No fewer than 1,000 pupils of Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos, have been taken home by their parents after the outbreak of what is suspected to be an infection.
“It is over 1,000 (pupils) now as we speak. See, I cannot talk about what I don’t know. What you have in your palm, you don’t need a mirror to look at it,” the Chairman of the Parents Teacher Association, John Ofobike, told our correspondent on Monday.
The PUNCH learnt that the pupils started falling sick after resuming about two weeks ago.
The school’s sickbay was said to be crowded with pupils, as many were also laid on benches to create extensions.
About two years ago, three pupils of the school died from water-borne infections, which drew outrage from many Nigerians who called for investigation into the crisis.
A parent, who drew the attention of our correspondent to the current situation on Monday, said, “They resumed about two weeks ago. Since they returned to school, the children had been taking exit permit. As of this morning (Monday), 700 pupils have gone home on exit permit. Yesterday (Sunday), the school’s PTA executives went to meet the principal of the school and asked to see the sickbay.
“On getting there, they saw girls on beds; everybody was alarmed. They demanded to see the list of those who had taken permission to leave the school on health grounds. The principal refused to make the records available. Most of those going home were having what has been discovered to have typhoid symptoms. There is an epidemic, but the school is trying to cover it up.”
Another parent, who asked not to be identified, alleged that the school was not fumigated before the pupils resumed.
Our correspondent demanded to know the nature of her daughter’s illness after the victim was taken to the hospital and she said the girl was diagnosed with typhoid and high fever.
The girl, who also spoke to The PUNCH, said although she could not tell the number of her colleagues that had gone home, some of them were affected.
“But I am getting better now,” she said.
The PUNCH obtained screenshots from a forum of parents of the school, where they narrated their experiences after visiting to take their children home.
One of them, who confirmed the 700 figure, said the school principal denied the PTA access to the records.
“The ministry is already in the know of the situation and the figures, nothing to hide. The parents we met there narrated how they have spent their hard-earned money on what doctors described as bacterial infections from food and water,” she said.
Another parent, who claimed to be a public health specialist, said he was called to the sickbay that his daughter was not feeling well.
A parent said as she typed, there were over 40 students at the sickbay.
She said, “My daughter came home with high fever and difficulty in breathing since last week Tuesday as the 95th child. Now 700?”
A parent said if any of the pupils died, they would resort to litigation.
A man on the platform said the reason the parents were being asked to pick their children was because of acute shortage of medical personnel.
“Only one doctor and a nurse attending to over 200 pupils is not ideal. As of 4.30pm when I was there, the doctor, nurse and record woman have yet to have their breakfast due to the workload. They have seen more than 150 students today.”
A parent, who disagreed with the excuse that the rainfall on Saturday was responsible for the illness, pointed out that more of the junior pupils who checked in on Sunday were ill.
A woman shared a photo of the water tank of the school, which she said was just being washed.
The spokesperson for the Parent Teacher Association, Ify Obi-Nwoye, said the federal ministry and the Lagos State Ministry of Health had gone to the school and taken samples of the food in the school.
“A nurse in the school had told me when this thing started that it was better we close down so that students would go for comprehensive tests. I reported it on the platform and the principal immediately queried the nurse. She also threatened those on duty. Everywhere is tense,” Obi-Nwoye said.
The Chairman of the Parent Teacher Association, John Ofobike, said as of 7pm on Monday, 1,000 pupils had left on health grounds.
He said, “I went there yesterday (Sunday) and I saw the pupils that left were over 900 within the space of one week and the information is being hidden from me by the principal.
“I asked her and she said why should they show me the record of the pupils and I said I am the PTA chairman.
“If you go to the school, you will see students lying down. Some had no one to pick them. I saw a girl there; she had been there since Friday. I called her parents, but they could not be reached. I don’t know why people are playing politics with the lives of children. People are only interested in profits.”
The school principal, Dr Yakubu Oyinloye, could not be reached on the telephone and she had yet to respond to a text message from our correspondent as of press time.
However, a former President of the Old Girls Association of the school, Prof. Frances Ajose, said a group in the PTA was ganging up against the principal, adding that some of the parents also had personal interest.
The current president was said to be out of the country.
Ajose explained that there was no typhoid infection in the school.
“A group in the PTA is only tormenting the principal for personal gain. The principal is a very hard-working and efficient person. She has been running the school well.
“What is happening in Queen’s College is an upper respiratory tract infection, which is raging right now all over Lagos due to the weather. It is not peculiar to Queen’s College. The infection arose from the overcrowding in the dormitory, a problem we have been crying about as old girls,” she said.
Ajose said the incident could not be compared to what took the lives of three pupils two years ago.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Goong, did not take his calls and had yet to respond to a text message seeking his reaction to the incident.