.
Mabinty further explained to this medium that most times, the pupils’ brutal actions go unchecked as none would be humbled in a court of law.
‘’I ran away when I saw the pupils because I know the danger they usually pose to us {petty traders} as they often destroy our goods and even injure us, but nothing comes out of it,’’ Mabinty lamented.
After normalcy had been restored, Mabinty continued, she could not quantify with exactitude, the financial loss she incurred on that day.
‘’I could not tell the exact money I lost on that day as a result of the pupils’ violence. The authorities must do something about it,” Mabinty appealed.
Another victim, Abdul Kamara is a first year student at Fourah Bay College. Kamara told Nightwatch that he was returning home having attended the day’s lectures when he found himself trapped in the midst of an ensuing violence by the pupils.
He was brutally attacked, but resisted. However, he sustained some minor injuries, and his computer laptop valued Le2.5M partially damaged.
‘’I keep my notes, books and other academic materials in the laptop. The damage done to my computer has made me lose all those materials. Indeed, I have been taken backwards,’’ Kamara too lamented.
Adding weight to the victims’ account are the exchanges between passengers in a mini bus vehicle that plies the Lumley and Regent Road in Freetown.
The driver narrowly escaped the pupils’ brutality after some altercations between the conductor and four pupils.
They were in a bitter row when the driver saw another group of pupils approaching ready to aid their colleagues to damage the driver’s vehicle. In such a riotous situation, the driver had no alternative, but to flee the scene.
The narrow escape became a hot topic of discussion among passengers in the vehicle. Some passengers argued for the use of lethal force against the pupils as a means of restraining them from such violence, but others are opposed to such force.
One of the passengers, a lady, argued that the school authorities should take charge of giving out discipline to the pupils devoid of use police weapons.
She was quite hopeful that the pupils would change for the better when they come of age.
Another passenger who identified his name as Sullaiman Kamara, countered such argument on the basis of the destruction of properties and the threat to life posed by the pupils.
These worrying trends, he said, were enough to warrant the use of police weapons.
Kamara alluded to their own days then to compare their own actions to pupils now. He said they would go on strike actions only when they had a just cause to uphold.
‘’ In our own days, we used to go on strike actions in respect of any issue that pertained to our welfare. When that was settled by the authorities, we got back to hostels.
We did not target people’s properties for stealing,’’ Kamara explained. ‘’ Now is the reverse as most of the pupils are thieves. They steal people’s properties and wreaked havoc on the community,’’ he added.
He expressed worries about what the future holds for the pupils should they be allowed to grow in this ‘Bronx culture.’
Whenever pupils embark on such violence, as usual, police would respond with the firing of teargas canisters, use of truncheons, handcuffs and other restraining means to stop the violence.
This restraint effort by the police would last for several hours as the pupils usually put up the stiffest resistance.
They engage the police in running battles by pelting stones as well as throwing other forms of missiles at them.
These periods of violence are indeed critical situations for the police considering the human rights standards the country has achieved and maintained.
Situations of such lawlessness and disorder stretch police resources thus warranting the army to come in under the Military Aid to Civil Power {MACP} to provide the required back-up to police effort.
One of the key MACP principles are that military take over from the police would be necessitated only when there is apparent lack of police capacity to handle the riot.
Again stopping the pupils from perpetration of violence is a hard nut to crack for the combined forces of law and order.
Their security operations would yield the much desired dividends within the context of restoring security only when lives and properties would have been put at stake.
The delayed security dividend is not unconnected to the restraint placed on the security operatives under the ‘principle of proportionality.’
The principle means the force applied by the security forces should be equal in degree to the threat posed by the pupils.
In short, no more force than is necessary shall be applied by the forces of law in order while battling with the pupils.
The principle is highly cherished in the domains of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
It thus behoves states to regulate their security forces to be compliant with the principle as any deviation would lead to terrible consequences.
Consequently, most of the pupils are fully aware of this principle which they capitalise on to wreak the mot havoc on society.
Today, the streets are no longer safe and prominent eye-brows are constantly raised on the conduct of pupils.
This piece calls on authorities to act and the time is now. Otherwise school thuggery would constitute one of the greatest elements of disorder in the evolution of the state of Sierra Leone.

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