Physically so far away but emotionally very close: the sad news of the collapsed school building in Lagos Island

A few days ago a student asked me “when are we going to have fire drill?” and my response was “I don’t know, and we’re not supposed to know because that’s why it is a drill”, that is, to prepare us for an emergency situation should it arises. However, during that very brief discussion I never for once imagined that I was going to receive the very sad news – that is physically so far away but emotionally very close to me – of a collapsed residential building housing school children in Lagos Island, Nigeria (BBC).

It’s a really sad day for everyone, particularly the: children, families, school management and staff and community affected by the disaster. Days like this bring to mind the vulnerabilities that vulnerable individuals and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities are exposed to in Nigeria. The collapsed school was located in a residential building in a socioeconomically disadvantaged community, and serving families that are trying their best to give their children a good start in life – within their meagre means.

It’s easy to highlight all that is wrong with the public education sector in Lagos state but my concern, mainly, is on how the Lagos state government has abdicated its responsibility to educate most of the children and young people that fall within the compulsory school age group in the state to the private education sector. In a CEID Seminar 7 – Gender and Teacher Education in Nigeria (YouTube)Professor Elaine Unterhalter of the Institute of Education, London, reported that only 4% (four percent) of the children in Lagos state are in public schools, and this brings to mind the research findings of Dr Joanna Hama in “Access or quality? Why do families living in slums choose low-cost private schools in Lagos, Nigeria?”, that socioeconomically disadvantaged families prefer to enroll their children in low-cost private schools as against enrolling them in public schools. And I wonder why this is the situation?

Those that work in education with children and young people on a day-to-day basis know that the joy of working in education is seeing children and young people progress in life and become successful adults, and when a calamity like that of the collapsed building happens, it burrows a hole in the heart of everyone that is associated with the school and leaves a memory of grief that takes time to heal by the grace of God.

The conversation I shared at the beginning of this article took place in the UK but the contrast in that conversation with what happened on Lagos island with the collapsed residential building turned into a school sums up a lot for me about how the two different societies – governments – value the lives of their children and young people. Perhaps, many claims and counter claims can or will be made on behalf of the Lagos state government, however, the duty and obligation to make sure that children and young people in the state are educated in safe and secured spaces still lie with the government.

Sadly, another paragraph has been written in Nigeria’s ever growing dossier of avoidable human-induced disasters. My prayers and condolences go to the bereaved: families, school management and staff, community and Lagos state government. I pray for the soonest recovery of the children that are still in hospitals and everyone affected by the disaster.

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  • Very sad. Unfortunately we lament and then move on.
    Gonie I was actually looking to see your personal reminiscence of this area.

    • Very sad indeed. I think I’m just shocked about the whole situation and I’ve not been able to process the disaster in my head. Also, I wanted to just focus on one thing only, which is government’s negligence. Maybe, in the nearest future I’ll write with more depth about the sad event and what it means to me personally. Thanks for your kind comment and reading my blog posts.

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