Chidi Odinkalu, human rights lawyer and president-general of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA), wants Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos, to be closed until the diarrhoea outbreak in the school is over.
Two students have died, one in critical condition, and 16 have been admitted into hospital in the outbreak.
The Lagos state ministry of health had earlier confirmed that water sources in the school were contaminated and advised the authorities to postpone resumption indefinitely.
But John Ofobike, chairman of Queen’s College PTA, said the school will reopen on Sunday.
Ofobike criticised the Lagos health ministry for not consulting the federal ministries of health and education before calling for an indefinite closure.
However, in a statement on Saturday, Odinkalu supported the idea of closing the school, saying the situation in Queen’s College is now a public health emergency.
“Addressing this urgently must preoccupy the attention of the school, public health authorities and the school community,” he said.
“Pending independent certification of the school as safe for human activity, it should remain closed. Temporary, alternative arrangements should be made for preparation of students about to take their West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations.
“USOSA supports the advisory of the Lagos state ministry of health to postpone the planned re-opening of the school and is gratified that the new management of QC has heeded this advice.
“Investigations ordered by public health authorities at federal and state levels have disclosed a mortifying state of affairs at QC. Since the beginning of January 2017, over 1,222 QC students have been treated at the school’s clinic for abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Sixteen students were admitted in various hospitals in the country, mostly in and around Lagos. Of this number, nine have reportedly been discharged; two have died, one is still in critical condition at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), having recently come out of coma. In the past 36 hours, another has been admitted into hospital.
Odinkalu added that investigations have shown that the atmosphere in the school at the moment is not conducive for learning.
He also condoled with the family, saying “No parent should have to reclaim the body of a child sent to school in a body bag.”
“Independent laboratory analyses have shown that the water sources in the school are contaminated by different forms of E-Coli and Salmonella, among other dangerous pathogens. 23 of 40 kitchen workers and food handlers have tested positive for Amoebiasis; another three reported positive for Salmonella and at least one is positive for Tape-Worm,” he said.
“The analysis also indicates that the boreholes that provide principal sources of water for the school are too shallow and too close in proximity to the sewage systems, to which the contamination has been traced. Hyper-chlorination, the envisaged short term solution, cannot and does not provide water that is fit for use. An extensive de-contamination effort is needed.
“USOSA mourns and condoles with the bereaved families. We are hopeful that the children currently hospitalised will make full recovery. We offer our support to the present Management in returning QC to its historic place in Nigeria and commend the deep and determined sense of responsibility so far shown by the Queens College Old Girls Association (QCOGA) during this crisis.
“The case for declaring a public health emergency in QC is very clear. Federal and state public health authorities should do so urgently and work together with the school authorities on an acceptable remedial plan, whose implementation should be independently verified.
“USOSA offers its networks to mobilise complementary support for this. Pending the implementation of such a plan, re-opening should be deferred. Consideration should be given also to suspending boarding facilities for the time being until an acceptable long term solution is found to the cause of this crisis.”