Queen’s College – Pass On The Torch!
A child’s mind starts off as a blank slate. What is written on it determines the appearance, bearing, mindset and thought processes that child grows up with and, in most cases, the adult that child becomes.
When I was in Queen’s College, the excellent calibre of Principal (PQC), Vice Principals (VPs) and teachers we had, determined that the slates of our minds were filled with dignity, smartness, decency, integrity, hard work, efficiency, honesty, pride, modesty, humour, humility, effervescence, neatness, ambition, vision, achievement, cleanliness, study, hunger for knowledge, thoughtfulness, empathy, sisterhood, ‘Queenliness’.
In Queen’s College, I learnt that I am a Queen and I not only believed it, but I worked hard to be one, and still do to ensure that I remain one. That is why I am the unapologetically self-assured woman and mother that I am today. That is why 33 years after graduating from QC, I still relate effortlessly with my classmates. Even when we meet each other again for the first time in 33 years, we fall back effortlessly into a conversation begun 33 years ago. Even when we meet other QCOG (Queen’s College Old Girl) who left the school before and after us, we wordlessly and again effortlessly blend with one another. That is why QCOG are amongst the greatest success stories and highest achievers in practically any area of life or career field you can mention. That is why, when the story of a successful woman is told and you say ‘she attended Queen College Lagos, you hear “Ah, no wonder!” Because we have the same words written on our mind slates. We are achievers! we are successful! We think alike, we stand alike, we are a proud sisterhood! We are Queens! We are QC!
Queen’s College Today
Today, we have a PQC, VP and teachers writing a different set of words on the mind slates of those who should be our future queens. They are writing slovenliness, distress, insecurity, sexual depravity, victim, betrayal, inconsequential, unworthy, inability, ordinary, neglect, lacklustre, mistrust, ignorance, semi-illiteracy, plebeian.
The torch is no longer burning brightly, it’s no longer being passed on, it’s gradually being snuffed out. And it makes my heart ache. I think of the hard work and example set by past QC Principals like Mrs Abisogun-Alo, Mrs Efunjoke Coker, Mrs Theresa Chukwuma, Mrs Kafaru, and others before them and my heart aches at the ignorant and inept women who have been allowed to step into those hallowed shoes in recent years. It’s an injustice! To the school and to the girls.
Why? Why is it all so different now?
Is it because the Nigerian Presidents, Ministers and leaders of society all now send their children to schools in the UK and USA?
I was admitted into QC solely on merit. My mother knew nobody. Thankfully, I am blessed with an intelligent mind and achieved one of the top 40 scores in the entrance examination in the year of my admission, 1978. That was QC. Everyone was given a fair chance to gain entry so there were many like me from ordinary run of the mill families. However, also amongst my schoolmates and classmates were the daughters of Heads of State – past and present -, Vice Presidents, Heads of Ministries, Supreme Court judges, etc. The leaders of society.
Perhaps that’s why it was always ensured and assured that QC had the very best Principals and the Creme de la Creme of teachers. Perhaps that’s why no Paedophile would even dare apply to teach in QC, how much more attempt to molest even one of the students. Perhaps because they knew that if they stepped out of line, just one letter, just one phone call from one influential parent could end their careers forever, the staff remained in line. Perhaps.
Or it could be because the excellent past Principals we had, ensured that Queen’s College values were not only instilled in the students but in the teachers and staff as well. It could be because our principals were genuinely invested and interested in the success, thriving and well-being of the students. I remember Chuksie (Mrs Chukwuma) always referring to us as “My girls.” She, like the other great principals we had, took ownership of us. She wasn’t in the position just to line her pockets with the money and political contacts she could make or the contracts she could score.
Is it because the majority of students in Queen’s College are no longer the daughters of the leaders of government and society?
QPC’s Handling of the Case of Sexual Misconduct Against Mr Olaseni Oshifala
Whatever the reason, it is a sad day when a QC parent or student can only resort to social media to seek justice for a mortal and moral injustice believed to have been suffered at the hands of a teacher. It is a sad day when a Principal, a PQC, and her VPs, cannot be trusted by their students and parents to carry out a fair investigation and deal decisively with an allegation as grievous as child molestation and sexual assault.
I’m not interested in analysing here whether the accused man is innocent or guilty. Thank God we have a committee of capable, experienced, knowledgeable and renowned QCOG investigating the matter and I have every confidence that they will ensure justice is done. What interests me here is the inept manner this whole matter has been dealt with by the PQC and the QC establishment.
According to the current PQC, six principals, including her, had heard similar allegations made against the same man. Surely that should have set alarm bells clanging furiously! He isn’t the only male teacher in the school. Why him? Wouldn’t any person with an iota of common sense have begun a proper enquiry into the matter years ago? Shouldn’t a child psychologist have been consulted for advice on how to instil enough confidence in silent victims to help them come forward with information? If she found it too hard to handle, shouldn’t she have involved the education ministry and law enforcement?
Instead, she set up an ‘investigative panel’ that includes the same VP accused of enabling the alleged offender! Instead, she and her senior staff are making vehement, defensive noises about the “impeccable character” of a man accused several times over of being a sexual predator. Making contradictory, ignominiously worded, stupidity-exposing, public statements to the press.
Instead, she continued to allow this man to remain in charge of ‘maintenance’, which gives him legitimate access to the girls’ boarding house outside school hours. Instead, rather than send him on any kind of leave pending the outcome of investigations, she’s allowed him to keep coming in to work and traumatise his alleged victims.
Instead, in panic the day after being told categorically that QCOG would commence an independent investigation, she, and/or her staff, orchestrated some ridiculous, so-called demonstration by the students in support of the man accused of abusing some of their fellow sisters, during school hours, during mock examinations period. She has enabled further psychological raping and manipulation of the girl students supposedly under her care!
Yet she had the audacity to wonder aloud why no student or parent have come to her with more information or accusations!
I can’t help but digress a bit and wonder, What training do current Nigerian teachers get? What do they do in their on-the-job teacher training sessions? Did this PQC really expect that she’d ask a sexual predator nicely and he’d break down and confess his perversions? Even the daftest person in civilised society nowadays knows the psyche of the child molester and groomer. Of course he’s going to be on his best and most impeccable behaviour for the establishment. Of course he’s going to volunteer for, and insert himself into, extra jobs that will justify him being around his victims. Of course he’s going to be the most morally upright man with the seeming integrity of a pope. The father who’s having sex with his daughter every night, is oftentimes the Sunday school teacher, youth mentor and best neighbour on the street. The only person that sees the monster in the child molester come out to play, is the child being molested.
And anyway, what molested child would feel confident enough to talk to a PQC and VP who make it clear that they believe this is just a massive witch-hunt against some ‘golden boy’? Have these teachers even heard of Stockholm Syndrome? Which is a possibility amongst some of the teenage victims here since this man seems to have successfully charmed even the adults.
Or is there more to it? What could this man hold over the PQC and her VPs that makes them so fearful of bringing him down lest he drags them down with him? Why was this matter not nipped decisively in the bud years ago by even just transferring this man out to work in some ministry of education office, thereby keeping him away from students? Why is he still in QC after years of allegations and reports. Why is he still teaching girls? Hopefully the investigations will provide answers to these questions.
I looked at the way the QC girls were dressed – or under-dressed – in the ‘demonstration’ pictures and my heart broke all over again. In my time, we could not leave our dormitories for the classroom looking so unkempt, how much more appear at, or go beyond, the school gates! In my time, no QC girl would agree to carry a banner that says if a teacher leaves, so will the ‘A’s, when she knows for certain that the ability to achieve the ‘A’s is inherent in her, not the teacher. Is it any wonder that QC was recently rated 54th on the Nigerian government schools league table? Sad day.
What Can Queen’s College Old Girls Do?
QCOG, we can no longer afford to ignore the drastic, tragic difference between our QC and today’s QC. Whatever the reason for the difference, one thing is clear; It’s time to stop it. Its time to relight the torch. It’s time to reclaim QC and place her back in first position. It’s time to do right by the girls who follow us close at hand. It’s time to wrestle our school out from the hands of corrupt, greedy and impersonal administrators. The writing is clear on the wall; if we don’t stop it now, QC will crumble into the dirt.
It is only us, QCOG, who can do it. The Federal Government won’t it. It is only us who can bring back the glory days, because it is only us who know the glory days. If we don’t start acting now, it will die with us as our generations fade out.
If we don’t start by dealing with the problem from the root, we are wasting our time. Buying QC generators that can power a small nation, refurbishing halls and equipping classrooms etc, while awesome, is of no real consequence when our girls are being molested after lights out and they are being taught by subpar teachers. They don’t even have any pride in themselves!
Despite all the donations and contributions from various QCOG sets over the years, the final consensus reached, after last Sunday’s walkabout in the school by the QCOG present, is that the school is currently in such a deplorable condition that a proper health inspection would shut it down. Our QC? Where have all the donations gone?
In my opinion, the way to change things around is to re-instil that genuine love, interest and Queens College values into students and staff alike. Let students and teachers alike feel ownership. Only those who know the values, can teach the values. It has to start from the head, then it will flow to areas below. Which is why, even as we donate and rebuild infrastructure, even as we put pressure on the federal government to allocate resources to the school, we also need to get a QCOG into the PQC position. We need for at least 40% of the VPQC and QC teachers to be QCOG. We have QCOG out there teaching, heading and developing other schools. They are being lauded and acclaimed all over Nigeria and also worldwide. Let’s bring them back to QC. Bring them back home. Only a QCOG PQC, with her inherent QC values and passion, will administer the schools funds and resources in the ways most beneficial to the students and school. Let us recreate our model school. Let us brainstorm and headhunt and restore our school.
There are many schools worldwide that have maintained their prestigious status for centuries, why can’t QC be one of them? Why must we accept the decline that is so prevalent across Nigerian establishments as an inevitable outcome for our QC?
My handicap is that I don’t reside in Nigeria, but it does not make my concern or passion for this any less cogent or valid. It does not mean that I cannot be an active part of this rebirth. It only means that I’m not well versed on the running of the Nigerian establishment so I’m uncertain about exactly how we can go about achieving this. However, I know that we have enough QCOG in positions of power, leadership and great influence to make this happen. I’m not sure about the veracity of this, but I hear that Kings College Old Boys have a lot of input in the running of KC, hence the school is currently doing so much better than QC. What is stopping us? Yes, we are very busy women, but one advantage of our brilliance is that we also multitask excellently.
I am certain that the vast majority of QCOG have the same passionate desire, as I do, to see QC remain the prestigious icon of educational excellence that it was and should always be. With determination and commitment, we can do it. I am willing to put my effort and contribution where mouth is and will happily carry out tasks required of me, if our QCOG on ground in Nigeria will help us to start the ball rolling with ideas and planning strategy. If each of us brings our individual unique ability, strengths and talent to the table, we will achieve something truly great.
I would love to one day be able to tell my daughter that even though she lives in the UK, she can confidently send her daughter to school in Queen’s College Lagos for the best, well-rounded academic as well as ethical and cultural education. A pipe dream? I pray not. Time and posterity will tell.
Have these lyrics and words become lost in translation and transition?
Our School Song:
1. Pass on the torch still brightly gleaming,
Pass on the hopes, the earnest dreaming
To those who follow close at hand.
Pass on the thoughts, the skills, the learning;
Pass on the secret inmost yearning
That they may build where we have planned.
4. Pass on the torch, the cry inspiring
Unites us here in hopes untiring,
In bonds no future years can sever.
We forward press not backward turning;
That this our torch more brightly burning
May yet pass on and on forever.
Our School prayer:
O Lord, by whose manifold grace,
All things work together for good to them that love Thee.
Establish, we pray Thee the things that Thou has wrought in us
And make this school a field which the Lord has blessed.
That whatsoever things are true, pure, lovely and of good report
May here forever flourish and abound.
Preserve in it an unblemished name,
Enlarge it with a wider usefulness,
And exalt it with the love and reverence of all its members
As an instrument of Thy glory.
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