Tuesday, March 21, 2017 3:50 pm
By Grace Essen
“Choosing the right school for your child is of utmost importance to many parents. A child needs to develop in a right environment, get the right set of skills, not only mentally, but also physically and socially, The College offers you this and more…” This is an excerpt from the welcome page of Queen’s College Lagos, which from recent events doesn’t seem to be the case, instead what parents have experienced is nothing but pain, anguish and irreparable losses.
I don’t need to have a child in Queen’s College to feel the pain of fellow mums who are either battling to save the lives of their children, or worried sick about their children’s West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations (for those alive and well), and another set grappling with the loss of their daughters. One of the bereaved mums was reported to have said, of the three daughters she sent to Queen’s College, only two came back home alive. It is particularly painful when you lose a child in circumstances believed to be clearly avoidable. She believes her daughter, Bithia died due to carelessness on the part of the school authorities.
Bithia is the second student to die after Vivian Osuinyi, who also took ill in the circumstances linked to contaminated water in the college. Meanwhile, two other girls of the Queen’s College are said to be on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) where they are being treated, with both, according to their parents, in critical condition.
According to Vanguard News, a JSS 3 student of Queen’s College and Bithia’s friend said that contrary to a report that the spaghetti meal the students ate led to the stooling and vomiting among the students, the real cause was that the water used in cooking their meals was contaminated. The tank was rarely washed and the water not treated. She said their feeding habit was very bad. The dining room was most of the time dirty and they were sometimes fed with unwashed plates and utensils.
Statements by Mr. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, President-General of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) and former Chairman of Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), says a lot about the attitude of the management of the college:
“Despite clear evidence of a crisis, the Management of the school at the time failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard the children or call in assistance. Instead, they appeared bent on concealing the facts and denying reality. When parents cried out, the then Principal appeared around 23 February to blame the situation on “enemies of the school”, denying that “there is no epidemic, epidemic is when three-quarters of the population has died”. Around the same day, a Vice-Principal reportedly complained: “we are looking after 2,800 students and we are being crucified because two die”. From various levels of the Management of QC then, there was clear evidence of reckless disregard for the young lives in their care or worse.”
If the former Principal and Vice-principal of the college indeed made such comments following the death of two students under their watch, it means the lives of the girls were worth nothing to them, and to think they could be mothers too?!
All the girls needed was just a safe environment – clean water and proper hygiene. Is that too much to ask for? If all the Principal got for this level of negligence is just a ‘transfer’ to another unity school, that only mirrors the larger society where no one ever takes responsibility for their failure. Do the students in the new school deserve this kind of attitude and approach to issues?
As parents we often waive off our children’s complains, “Well, that’s boarding school for you; you’ll survive!” Unfortunately, some don’t. We need to listen more to our children and follow through on issues that require attention, after all that’s what Parents Teachers Association is about. Isn’t it? *Sigh.
Grace Essen is an author, speaker and host of Super Mum Makeover workshop. Check out Grace’s blog @Mum2MumAfrica.com You may reach Grace on 08061367203, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @GraceEssen, find her on Facebook.