While public and private primary and secondary schools have resumed for the 2017 third term session, Queens College is still shut down due to controversy surroundingdeaths of some students who were said to have contacted a water-borne disease. The outbreak was reported to have affected a total of 1,222 students between January 11 and February 15, 2017, leading to three deaths.
As rigorous innovation is ongoing at the college, investigation has shown that for the school to return to its formal glory, it would need to install 500 feet industrial borehole, water treatment plant and employ more staff to adequately cater for the entire student population of about 3,200 living in the boarding school.
LEADERSHIP learnt that about N16 million is needed to install a 500 feet industrial borehole, water treatment plant and the replacement of the multiple contaminated water sources in the school premises. An estimation of N4 million is also needed for the salaries of additional 30 staff in the Kitchen, 38 cleaning staff, four nurses in the Clinic, three drivers, 45 qualified Teachers for the School Academics and four PTA Secretariat staff every month.
Due to the number of students who lost their lives due to the outbreak of Cholera in the school increases each day, Stakeholders in the health sector are insisting that until all these are in place, Queen’s College should remain shut down. They however called on the federal government to intervene.
Chairman, PTA, Queens College, Mr John Ofobike in an interview with LEADERSHIP urged the federal government to quickly wade in to ensure the students do not miss out the upcoming term.
Narrating what led to the disease outbreak in the school, Ofobike said as at the time he came on board as PTA Chairman in October 2016, there was shortage of staff in two key areas of the School, the Kitchen and the Cleaning Department.
His words, “Before now, there were just six government funded staff working in the kitchen to cook for about 3,200 students living in the boarding house every day. The PTA had to intervene by supporting the school with about 30 staff in the Kitchen, 38 cleaning staff, four nurses in the Clinic, three drivers, 45 qualified Teachers for the School Academics and four PTA Secretariat staff.
“Recently, all except the Teachers and drivers were laid off because the PTA Committee could no longer pay for their services. The PTA purse was lean and that was when the students started falling sick, he added.
He however appealed to the federal government to take total control of the maintenance of the college, by maintaining the facilities quarterly and ensure that all facilities are in place and in good condition.
“The federal government also needs to create more facilities because the population of the school has equally increased and there is need for more staff to be employed. Also, water has been a major issue in the school. They should come and give us an industrial borehole with modern treatment plant. When all these are in place, the issue of water an diarrhea will be a thing of the past,” he added.
One of the parents who pleaded anonymity said “it so unfortunate that the college has a big water company called ‘Queens Delight’ within the school premises, yet they could not provide potable drinking water for the students. The college’s laboratories, kitchen area so dirty, there is no water in the toilets, and students complain they normally see hairs in their food. This has to be critically addressed.
Another parent who expressed displeasure at the manner government treated the allegations of “Cholera outbreak” in the school, said, “We have been monitoring media reports on the issue and we are still surprised that till now, except for what we pick here and there from among parents, there has not been a public statement by either Federal Ministry of Education or even Lagos State Ministry of Health which we are told is investigating the problems in the school.”
In his reaction, a director Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Jonathan Nbaka, said,“When the issue came to limelight, the principal denied the case that nothing happened. And after we deployed another principal, it was revealed that the school was in crisis.
“The challenge we had was that the staff of the school were not fully cooperating, so we couldn’t get the facts as expected. I can inform you that I have visited the school over three times.”
He said, “ there was little lapse on the report filed by the Education Quality Assurance team sent prior to the outbreak, the report was submitted to the Director of that ministry. But the director didn’t pass the report to other departments in the ministry for appropriate action.
“Unfortunately, it was this week that I was able to lay my hands on that report. It is a little lapse on our part. But it is procedural issue and when procedures have existed too long, to change it becomes an issue.”
Nbaka however assured that the federal government is doing all it can to resolve the situation.
Meanwhile, the Lagos state commissioner for health, DrJideIdris said the school cannot be reopened because the water delivery points still poses concern with regards to safety and portability.
Idris said, “To be specific, water samples from the delivery points to Junior and Senior students hostels conform to official specifications, while there is need for additional decontamination of the reticulation to the kitchen and the sick bay.”
The commissioner explained that because of the polymicrobial nature of the occurrence, continuous screening, follow up and monitoring will needed for all students and staff of the school.
He directed all proprietors of schools to ensure adequate environmental sanitation and hygiene, provision of safe water and appropriate refuse disposal within the school premises.
Idris also stressed that all kitchen staff and school food vendors should undergo food handlers test’s biannually as well as continuous monitoring of water and sewage treatment plants.
He said the school authority in collaboration with Parents Teachers Association, Old Girls Association and the Federal Ministry of Education;will speedily addressing identified areas of lapses.
He listed the identified areas of intervention to include, decommissioning of the multiple contaminated water sources, deployment of a single water source with water treatment, renovation of the dining hall, decontamination of the hostels, overhauling of the sewage system and clearance of the septic tanks.
The school Principal, Mrs. Abiola Aare said provision has been made to ensure that junior and seniorStudents seat for their ongoing WAEC examination.
Aare said the senior students presently come from homes and that inspection team is in place to check the water and food that they come into the school with.