New Telegraph

September 29, 2023

Private Schools: When alternative is not best

Ordinarily and absolutely, schools should be a place of learning. But with recurring scandals pointing to moral decadence and avoidable deaths, mostly in elite private schools, stakeholders are expressing worries over the future and safety of children in schools. In this report, LADESOPE LADELOKUN x-rays scandals in schools and how to ensure safety of pupils in schoolsannouncing


“I will fight. I’ve been cut…That girl made me a man…. That girl came into my life and changed everything for me…..There’s nothing I will not do.” These were the words of Mr Michael Adeniran, father of 12-year-old Whitney Adeniran, in a leaked audio conversation with a woman (Mrs Amoo) said to be the principal of his late daughter’s school after her death on February 9th,2023.


For Adeniran, who said he grew up not having a family, he had vowed to create a beautiful family and make it his first focus in life; something he said he achieved until the icy hands of death snatched his daughter.


Having been denied a lot of opportunities as a child, the decision to opt for Chrisland Schools, he said, was consistent with his pledge that his children would not lack the best in life as Whitney’s younger brother was about joining her at Chrisland school. Oh no! Just like a candle in the wind, Whitney’s life got terminated abruptly! Sorrow sacked joy! Shock became a stubborn companion:


“So, please, I’m begging you, tell me what happened. Maybe, that will make me sane right now,” grieving Adeniran had told the principal.
Meanwhile, conflicting accounts of circumstances surrounding the death of the 12-year-old have stirred controversy.


In explaining what transpired before her death, Chrisland Schools had in a statement said how it was heartbroken and distressed about her death, saying records in its custody showed she had complained about her not-too-buoyant health on January 20 and the school said it immediately contacted her parents.
The school further stated that her father came to the school to take her home but was admonished on the need to take a critical look at her.


According to the school authorities, Whitney had opted not to participate in the recently held inter-house sports march-past for reasons they were not very sure of.


On what happened before Whitney’s demise, the school said its immediate response when she slumped in public view when the said inter-house sports was ongoing was to take advantage of proximity to first aid, by identifying the nearest medical facility to take her to, where the doctor on duty administered oxygen and every aid possible on her.


It added that it immediately notified regulatory stakeholders and agencies to allow for a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the developments.


In spite of the compelling imperatives to fill any information gaps in public space, the school said, it stopped short of making any media sensation out of the situation because the deceased in question was a minor, deserving of its respect.
“We also prioritised according to respect for the privacy of the family and were with them consistently to mourn together. This is a painful loss for all of us.”


“As we continue to uphold the sobriety of this moment, we resist any urge to join issues on her treasured memory, in media trends.”


“As we await the outcome of an independent post-mortem process, we remain unwaveringly committed to supporting the family at this critical moment and pray fervently for the fortitude to bear her painful loss,” the statement added.


In response to the claim by Chrisland Schools that Whitney was sick in a social media post, Mr Adeniran (father of the deceased girl) said he gave Chrisland School, a healthy vibrant girl, but Chrisland returned to him, a dead child.
He expressed shock that he got a call from his wife, informing him that his daughter slumped during the school’s inter-house sports and she was rushed to the clinic.


“My wife was at the venue even before the event started. She was never informed or called until they have conveyed our child out of the venue before they informed her.


On arrival of my wife at the health centre where they took my daughter, my daughter was lying dead with her lips black and her tongue black.”
“My question is what happened to my daughter at Agege stadium? As a father, I demand answers from Chrisland International High School. I am in deep pain and sorrow right now. If you are a father, you will understand my pains. My daughter is highly loved by us. We cherished her existence and we can never allow an institution to gloss over the death of our daughter.”


In an interview with BBC Pidgin, Adeniran had claimed that Whitney died from electrocution, noting that he had documented evidence to back his claim.
“She died from the naked wire from one cotton candy vendor machine after she touched it and she was electrocuted immediately she leaned on it.
“I have documented evidence that my child died from electrocution and it was not cardiac arrest.


“She was hale and hearty. She was not sick. And let me state it clearly, by the time I saw her corpse, her lips and tongue had already turned black.”
Inside Chrisland Schools of scandals


Before the Whitney scandal, Adegboyega Adenekan, a supervisor in Chrisland Schools in the Lekki area of Lagos was sentenced to 60 years in prison for defiling a two-year-old pupil.


In spite of the initial denial by Chrisland Schools, standing with the supervisor and  schoolsannouncing his innocence, Justice Sybil Nwaka, sitting at the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court, convicted the supervisor on a count charge of defilement.


Justice Nwaka held that evidence before the court showed that the supervisor was guilty as charged. Adenekan was a supervisor at the Chrisland School, Victoria Garden City, Lagos State.


“This defendant is conscienceless, wicked, an animal and not fit to walk on the streets. I hereby sentence Adegboyega Adenekan to 60 years’ imprisonment. This is the sentence of the court,” the judge held.


Also, following a viral sex tape showing a 10-year-old schoolgirl having sex with her schoolmates while in Dubai for a school competition in 2022, Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ordered the shutdown of all branches of Chrisland Schools in Lagos.


The school, had in a letter accused the 10-year-old of willfully participating in sexual conduct, suspending her for her conduct. But it drew flaks from social media users, who accused the school of failing in its responsibility of monitoring the kids, who were chosen to represent the school at the World School Game.


Meanwhile, following the reopening of the school on the orders of the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, explained that the state government shut the schools for both safety of students and staff and to ensure unhindered investigation of the incident.


She added that the Ministry of Education and other relevant agencies of the state, in conjunction with the school’s Parent -Teacher Association, would be working on scheduled psychosocial support for the students.
Gory tales from other elite schools


Away from the scandals at Chrisland Schools, tear-provoking tales of abuse in other elite schools have equally hogged the headlines.


Recently, February 7, 2023 precisely, 47-year-old Frederick Olorunfemi, died on the premises of Luyol School, after a scuffle with the school bus driver, who allegedly defiled his seven-year-old daughter.


Before his death, it was learnt, the seven-year-old daughter of the deceased had told her mother that the driver on February 1,2023, drove her to his house where she was directed to lift her school uniform and sit on his lap, alleging that he kissed her.


According to the wife of the deceased, Mr. Olorunfemi died after he was allegedly pushed by the driver during an altercation between them.


Also, a 12-year-old pupil of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, was allegedly tortured to death by some senior students, who wanted to initiate him into a cult group!


At Deeper Life Secondary School located in Oyu, Akwa Ibom State, a parent of students said to be sexually abused, Mrs Deborah Okezie, said some senior students of the school took advantage of his son, when the school authorities switched him from his dormitory to another dormitory filled with senior students.


“They will remove his boxer and push their legs and hands into his anus,” Mrs. Okezie said in a viral on Facebook and Twitter.


A call for forceful intervention
In his reaction to the death of Whitney, lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, reasoned that schools have a responsibility to take care of students in their custody, noting that they must not admit students whose safety cannot be guaranteed.


“I’m aware that the Lagos State Government has already intervened. So, what I expect is for the matter to be referred to the




out in line with the Coroner’s Law of Lagos State. That will give room for a dispassionate and thorough investigation to ascertain the complicity or otherwise of Chrisland – the school in question. I would prefer a Coroner’s inquest to a police investigation because the Coroner’s inquest inspires more confidence than what the police routinely do.


“Now, if the Coroner’s inquest shows that the school was negligent, the school can be sanctioned. I believe the parent may be able to maintain action in law because a school has a duty of care over children kept in their custody. If they cannot guarantee the safety of the students, they are not supposed to admit them.”


The rights activist expressed worry over what he deemed recurring deaths in some schools, especially nowadays, saying the Lagos State government has a responsibility to beam its searchlight on happenings in schools.


“So it’s important to investigate the matter dispassionately to find out the cause and the circumstances surrounding her (Whitney) death. It is after that that one can speak to legal liability. So, we have to examine every case based on its peculiar facts and circumstances. It’s quite troubling such thing keeps recurring. That is why the Lagos State government must be more thorough in monitoring what is happening in the private schools. I believe some ground rules must also be set regarding safety in private and public schools.”


On why the Lagos State government should improve on its regulatory roles, Effiong said: “I’m aware sometime ago, there was also an accident that occurred at Grammar School in Berger, where several pupils were killed by a trailer running away from traffic agency of the state government.


So, there have been several killings, several deaths in the state that should warrant a forceful intervention by the government. I don’t know if the girl has been buried.


Even if she’s been buried, the Coroner has a right to order her exhumation. That’s allowed under Coroner’s Law which is why the matter should go through the Coroner’s inquest process. The state government has some regulatory roles because they registered the schools,” he told Sunday Telegraph.
Big schools, big names, big death traps


Commenting, public affairs analyst and educationist, Dr. Temitope Fagunwa, said it was disheartening that parents work hard to pay humongous school fees in schools that have turned death traps.


Unfortunate incidents happen, you’ll realise that they, most times happen in private schools. This is not to say we don’t have similar issues happening in public institutions.


The fact that we consistently have this thing happening in our private institutions shows really what is wrong with the concept of privatisation. You have a situation where parents are working their fingers to the bone with the hope of getting quality education for their children but in the long run, some of these schools have turned out to be death traps for young people.


“You would have expected that with the huge amount that parents pay in all of these places, utmost care would be given to the children of these parents but that’s not the reality. The reality is that the management of these private schools are more interested in the money they make more than the safety of children. That these things happen in private schools with big names is not accidental. Safety is not prioritised. It mirrors the philosophy guiding these institutions. The philosophy is just to make money,” he told Sunday Telegraph.


Also, in a chat with Sunday Telegraph, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu , Mr Gboyega Akosile, said the welfare of children in private and public schools was of paramount importance to the governor. According to Akosile, though the governor would not condone any act of negligence, the law would be allowed to take its course.


“All I know is that the Lagos State government does not condone any form of indiscipline or act of negligence on the part of education managers in the state in public and private schools. Definitely there are actions by the government to punish erring schools. Take for instance, the girl at Chrisland School, the Government has ordered a Coroner’s inquest into the cause of the death of the girl. The state government does not take it lightly because the government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu cares about the healthful living of all the children in our schools, whether public or private schools.”
Need for health, safety policies in schools


In an interview with Sunday Telegraph, the Proprietor of Living Legacy Schools, Babatunde Fajimi, called for proper management of public spaces as owners of such facilities could be liable for eventualities recorded.


“First of all, our prayers are with the families of the deceased young lady. It’s a very sad occurrence and it’s something that requires sober reflection for any sensible human being. I don’t think it’s about the school. I don’t think it’s about the amount that’s paid. I think something is fundamentally wrong the way we manage public spaces in the country.


“Anywhere you have people gathered and they are more than two or three, the owner of the facility has a duty of care because once you have your facility and members of the public use it, you are vicariously liable for whatever happens to anyone who uses the facility. So, the onus is on you as the owner of the facility to make sure that you have done everything humanly possible to guarantee the health and safety of the users of the facility.”


The educationist further stressed on the importance of having schools embracing policies on health and safety.


“I can’t specifically talk about the Whitney Adeniran’s case and the school. I was not there when the incident happened. I don’t know what they have done and have not done but I know that we that run schools have a duty of care and that’s where the school may be liable. Even if someone comes to reception and they collapse, you’re liable if you’re not careful. And that’s why people take insurance packages for such incidents and occurrences in their facilities.


“Accidents do happen. The question is what have you put in place to mitigate the impact of the accident? So these are questions we should be asking. For schools, we need to first of all, and it’s a no-brainer, have policies on health and safety.


Like our school, we have the student handbook and the student handbook has provision on health and safety. And the beginning of every term, we review the student handbook with the student and the teacher. And when we have PTA forum, we have somebody talk to them again about provisions of the same policy of 15 minutes to remind ourselves.”


In addition to the student’s policy, Fajimi said, schools need to have health and safety officers, noting that they could collaborate with public or private hospitals for results.


“Apart from the medical people, when you organise a function like that,you should have first respondents on ground. Accidents can happen. Emergencies can happen. Schools need policies. Schools need to have trained health and safety officers. If the school is big enough, you must have in-house medical person,” he said.


He added that small players in the industry could have a contract with a government hospital or private hospital close them and incorporate the charges into the bill for the parents.

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