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How safe are school children?

THIS year I have written about two articles that chronicled the tragedies that befell our students. I still remember with nostalgia the gruesome murder of  Grace Ushanga, the serving  Corps member who was allegedly raped to death by the infamous religious sect, known as Boko Haram, the drowning to death of about 43 students from Kwara State who went to a neighbouring country in search of Education, the  kidnapping of 15 school children {now released } at Aba, Abia State, the kidnapping of Corps members in Rivers  State. Earlier, in  2006, the Ilafor family lost  their three children in a Sosoliso plane crash.

Recently, another tragedy struck at Model School located inside the College of Education in Agbor. Five pupils,  namely: Clinton Festus, {8},Constance Okolie [7], Mary Magadalene Uyamasi [ 8],Franca Nimbeidu [7] and Favour Okoro were all sent to their early graves when the stanchion carrying a 200 litre capacity water  tank fell on the class rooms and the five unlucky victims died on the spot. Please, do not imagine what these kids passed through before kissing the dust.

The victims have been buried and expectedly the then Delta State Governor and other top echelon of  the  School  Authorities  sent  their condolences to the families of the victims and the ousted Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan equally in a further  attempt to assuage the public anger, promised to set  up a high powered  [as if there is low powered] Commission of Enquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of these victims. Any time government comes up with the story of commission of enquiry, I usually enjoy derisive laughter and refer to it as    waste, waste and waste of public fund.

Do you need an enquiry to know that the natural consequence of a stanchion tugged between two class rooms will lead to   destruction   of the classrooms  and the death of many people in the event of collapse as it happened.  Secondly , why must a bore hole be sunk in between  the class rooms in a College of Education with its large expanse of land. The tragedy was obviously avoidable.

It is painful that the cheapest item in Nigeria is loss of life and easily  loss without qualms. This year marks the  second  anniversary  of  one of the numerous  Jos crises were nnocent and harmless people, including my eldest brother Chief Simon Nwafor Anyadubalu were gruesomely murdered.

The vacuum created in our family is still wide and difficult to refill . On October 1, the day we were celebrating the 50 years of our independence, about 12 people were decimated by bomb blast. It is even more painful that the Federal Government of Nigeria which is vicariously liable did not even commiserate with the victims but was busy trading words with her perceived  opponents .

It is unfortunate that we are not pro-active to prevent tragedies but resort to fatalistic and unreasonable belief that  God will not allow it to happen. As I think of our negligence, especially at the Government level, it pains to observe that in Lagos State, filling stations are now carelessly sited at the heart of residential places with their attendant  disastrous consequences in the event of fire outbreak.

Take a drive at Ago Palace Way, Okota near Isolo, a Lagos suburb with heavy vehicular traffic, filling stations abound.  Imagine   a fire outbreak at any of the filling stations during peak traffic   period,  many lives  will  be  lost, many vehicles  destroyed and worst still will be the inability of the fire service men to get to the place of the  fire because of the heavy vehicular movement.

Please, I am not a pessimist neither am I a sadist, I merely applied the neighbourhood  principle as enunciated  by Lord Denning M.R in Donoghue vs Stevensons  where the Master of Roles enjoined one to anticipate the effect of his actions or omissions on his neighbour and avoid such actions or omissions that adversely affect the neighbour; the neighbour here means any person who will be affected by one’s actions or omissions. That was how Lord Denning interpreted negligence in law.

Applying, the above principle, I dare say that if the school authorities had anticipated that the possibility of collapse of the stanchion tugged between  the two classrooms,   would be devastating, lead to the death of people in the classrooms, it would have diverted the erection of the stanchion to a safer place.This is not being pessimistic nor sadistic but proactive and cautious .

As we mourn the five stars that died out of sheer negligence, let us take a look at the schools our children attend to determine how safe they are.

*Mr. Anyadubalu, a lawyer,  writes from  Lagos.


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