A house divided

Nigeria is what it is, new day presents itself with a whole new story. Here is a story that affects most today’s Nigerians but we often ignore until it is too late.

The Cable did a good job detailing events leading to the deaths of three school girls at Queen’s College aged 12, 13 and 14. Out of 2,180 boarders, 1,200 students were reported to have been sick of stomach ache or other similar ailment that was traced to lack of general hygiene/contaminated water at the school hostel.

Parents were well aware of the health risks during last December break, many children were sick and treated for infections.

Amongst many issues highlighted in that article is the divided PTA – that is very bad for any school especially when the welfare of students becomes the secondary reason for the group.

Here I am not blaming the parents, especially those that have to deal with nursing their sick children back to health / those that have to deal with the loss of loved children. We can only do our best to protect children in our care, however, if my child comes home complaining of similar ailment to her friends, I am not sending my child back to that school until the issue is resolved.

I totally understand the culture under which we operate in Nigeria, whereby parents’ opinions are outright discarded and the pressure of saving face that forces people to go along with terrible decision – we can be better.

Here is my experience dealing with PTA with divided opinions.

My niece informed me that her hostel was broken into while at school, there are 6 girls in the room – money, phones, study tablets were stolen. They were at school at a different site during the burglary.

The school is for A Level Cambridge and JUPEB exams – a year program. Age group between 16 and 20.

I would never sleep on information such as this if it were to be any of my girls, so I sent a message to the MD asking for his plans to keep students in his care safe given recent development. He did not respond.

Next day was a Sunday, my niece called to say her next door neighbours’ room was broken into at 3am while the girls were fast asleep, they stole similar stuff as they did during the day.

This time two parents showed up at the hostel by 6am, they have had enough. By the time my niece returned from church, the parents have called the police, MD was there. Police took notes and end of story.

It occurred to me that there is no communications at all between the parents, so it works well for the school owner that parents are at arm’s length of one another.

This is very different from what I have grown used to here where emails, phone numbers of parents were known to everyone which in turn makes it easy to raise any concern or arrange for events.

I managed to collect 7 parents’ phone numbers from their children. Parents were appreciative of the call, everyone seems to be worried, alone. I set up a WhatsApp group so we can all meet.  The plan was to get the school to investigate the culprits, and to assure us that children in their care will be protected going forward – is that too much to ask?

We set a date and time for the school visit, everyone agrees.

The day before we were to visit, one of the parents called to say that we need not visit the school anymore because the school had promise to put measures in place on the phone. Up until that point everyone is talking to their children with updates, nothing has changed not even after the police visit.

I update the group and asked them to decide.

One of the parents pm’d saying ‘my sister, now you see why Nigeria and Yorubaland is the way that it is today?’ We agreed to be there for our children and one man because of insane religious sentiment went behind our backs to the school MD and then came to us to discourage the group from visiting.

Needless to say, I removed that parent from the group, my sister and good people went to the school. MD was apologetic and promised there is a plan to move the kids to their other site where security is better. Students were moved that week.

I am just so happy my niece and nephew have finished their exams and left the school. But I am concerned that people coming next session are likely going to face the same issue.

It is frustrating when PTA get their priorities twisted. No need to have a committee if welfare of the students isn’t the top most priority.

Queen’s College case is terrible but not unheard of in Nigeria, many are swept under the carpet with the help of parents who fail to realise the next victim could be their own child. I hope Dr Lami Amodu and team are made to provide reasons for the gross negligence.

As a parent, if I don’t care enough to fight for my child’s welfare, no one will. We like to think Nigeria poor are the only ones suffering, I beg to differ, everyone suffers due to silence where our voices are needed the most.