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The last 2 decades have seen a drop in the quality of education as well as the decay of basic infrastructure of the Federal Unity Schools in Nigeria. Queen's College, Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria, was established with only 95 female students on 10th October 1927, to bridge the gap in quality education for the "girlchild' . It rose to be the most prominent and prestigious all-female Secondary School in the country. It is now a shadow of its former self!
In the last 15 months, Queen's College has been embroiled in negative publicity and tragedy. The first quarter of 2016 saw allegations of sexual harassment of the under-aged students by a teacher, Mr. Olaseni Osifala. This was an unprecedented event; for in my years as a student in the school, not only were male teachers extremely rare, but they had no access to the students' accommodation.
Queen's College Old Girls’ Association attempted to have Mr. Olaseni Osifala indicted but the Committee set up at the time was frustrated and discouraged until the case was thrown out by the Federal Ministry of Education for lack of evidence and no further action was taken.
Instead of being properly investigated or at least transferred out of the school, Mr. Olaseni Osifala not only remained in the school, but has become bolder and stronger, as he has now become the Spokesman for an all-girl School! Amazingly, Parents and teachers were and are too cowered to speak out, because within months of the matter, the Federal Ministry of Education issued an order threatening expulsion for students whose parents went public with any further allegations against Unity schools or any of their staff.
The Queens College Old Girls' Association who took up the matter were then ordered to close up the Alumni Office in the school as a result of their vocal stance and were publicly accused by the School Principal, Dr. Lami Amodu, of ‘witch-hunting’. The Quit Notice was purportedly sent by the Federal Ministry of Education to all Federal Unity Schools. However, QCOGA is the only Association without an office in the school premises to oversee the projects donated and carried by the Old Girls globally: Projects ranging from the provision of a 500KVA generator, to Solar Panels for the Sickbay, to the repair of the boreholes and the construction of a state of the art Kitchen to mention a few.
During the sexual molestation issue, the QCOGA gained access to the living conditions of the students. Their findings were disturbing. A report, detailing the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions of the boarding houses, collated by credible Old Girls and urging for swift action to rectify the situation, was submitted to the Federal Ministry of Education, but was once again swept under the carpet…
Fast forward to February 2017, the first student passes on as a result of what has now been confirmed as typhoid. Within a space of a month, two more young students pass on as a result of the epidemic, with over 1,200 students in the school falling violently ill with re-occurring cases! These deaths could have been prevented if the school had been kept in pristine conditions and the allocated budget prudently spent on the welfare of the girls.
All these events happened under the supervision of the last two principals, Mrs. Osime (retired) and Dr. Lami Amodu, with the latter grossly downplaying the outbreak in the school and publicly stating that ‘an epidemic is only when 75% of students of the school fall ill’, so there was no epidemic in Queens College. The school's spokesman and Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olaseni Osifala stated that ‘climate change is the reason for the minor cases of cholera and malaria in the school and there was no epidemic’. These statements were issued when more than 1200 students had been presented at the school sickbay with the same symptoms.
Who is to be held culpable? As an Old Girl who is extremely proud of my Alma Mater; a mother who loves all children, biological and non-biological, I believe we send our children to learn in schools and do not expect to take them out in body bags.
Who should be held culpable? Who do we hold accountable for the corruption, reckless endangerment and criminal gross negligence of our girls? That is what this petition is about.
What this petition is about:
We are enjoining the Nigerian Federal Government to ensure the following:
A) The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education must be compelled to:
1. Set up an open and transparent selection and admission policy for all Unity schools and address the issue of oversubscribed and overcrowded schools with immediate effect.
2. Account for the disbursement of annual funds that were allocated to Queen's College and Unity Schools for staffing, feeding, maintenance and other expenses.
3. Refurbish the school and provide a clean and safe environment for the Students including clean water for all.
4. Close down the operation of all commercial activities within the school premises that pose a danger to the students' wellbeing.
B) The Ministry of Health is compelled to give an explanation of why the requisite regulated sampling and analysis of the school water was not carried out regularly as prescribed by Nigerian Law; and if it was found to have been carried out, what was done with the results or why did the results not reveal the dangerous levels of contamination in the water?
C) The Probe of the following personnel and immediate suspension of said personnel whist the enquiry is being carried out:
1. Mrs Osime (retired): For the cover up of sexual harassment in the school.
To explain the ownership of the private Water processing factory situated within the school premises.
To explain why such a business, which would allow strangers, especially adult men, free access, was given permission to exist within premises where thousands of young females reside in a boarding house.
2. Dr. Lami Amodu: For the cover up of the sexual harassment case in the school;
For the gross negligence and reckless endangerment of the health and welfare of the students entrusted in her care which has resulted in the death of three students and the acute ill-health of more than one thousand students
For the mismanagement of School funds which resulted in unsavory living conditions and inadequate provisions of basic amenities.
3. Mr. Olaseni Osifala: For the sexual harassment of several young female students spanning over a decade. For his removal from the school system as he poses a danger to the welfare of students.
As Maintenance officer, for the mismanagement of school funds, earmarked for the maintenance and upkeep of the school and its facilities.
For the cover up of the outbreak of an epidemic in the school.
We are seeking justice for the young lives that have been so prematurely ended. They cannot have died in vain. Unfortunately, they have paid the price to become the catalyst for change….
We want to ensure that all culpable parties are brought to justice.
We want to ensure that a preventable tragedy like this never occurs again in Queen's College or any Nigerian Government school.
May the souls of our young departed sisters and daughters rest in peace, Amen.
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