The plague of moral decadence troubling the society is compelling some untoward actions aimed at redeeming the young folks from self-destruction. It is probably in a bid to ensure a high moral standard among her pupils that the Principal of Ajuwon High School, Ajuwon in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, Mrs. Olufunke Aladeojebi, took an unusual unilateral decision that has now earned her an indefinite suspension from the state government.
Aladeojebi, widely regarded as a strict disciplinarian, subjected some female students in her school to a virginity test, drawing the ire of their parents who reported the matter to the police for carrying out such a test without consulting them.
According to some of the affected students, the principal was said to have called in a nurse who, together with the principal, dipped their fingers into the students' organs to ascertain whether they are still virgins or not.
One of the students explained that of the about 300 female students in SSS1, 38 of them who are still virgins were marched into the principal's office for the test.
She said: "They subsequently divided us into three groups of 10, 15 and 13 and I was in the second group. The principal later addressed us and threatened that any student who fails the test would have her name written in the school's black book and would be suspended.
"When my class captain emerged from the room, I asked her why was everyone that came out of the office looking depressed? I was held spellbound when she told me that the principal and the nurse dipped their fingers, in turns, into their private parts, adding that she had started bleeding as a result of the penetration.
"Two of my friends who had similar experiences burst into tears as they narrated what happened."
The state government yesterday announced her suspension over the incident, after a panel set up to investigate the matter turned in a preliminary report and verdict that the principal had no right to conduct such a test on her students.
The state Commissioner for Education, Mr. Segun Odubela, said the ministry had interrogated the principal to give her fair hearing, adding that a five-man panel consisting of officials of both the ministry and Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) has been set up to further investigate the case and make appropriate recommendations on how to deal with the matter.
Commenting on what further action that could be taken against the principal, Odubela said the panel has 14 days to submit its report, noting that "the government is always concerned about the welfare and interest of the students and therefore will not tolerate any act that will compromise their fundamental rights or jeopardise their future".
He added: "We equally believe in the need to maintain discipline in our schools and to follow due process in the handling of this particular case. We appeal to the parents of the students involved to be patient and allow us to handle the case as dictated by the law of the land and service rules."
His counterpart in the Ministry of Information, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the government would follow due process in handling the matter.
A sexual abuse expert, Mrs. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, condemned the principal's action, saying: "It's inappropriate to subject pupils to a virginity test. It's a barbaric act that should not be tolerated or accepted. A broken hymen is no longer medically proven as evidence of sexual activities.
"I don't know what law exists in Ogun State in this regard, but if it happens in Lagos State, she would be sued. She actually overstepped her bounds. The pupils were molested. It is simply an abuse."
Olufemi-Kayode said: "Virginity test is a growing phenomenon in sexual abuse. Statistics from the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) shows that over 25 per cent of adolescents in Nigeria have had their first sexual intercourse by age 15."
Another NGO, Child Protection Network (CPN), in Abeokuta, described the issue of conducting virginity test on students as wrong.
Its state Coordinator, Mrs. Olapeju Osoba, said: "I don't see a situation whereby a principal will check whether a child is a virgin or not. I do not think any principal has a professional capacity to do that kind of test.
"I don't think I will ever give my consent for anybody in that capacity to conduct a test on my child because that person is invading the privacy of that child, it is not acceptable, I won't accept it."
Speaking on the implication of such a test, she said there were emotional implications, adding: "children are psychologically traumatised".
She further explained that such children would need to undergo some therapy to overcome the trauma.
On the possible effect of the test on the students, a psychologist, Mr. Olawale Meduoye, said: "Pupils subjected to violation in this manner find it hard to cope in life. They live with the experience for the rest of their lives."
The uproar over the virginity test is coming seven years after the virginity-test-for-scholarship scandal that rocked the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In September 2005, the PDP in Leguru ward, Ibefun, Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State, had announced a virginity test for female applicants as a pre-condition for scholarship awards. The Secretary of Leguru ward, Major Ferdinand Keku (rtd.), who was Special Adviser on Legislative Matters to the former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel, had said no fewer than 100 girls in the nine wards in the local government would undergo the test in order to "encourage our young ladies to avoid pre-marital sex".
In 1999, Turkey, where forced gynaecological examinations in schools were common, rescinded a controversial law authorising schools to conduct a virginity test on high school female students suspected of having premarital sex, when five girls attempted suicide rather than submit to the test.