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Queen’s College is Facing a Public Health Emergency; it Should Remain Shut – Chidi Odinkalu

BellaNaija.com

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Chidi Odinkalu

Following the death of two students – Vivian Osainiyi and Bithia Itulua – of Queen’s College, Lagos, the state government, on Thursday, advised that the school should remain shut to enable a proper treatment of the its water system.

The Lagos state Commissioner of Health Dr Jide Idris, while briefing the media on Thursday, said that bacterial infection, spread through contaminated water, led to the deaths of the students.

Idris advised that the school should remain shut, adding that over a dozen students have been hospitalised, following the outbreak of the disease.

President-General of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) and former Chairman of Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Anselm Odinkalu has said that the school is in a public health emergency, adding that it is irresponsible to allow return of kids to the premises at this time.

He made this known in a statement on Saturday, read below:

The situation at Queens College (QC), Yaba, Lagos is now a public health emergency and addressing this urgently must preoccupy the attention of the school, public health authorities and the school community. Pending independent certification of the school as safe for human activity, it should remain closed. Temporary, alternative arrangements should be made for preparation of  students about to take their West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations. USOSA supports the advisory of the Lagos State Ministry of Health to postpone the planned re-opening of the school and is gratified that the new Management of QC has heeded this advice.

Investigations ordered by public health authorities at federal and state levels have disclosed a mortifying state of affairs at QC. Since the beginning of January 2017, over 1,222 QC students have been treated at the school’s clinic for abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. 16 students were admitted in various hospitals in the country, mostly in and around Lagos. Of this number, nine have reportedly been discharged; two have died, one is still in critical condition at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), having recently come out of coma. In the past 36 hours, another has been admitted into hospital.

Independent laboratory analyses have shown that the water sources in the school are contaminated by different forms of E-Coli and Salmonella, among other dangerous pathogens. 23 of 40 kitchen workers and food handlers have tested positive for Amoebiasis; another three reported positive for Salmonella and at least one is positive for Tape-Worm. The analysis also indicates that the boreholes that provide principal sources of water for the school are too shallow and too close in proximity to the sewage systems, to which the contamination has been traced. Hyper-chlorination, the envisaged short term solution, cannot and does not provide water that is fit for use. An extensive de-contamination effort is needed.

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.

USOSA mourns and condoles with the bereaved families. No parent should have to reclaim the body of a child sent to school in a body bag. We are hopeful that the children currently hospitalised will make full recovery. We offer our support to the present Management in returning QC to its historic place in Nigeria and commend the deep and determined sense of responsibility so far shown by the Queens College Old Girls Association (QCOGA) during this crisis.

The case for declaring a public health emergency in QC is very clear. Federal and State public health authorities should do so urgently and work together with the school authorities on an acceptable remedial plan, whose implementation should be independently verified. USOSA offers its networks to mobilise complementary support for this. Pending the implementation of such a plan, re-opening should be deferred. Consideration should be given also to suspending boarding facilities for the time being until an acceptable long term solution is found to the cause of this crisis.

The duty of looking after children in a learning environment is a sacred trust. This public health crisis at QC calls attention to the responsibility of everyone, especially school managements and education administrators, to uphold this trust at all times. As a result of clear failures in this case, young lives have been lost; many more have been endangered. In addition to the remedial measures needed to address the ongoing public health emergency, therefore, we believe that the gravity of the facts revealed warrant urgent and committed criminal investigations. Any persons found complicit or criminally negligent in bringing about this situation should be prosecuted and brought to account. This is the only way to ensure that this sad and tragic situation does not happen again.

9 Comments

  1. Pd

    March 18, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Is 1 even supposed to die??? Ounpe if u are crucified….phewwww

  2. Angry .com

    March 18, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I feel sooooo angry and bitter about this No parent should be confronted with this unavoidable tragedy.the principal and others in charge of catering should be arrested ..please I don’t blame people who send thier kids either private or abroad if I have money my kids must will go to

    • Someone Naughty

      March 20, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Avoidable you mean because this could have been avoided

  3. john

    March 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Around the same day, a Vice-Principalreportedly complained: “we are looking after 2,800students and we are beingcrucified because two die”. chei!!!! God why was I born in africa

  4. Allegra

    March 18, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    All those Queens Girls Alumnus with ‘money’ should put hands in the pocket and help their old school.
    Simple.$$$$

    We know Government are not going to do anything or if they do it will take a long time.

  5. Nelo

    March 18, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Very sad and preventable incident. The schools mgt were negligent. QC in the news again for the worst. But does QC not have a Parents Teachers Association? I went to a unity school in the 90s and remarkably when the then principal became negligent, the students rioted. It was scary, the school was shut down but it led to many resolutions including the exit of the prinCipal. The PTA came in to pay more attention to key issues particularly food (starvation was real with thieving kitchen staff). Parents please listen to ur kids when they complain about living conditions in boarding house.

    • Ada_ugo

      March 19, 2017 at 12:39 am

      For real, many people/parents just waive children’s concerns aside as “oh, that’s boarding school for you; you’ll survive!”, but unfortunately, some don’t

  6. Ada_ugo

    March 19, 2017 at 12:35 am

    Did the principal really say an epidemic is when 75% of people die? This is so disappointing on so many levels. By the time several, not to talk of a 100, or 200 then 300 people complained of abdominal pain, that should have raised serious alarm bells. Yet it’s now over 1,000 and someone is saying 75% of the people have not died. What does that even mean? And this is coming from the principal?

    • Uberhaute looks

      March 20, 2017 at 9:05 am

      The devilish vice principal and wicked principal should be tried and jailed for this careless and reckless talk.
      What a crazy society we are in!

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