When Queens Turn Peasants

Photo: Today.ng

“At Queens, we are classy. We are excellent in all we do, we are the best, Queens College leads, others follow”- Mantra

The above mantra represents all of what Queens College, Lagos is not right now. This assertion is not up for a debate. There is nothing remotely classy about the news that over a thousand students fell ill due to water contamination, and certainly nothing excellent about three pupils losing their lives as an aftermath of this illness. Queens College, like many other erstwhile prestigious institutions of learning in Nigeria appears to have gone to the dogs. It’s another painful failure of the educational system in Nigeria, and by extension the Nigerian State.

What started as a warning bell of sorts back in January when the first case of ill health was recorded at the school has metastasized into a full blown epidemic that saw over a dozen students hospitalized.  Ultimately culminating in the death of three students; with the latest casualty bowing to death only last Thursday. Like many other unfortunate incidents in Nigeria, this was a situation that could have been avoided; and therein lies all the frustration and bewilderment for any right thinking person.

First of all, like any other controversy that erupts in this part of the world (from the mundane to the critical), there’s always an attempt to politicize issues even when the source of the problem is glaring. While the Lagos State Government had recommended that the school be shut so the source of the health crisis can be detected and tackled adequately before students are let back in, the federal government had maintained that the school be opened even though it ordered an investigation into the crisis. Naturally, the orders of the government at the center superseded that of the State government at the time because Queens College is owned by the former.

However, it’s hard not to question the wisdom in allowing pupils stay in an environment that is clearly unsafe for them. The argument that junior and senior secondary school students in their final year had to sit for their exams, and therefore, had to be in school for that period does not hold water. The issue at hand is clearly a matter of life and death. At the time the school was shut down, two students had already lost their lives. One doesn’t need the Albert Einstein kind of intelligence to conclude that a thorough investigation into the cause of the tragedy needed to be carried out, and the problem solved without leaving anything to chance before allowing any student (boarders in particular) into the school premises.

The former principal of the school who was transferred in the middle of all the controversy was reported to have denied the health crisis. Choosing rather to stick to the notion that some people somewhere are bent on bringing the institution which has plenty of rich history behind it to disrepute for some hazy reason. A crisis of this magnitude occurs under the watch of a principal, several vice-principals and administrative staff, yet, someone came up with the “novel idea” that it was the right decision to transfer the one person who should be telling Nigerians how the school she was mandated to take to greater heights degenerated into the sorry state it currently is in to another school.

It would be recalled that it was during the same principal’s tenure that a male teacher who was accused of molesting some pupils of the school. Again, the issue was swept under the carpet at the end of the day, as the barest minimum was done to see the case to a logical conclusion. For an institution that has been in existence for almost nine decades and was once the poster college for what inexpensive and quality education should represent, the situation of things at Queens College is utterly disgraceful. For a school that has groomed a long line of illustrious citizens of the country such as Professor Grace Alele-Williams, Professor Elebute, Dr Doyin Abiola, and many other high achieving women in Nigeria, the unwholesome developments that have plagued the school in recent times leaves plenty to be desired.

There have been allegations of embezzlement and corruption leveled against the administration of Queens College, with some members of the Parent-Teacher Association maintaining that the school is stuck in the stranglehold of a cabal that is responsible for the rapidly disappearing prestige the eighty nine year old has painstakingly built.

Nevertheless, in all of these, what has remained a mystery is why there has been no word from the Ministry of Education regarding the matter. It’s rather baffling that Mallam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education has been silent in a matter that is directly under his watch. What are the Parent-Teacher Association, the Old Girls Association, the college’s alumni association, the Senate committee on education and other concerned bodies doing to put an end to this ugly development? Why is there relative silence when there should be plenty of noise from different quarters?

At the top of Queen’s College’s core values reads “Excellence.” Pray tell what’s excellent about discovering bacteria in the water our leaders of tomorrow consume? Where’s the excellence in the nauseating news that a male teacher has been in the habit of sexually harassing his students?

It’s bad enough that it’s almost certain that the generation of the baby boomers have failed the Generation X and Y. To extend this unwelcome burden to the Millennials and Generation Z is a nightmare that must not be allowed to manifest in reality.

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