The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged four special rapporteurs of the United Nations, UN, to intervene in the crisis rocking Queens’ College, Lagos.
SERAP, in a statement on Tuesday, said it petitioned the U.N rapporteurs, urging them to use their good offices and mandates “to urgently request the Nigerian government and the authorities at Queen’s College, Lagos, to end continuing suffering of students, and ensure justice and effective remedies for the unnecessary loss of lives of three pupils of the school.”
According to SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, the U.N rapporteurs petitioned include Koumbou Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; and Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
The petition noted that between February and March 2017, three students of the school (Vivian Osuinyi, Bithia Itulua and Praise Sodipo) died due to systemic corruption and the failure of the authorities to exercise due diligence. Many students also fell ill afterwards, it added.
Reports said that the school management allegedly ignored parents and old students’ early warnings on contaminated water and foods, it noted, adding that this led to the death of the students.
According to the petition dated June 19, the organisation expressed serious concern over alleged corruption by the leadership of the school, which ruined the lives of several pupils.
SERAP said, “These girls have depended on the integrity of the authorities both at the Federal Ministry of Education and the school levels but have been badly let down by those entrusted with the power to provide them with access to quality education in a safe environment.
“The apparent failure to exercise due diligence and to fulfil the obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right of these girls to quality education is buttressed by the fact that the school management repeatedly ignored early warnings and complaints from students and parents, the failure to improve facilities and conditions in the school, and the alleged demand of illegal fees and bribes from parents by the school authorities,” it added.
The petition, copied to Zeid Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also expressed concern about the failure of the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Education to exercise its regulatory functions over the school and other unity schools across the country, adding that corruption seems a commonplace across different levels at the school.
“The absence of accountability mechanisms within the Federal Ministry of Education is further illustrated by the failure to sanction the leadership of Queen’s College for apparently failing to prevent unnecessary loss of lives and to protect the girls’ right to education in a safe and protected environment,” SERAP added.
The petition noted that many of the girls suffered devastating consequences of corruption, neglect and incompetence, yet those suspected to be responsible for these serious human rights violations have continued to escape justice.
The organisation, therefore, urged the Special Rapporteurs to put pressure on the government and the authorities at Queen’s College to urgently end the apparently deteriorating situation and living conditions of girls in the school; ask the government to establish Code of Conduct for the school and other unity schools across the country, including on the proper professional conduct required of the schools’ authorities and their relationship with Parents Teachers Association and other bodies; (and) ask the government to audit Queen’s College and other unity schools across the country.
Similarly, SERAP urged the UN to ask the Nigerian government to “promptly, thoroughly, impartially and transparently investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three girls, and to bring anyone that is found to be responsible to justice as well as provide adequate compensation to the victims and their families, and publicly guarantee non-repetition.”