• LASG investigates
Queen’s College, Lagos, will on Monday (today) resume from its midterm break without two pupils –Vivian Osuiniyi and Bithia Itulua– who died after taking ill in the school.
Aside the two pupils, no fewer than 50 others will not be in school as they are either recuperating at home or on admission in different hospitals in Lagos State, including Apapa General Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Harvey Road Hospital and Safe City Clinic.
PUNCH Metro gathered that problem started after the pupils, who were boarding students, ate spaghetti and drank suspected polluted water served in the refectory two weeks ago.
An epidemic of diarrhoea was said to have broken out, as the pupils started vomiting and stooling.
Our correspondent, who spoke with parents, pupils, a teacher and a nurse in the school, gathered that the sickbay overflowed with sick pupils as panic spread in the school.
Some parents were said to have been called to take their children home for treatment.
It was learnt that Osuiniyi, a Junior Secondary School two pupil, died on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, while Itulua, a JSS 3 pupil, died on Wednesday, February 22, 2017.
The mother of Itualua, when contacted by our correspondent, declined comment, saying she was mourning the death of her daughter and did not want to discuss the incident.
Osuiniyi’s parents could not be reached for comment.
However, parents and pupils, who spoke with our correspondent, begged not to be identified as the school management had vowed to deal with anyone who exposed the incident.
A pupil, who spoke with PUNCH Metro from her hospital bed, explained that the school’s water system had been polluted for some time.
She said, “I don’t know the number of boarders affected, but one of my friends is also in the hospital.
“The one that died is Vivian (Osuiniyi). She was in JSS 2. Those affected in my dormitory are not less than 10.
“The problem started after we took spaghetti and drank the contaminated water in the hostel. When I woke up, I started feeling pains in my stomach. I was given some drugs and asked to return to my dormitory, but the pain didn’t stop.
“We complained to the school about the water that we drink, but nothing was done.”
Another pupil, who was receiving treatment at home, said more than 50 senior pupils in her class were affected.
She said, “About 50 pupils in my dormitory were stooling and vomiting after they ate the spaghetti and took the water. There are seven dormitories for SSS3 pupils and we are over 500.
“I went to the sickbay on Monday and complained that I ate spaghetti. A nurse said it was indigestion. When I ate it the next day, I vomited. When I went to report the second time, I was asked to stop eating the spaghetti. Aside the spaghetti, the water is brownish.”
She said the school later distributed bags of sachet water to the pupils.
A parent, whose daughter was among those on admission, told PUNCH Metro that when she called a teacher in the school, she was assured that her daughter was okay.
She said she later got a call that her daughter had started stooling and vomiting as well.
She said, “She was taken to the hospital from the school and has been on admission since Wednesday.”
Another parent, who said she was still treating her sick daughter, said she had first observed rashes on her body.
She said the victim later complained of the water in the school.
She said, “I gathered that the water had been contaminated. It was the same water they were using to cook their food.
“My daughter called and said one of their teachers said a pupil died. She said the girl was among those that ate the spaghetti.
“On Tuesday, I was called to come and take my daughter. I went there and took her to a hospital. When I got to the hospital, the doctors saw the uniform of my daughter and they screamed, ‘QC again!’ I was told that other pupils of the school had been brought to the hospital.”
The mother of one of the affected pupils said she subjected her daughter to several tests, including pregnancy and HIV tests, adding that the result showed food poisoning.
She said, “On Wednesday, I was called that my daughter was not feeling fine. I went on Thursday and took her to a hospital in Yaba. They conducted tests on her and the results showed food poisoning.”
The parent said the Parent-Teacher Association did not want the issue exposed to the public.
PUNCH Metro gathered that there had been threats that no parent should disclose any information regarding the school.
The threat followed an earlier scandal which rocked the school in 2016 after a teacher was alleged to have molested a female pupil.
A circular, dated October 26, 2016, issued by the PTA and obtained by our correspondent stated that any pupil caught disseminating negative infomation about the school, risked dismissal.
It said, “…henceforth, the child/ward of any parent/guardian, found to be using the social media to spread false and negative information or incite other parents will be withdrawn from the college. Parents/guardians are therefore advised to desist from such unwholesome acts.”
A parent said the school management also accused the parents of aggravating the latest matter.
She said, “A teacher confided in me that she had signed for over 200 pupils to be admitted in the sickbay.
“During a PTA meeting, after the epidemic started, the principal said parents were aggravating the situation.”
A teacher at the school told PUNCH Metro that “one quarter” of the school’s population was affected by the epidemic.
The teacher, who claimed to have spent about 10 years in the school, lamented that the school’s facility had been overstretched.
He said, “During a function to admit new students, the school management stated that there were 30 students in each classroom. The teachers were shocked because we have no fewer than 50 pupils in every class.
“The diarrhoea issue affected the majority of the boarders. Those affected are well over 100. About one quarter of the school was affected.”
A medical official at LUTH told our correspondent about five cases of diarrhoea were brought to the hospital.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Itulua died of “typhoid ileal perforation.”
“She died on the way to the hospital. Other pupils were treated for diarrhoea. All of this happened within the last one week,” he added.
The Public Affairs Officer of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Adeola Salako, confirmed that there was a reported case of diarrhoea, saying investigations were ongoing.
She said, “We were alerted on Thursday by the old students association of the school. The Lagos State Disease Surveillance Team from the Ministry of Health has visited the school. We are aware of a case in Apapa General Hospital and she is responding to treatment and will soon be discharged.”
The Public Relations Officer of Queen’s College, Mr. Osifala Olaseni, said some people were out to destroy the reputation of the school.
Olaseni, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone on Saturday, said the school had just received a letter, confirming Itulua’s death.
He said, “Yes, the students complained after eating spaghetti and 15 of them were admitted in the sickbay. They were treated and discharged.
“Samples of the spaghetti were taken to the place where it was purchased. We discovered it was the same spaghetti that was sold to everybody that was sold to us.
“Nobody can say what actually happened, but a lot of steps were taken to address the problem. The cooks were subjected to a thorough investigation by the school management. We replaced all the coolers in the refectory.
“After that week, a girl went to the sickbay and complained that she was sick and we tried to admit her. On the second day, we observed that her temperature rose and we called her parents to come for her. The parents came on Saturday and took her home.
“The following Wednesday, the mother said she died. The school immediately raised a team to pay the family a condolence visit and the parents said they had taken her to the village. That was what happened; there was no epidemic.”
He said the school management was surprised when it got a call from the president of the old girls association that another girl (Itulua) had died.
He said the school received the letter of the death on Saturday, adding that the cause of the death had yet to be known.
He explained that the school had different water serving different purposes in the school.
“We have water for washing clothes. We have drinking water, which is always treated. We also have toilet water. We have factory where water is produced.
“On Thursday, they took samples of the water for tests. We distributed bags of sachet water to the students because many parents were agitated when the first student died. We told the students to stop taking tap water,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Health has said it had started an investigation into the incident.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, paid a visit to the school last Thursday to find out what transpired.
A statement by the ministry said Adewole’s investigative team comprised members of staff of the Department of Medicine at the University of Lagos and the Epidemiology Unit of the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
“The minister has directed the officials of the ministry of health, community health and LUTH to ascertain the cause of death of the pupils, inspect the school environment, examine the source of water supply and test its suitability for human consumption and also visit the bereaved families,” the statement said.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.