On Monday, the Senate Joint Committee on Basic Education and Health began public inquiry into the living conditions of Queens College students and the death of three secondary school students in the college last year.
As stakeholders in the educational sector, including members of the civil society, presented memorandum during the public hearing at the Senate, emotions rose as the rot in the educational sector, particularly at Federal Government owned unity schools, dominated that the presentations.
Earlier in his remark, the joint Committee chairman, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, noted, like many other stakeholders, that it was obvious that over population in the college and long term infrastructural decay lead to the avoidable deaths of the three school girls.
He noted that the Public Hearing was part of efforts to unravel the truth about the cause of the deaths in order to avert a reoccurrence, emphasising that the exercise was not vindictive.
Declaring the event open, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, represented by the Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye urged the Committee to proffer ways to revamp the Nigerian educational sector “for further legislative action”.
Revealing the rot she inherited at the College and efforts made to salvage the situation, the former Principal of the college, Dr. Mrs Lami Amodu observed that on assumption of duty at the college she quickly assessed the situation and drew up a “shopping list” containing urgently needed items and rehabilitation of the decayed infrastructure she inherited.
According to her, the shopping list was shared with relevant stakeholders, including the old girls of the college and the ministry of education.
She also recalled how she formally informed the Federal Ministry of Education on the level of decay of the facilities in the college shortly after her deployment to the school.
However, Mrs Amodu alleged that her efforts to ensure a paradigm shift in the administration of the college resulted in a rift with some old girls.
Following the deaths, which she noted took place while the school was on vacation, she insisted that some persons began a campaign of calumny against her, by sponsoring propaganda with the aim of indicting her in the media.
When asked by a member of the Committee, Senator Theodore Orji, if she suspected a conspiracy against her, Mrs Amodu told the Senate Committee pointedly that the old girls leadership took advantage of her being a civil servant, who could not reply them in the media, to sponsor propaganda against her in what she described as a “a vendetta agenda” by some old girls of the college.
The former Principal lamented that “Rather than come together to fashion out ways of avoiding a reccurrence of this ugly incident that happened in Queen’s College, unfortunately, soon after I left, it is saddening that some people found it very convenient to politicise the unfortunate death of these innocent children by suggesting through various sponsored publications that I am responsible for the deaths of the children.
“This is not only cruel and malicious but it shows the extent of the organised conspiracy and gang-ups”, Mrs Amodu said, insisting that no death was recorded in the school after the vomiting incident that earlier occurred before their Inter-house sports as none of the unfortunate deaths happened while the school was in session.
She insisted that prior to the vomiting incident, some old girls of the school had forced their way into the kitchen area of the school and she suspected a fowl play.
The President of the old girls Prof. Funmi Ajose, who admitted that the old girls were at the college, claimed they were there to inspect facilities in the school.
A former Principal of Kings College, Lagos, Mr. Sylvester Onoja observed that from his personal experience, old boy and girls in the unity schools were known to resist positive change. He recalled how some old boys ganged up against him to frustrate him while in Kings college, urging the government to ensure improvement to check over population in the unity colleges.
“In most cases when directors are posted to schools that is not their place of origin they face challenges of acceptability”, Mr Onoja said, adding that in a lot of cases PTA and Old students association try to control school administrators. He disclosed that there have been a long decay of infrastructure in schools.
The Minority Leader Nigerian Youth Parliament, Hon. Obande Gideon Obande who spoke on behalf of the Parliament and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), observed that Infrastructure decay have been inherited by the past principals and more preventive measures should be put in place, urging government to properly fund the schools as routine vaccination of students would have prevented the deaths that occurred.
He also said from investigations there was ego fight and attempt to control school management by some cabals and warn against such interference if the educational system must be safeguarded to guarantee the future of the younger generation.
Speaking with newsmen after the hearing, the Minority leader maintained that if the issue at stake was that an appropriation by the ministry of education was mismanaged by the former principal, the blame on the decayed infrastructure would be hers.