Ita Afaji accident: A tale of death traps in our Schools

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There are many Mishaps in Nigeria that could have been avoided but we often live in denial of the consequences of not addressing these issues. How do you tell a parent that their wards will never return to them? Life is hard enough for most parents who send their kids to public schools, then you sentence them to another level of misery. We are all quick to say RIP and utter the religious cliché, it is well and we carry on until the next avoidable fatal incidence. We are all guilty of enabling the systems that consumed the Lagos Island School Children because we have accepted decay, dilapidation, and unholy structures as our National Outlook.

Imagine the number of teachers, parents, onlookers who probably would have seen the dilapidated state of the building and looked away until the building eventually collapsed. Educational inspectors would have visited and seen the state of the school buildings as the best the Government can offer.

Most schools in Nigeria are unsafe, we just got used to managing failed and unhealthy structures. We have a very poor safety culture. How many schools have emergency exit? Most of us didn’t hear the word emergency exit until we started work. The truth is we don’t have a safety culture so even when accidents like this happen, there are more fatality as more people die while trying to escape. How many schools have a central register? How do you know the number of people in school at a given time? As we speak we still are not sure of the number of casualties, different tabloids with their own figures.

I went to a state public secondary school in Lagos, so I know how unsafe our public and low-income private schools are. It is actually normal to have a leaking roof, broken stair and handrails, a den for bacteria called a toilet and other unsafe Spaces.
The Ministry of Education, school management, teachers and PTA can’t be bothered about our safety. Where will the money come from? I can’t think of a public School with a functional facility management office or Health and Safety officer. If something is broken, we just have to be cautious when passing the “warzone”, you may be insulted if you get injured because you expected to be mindful of the hazards in the school. The teachers will blame you for not being careful enough, they will call you a dunce. In addition to the pain suffered from the injury, you will be mocked, “Didirin”, “Oponu” or “Ode” will become your name.

In Jibowu High School, I remember the Vice-Principal came to our class to speak to us, as he stood in front of the class, he suddenly started feeling uncomfortable, he was sweating and he was mumbling, “kilo n se mi” (what is wrong with me, as if his village people have come to attack him). It took him 2-3min before he realised nobody was after him. He looked up and noticed the roof was broken. He exclaimed “Ṣe kii ṣe sanma ni mo n woyi? Wo, Ojo a pa Iyalaya yin. You don’t want to know the meaning in English. He said “is this not the cloud I am looking at? See, the rain will kill your Iyalaya (grandmother)”. He was that Baba elepe, “the man can swear for Africa”, he would rather swear than fix a problem, nothing was done about the leaking roof, we managed with buckets when it rained, that is how we endure bad structures and learn to live with hazards in our school.

Itaafaji accident reminds me of the many times those of us who went to public schools escaped death, the school system taught us how to get used to seeing rot as the norm, and most Nigerians have grown to accept dilapidation as conducive. I saw a picture of Governor Ambode during the rescue operation, he gazed as if this is unusual, I can’t say what was in his mind, but it is clear his best contribution to the incidents of collapsed buildings in the state is to scratch the surface and issue empty statement of consolations to the families of those who lose their lives in avoidable mishaps.

 

 

If you think you have escaped poverty or never been in the league of have-nots, private schools in Nigeria also don’t have the highest safety standards. Last week, a friend told me of how a Child drowned in her daughter’s school in Abuja, the incident was covered. Who takes responsibility for this? The Government won’t punish anyone, a child died just like that, the next day the school was in session like nothing happened. To make matters worse the Parents of the Child, don’t want to talk about it because they think it is the will of God. I was so angry that I told my friend to pull her daughter out of that school but they will tell me it is not that easy. I would have pulled my child out of that school and ask for a refund, God helps them if they hesitate to do the needful, that which was covered would come to light. I rather homeschool my child than allow them to perish in a hell called school.

I have also seen Private schools doing renovation during school hours, parents see it as normal, teachers can’t talk they don’t want to lose their jobs, the Government is blind to things like these and the school owners are just plain dumb and wicked. Some schools are even uncompleted buildings, what is the Government doing about it? Nothing!
Who regulates private schools in Nigeria? A friend was asking about what we can do about the unsafe culture and sharp practices in Private schools in Abuja. I did some findings and realised the “anyhowness” in most private schools is because most people who run them are directors, senior officials in the Ministry of Education and Politically Exposed Persons(PEP). So who will Bell the Cat?

If we just have momentary outcry at times like this then go back to a normal culture of living with decay and broken structures, we will have more Ita-Fiji Building collapse. We can continue to hide behind our keypads, rant and do nothing. We all have to take responsibility and Act now. To the innocent kids who died, God bless your souls, may the darkness you felt turn into light, Nigeria was unkind to you. My thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones, beyond praying I will lend my voice to address these ills in our country.

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