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Death in the schools

By Editorial Board   |   05 March 2017   |   4:00 am

Queens College Lagos

That two students of Queens College Lagos died the other day from diarrhea outbreak in the school while scores of others were hospitalised is shocking and highly regrettable. This case should be thoroughly investigated to unravel the cause of the outbreak and to prevent recurrence.

Queens College, by all standards, is one of the elite schools in Nigeria that over the years maintained an enviable record of high academic performance, moral rectitude and good upbringing of students, which would not have been possible without a tradition of committed management or good school administration. All of that may have changed along with the general decay in the country.

That being the case, news of the death of the students has jolted many people, especially parents and guardians, the federal and Lagos State government authorities.

Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole has appropriately directed the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

The death of the students has thrown up many questions about the state of hygiene in all schools. While the bereaved parents allege negligence on the part of the school authorities, preliminary reports claim the victims died from cholera outbreak caused by contamination of the school’s water system, a development that needs to be investigated.

Others allege that the toilets were not properly maintained. Certainly, only a thorough investigation will unravel the truth and establish the veracity of these claims.

However, the state of cleanliness or hygiene at Queens College may not be different from what obtains in practically all public schools in Nigeria.

As a matter of fact, the Queens College incident is a metaphor for what is happening in all parts of the country.

To start with, lack of public water supply is a serious handicap to proper hygiene in schools. Because there is no water, the toilets are often left in a messy condition while users of such filthy toilets are exposed to infectious diseases including cholera.

It is unimaginable that today, many public schools and institutions in Nigeria are still using pit latrines. In June, a seven year-old pupil died after falling into one at Alapere in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Again, in September 2015, there was confusion at Fasok Nursery and Primary Schoo, Ketu, after a missing five-year old primary pupil identified as Kehinde Toba was found dead in an open pit latrine.

Many of these heart-rending incidents happen every now and then. There are in fact students in many schools who don’t even have the luxury of pit latrines but defecate in the open, thereby exposing themselves and the rest of the community to danger!

This appalling unhygienic situation is not limited to schools. Reports from across the country indicate that most of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) orientation camps are closer to death camps as a result of the poor living condition.

All these horrible experiences point to the fact that things have really gone so bad with Nigeria.

Diarrhea is a highly contagious disease that can be spread from person to person through dirty hands and contaminated food and water. The saving grace in the Queens College case was that it happened, while the students were on mid-term, which made the school authorities to extend the break by one week to enable investigations to be carried out. Otherwise, the fatalities would have been more.

One way to deal with diarrhea is by observing simple hygiene. The kitchen must be clean and food properly cooked and served. Water must be available and all should be made to wash their hands frequently.

The compound should be kept clean. Above all, the toilets should be clean and disinfected on regular basis. Students should be discouraged from purchasing food carelessly from vendors.

It needs to be reiterated that in the good old days, living in school dormitories was pleasurable. The beddings were sparkling clean and the food was of high quality. School inspectors were ever at hand to ensure that things were in their proper order and quality was maintained.

But all of that is now history.

Without immediate intervention, the future of the country is bleak. There is need for serious improvement in infrastructure facilities in schools. Something as basic as conveniences should be given priority attention because of the health implications.

The school sick bay should be equipped and manned by humane health personnel. Quite often, the unfriendly conduct of health workers compound the problem that should have been minimised if handled properly.

Finally, parents should educate their wards on how to manage their affairs while in school. It is not enough for parents and guardians to dump their wards in school, monitoring is important. Learning starts from the home, as proper upbringing is necessary in a child’s life and the school alone cannot do the job.




  • Prince Awele Odor

    The diarrhoea was allergic reactions due to any food given to them that was poisoned through the genetic RE-engineering of the source of the food; that is the application of biotechnology to alter the genetic expression pathway of the source of the food or the product of its genetic expression.

    The president, governors, legislators and other Nigerians take this matter for granted or fail to ensure that GM foods are safe before they are in Nigeria at the risk of dying of Nigerians.

    The minister for agriculture and rural development, and the D.Gs of NABDA, NABMA, FIRRO, and NAFDAC should be prosecuted or bear responsibility over the matter.

    It is noted that ALL safety studies of GM foods reveal allergic reaction, toxicity and carcinogenicity as the consequence of consuming them. NO GM food has passed safety study anywhere in the world, NOT EVEN ONE!!!.

    • Nwabu King

      You are wrong. Please stop spreading false information.

      • Prince Awele Odor

        You have NOT said something helpful or, with due regards to your sentiment, reasonable.

        If I am wrong, why am I wrong? You should provide the reason in order that your contribution would be helpful and reasonable. I also expect you to reveal what the cause of it is, how it caused it, and defence of these from the literature—as I did.

        • Nwabu King

          There is no evidence that genetically engineered food caused the diarrhea outbreak. Crops are genetically engineered to withstand pest infestation, and to improve yield. Life itself is genetic engineering. The article focused on the poor state of hygiene in QC due to lack of water. We don’t know what the pathogen was, it could have been viral or bacterial. Rather than attribute this to GMOs, we ought to be canvassing for constant water supply and improvement in the health facilities our schools have.

          • Prince Awele Odor

            You wrote: “Crops are genetically engineered to withstand pest infestation, and to improve yield”. How is this done? Is the method precise and specific? What are the consequences of lack of precision and specificity? Is there evidence that GM food causes diarrhoea as allergic reaction? Should the focus be limited to water? Why do you say that there is no evidence that GM food caused it if they ate foods on that day, it has been established that GM foods cause allergic reaction—diarrhea being one of them and the most common—and the foods that they were given on that day were not investigated for anything that could cause allergic reaction—pathogen? Was that day the first day that they drank from that source of water?

          • Nwabu King

            I don’t know if you are trolling me. The article never mentioned anything about genetically modified food. Now, could you list the GM food that could have caused such a large outbreak of diarrhea in a school? Allergies do not cause outbreaks, on such a scale. The safety of GM foods are still being debated, and studied. If you feel so strongly about it, inform your representative in the House or Senate to sponsor a bill that ensures that all foods that are GMOs be labeled. This will need to be enforced by NAFDAC and the police.

          • Prince Awele Odor

            Trolling you? Your first reaction to my first post in which I considered GM food as a possible cause of the diarrhoea was: “You are wrong. Please stop spreading false information”. This was insulting, aggressive, unscientific and cannot promote or encourage a holistic and thorough investigation into the cause of the diarrhoea. I had to establish my position clearly and defend it in my second post because I mean well. The first line of your reaction to this post was: “There is no evidence that genetically engineered food caused the diarrhea outbreak”. This was also insulting, antagonistic, unscientific, and prohibits or discourages any investigation into the cause of the diarrhoea. It necessitated the form of my third post (questions) intended to make you defend your categorical assertions. Rather than defend your categorical assertions, you claimed or implied that I am trolling you.

            PLEASE answer the questions that I asked you in my last post before I react to the assertions and demands that you made in your last post.

          • Nwabu King

            “That two students of Queens College Lagos died the other day from diarrhea outbreak in the school while scores of others were hospitalised is shocking and highly regrettable. This case should be thoroughly investigated to unravel the cause of the outbreak and to prevent recurrence.”

            I said you were spreading false information because you ascribed the cause of diarrhea to only GMOs, and proceeded on your fiery diatribe of genetically modified food. You had no proof that GMOs caused widespread diarrhea, resulting in the death of these students. That is my point.

            As to your other questions on the science of GMOs, I have no answers to. I would expect, however, that plant DNA would need to be modified, at precise base pairs to influence the production of proteins that modify the qualities of the plant. You may have meant to question the effects of these proteins on human metabolism. This remains an ongoing debate. Some animal model studies especially in mice have shown no conclusive evidence. A few have shown no effects, others have shown upregulation of some factors in the gut epithelium, which may be deleterious to the animal. Therefore long term studies are also needed to determine the effects on humans and the environment.

            To support your argument you said, “Was that day the first day that they drank from that source of water?” This statement displays a naivete to issues of potable water supply. Change is the only constant thing in life and as such, water sources can get contaminated at any time.

            The quote I copied from the article clearly states that a full investigation will need to be carried out to discover the source of this outbreak.

          • Prince Awele Odor

            Take note that the report, as reproduced by you, recommends: “This case should be thoroughly investigated to unravel the cause of the outbreak and to prevent recurrence”.

            For the case to be “thoroughly investigates to unravel the cause of the outbreak and to prevent recurrence”, water alone should NOT be investigated. They had at least breakfast which may include milk and any beverage. Whatever else they consumed or ingested should also have been taken to the laboratory for investigation. Conclusion was made that it was caused by water. What was in the water that caused the diarrhoea was not, as much as I know, told the public. More common diseases in Lagos due to water known to me are malaria and typhoid

            The so-called “modification” is NOT carried out precisely or specifically. No mathematics of sending foreign DNAs and genes into the genome of a source of food has achieved any of these. This is one of the sources of the toxins, allergens, carcinogens and reduced nutrients that characterise GM foods—solids and liquids.

            Concerning the proteins expressed, protein folding in the course of its expression for genetic RE-engineering or genetic modification of a source of food is also different from the natural folding of protein. This makes the protein from genetic RE-engineering or modification express toxicity or another effect when it is ingested. Moreover, the protein usually lands where it should not be. This is another cause of effect. Thirdly the protein may never have been consumed. That is; a completely new protein. That also would express health effect. E.g, the L-tryptophan in the milk produced by Showa Denko KK, Japan, that caused 35 deaths, 1,500 allergic reactions and over 2000 other mild effects in USA in 1989.

            Concerning effects of consuming GM foods, take note that GM foods are said to be “as safe as organic foods”, or “of no known effect” by the executes, consultants and sundry agents of the companies that produce them and that for all of them that have been investigated by independent experts, following the use of FoI to have them investigated, it has been shown that they are toxic, allergenic, carcinogenic, of reduced nutrient content, or more than one of these characteristics.

            The GM tomato by Cajgene Inc. USA, first studied by the USFDA and later by independent experts after Alliance for Biointegrity used the FoI to force the USFDA to release it for independent study provides a good example. The safety study of GM potato by Dr. Arpad Pusztai and others at Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland—which you may intend by “others have shown upregulation of some factors in the gut epithelium”—- and the REPEAT of the safety study by Monsanto, USA, of the GM corn, NK630, carried out by Gilles-Eric Seralini et all—-retracted due to threats, pressure and bribe from Monsanto and repeated by another group of experts who upheld their findings of acute carcinogenicity and toxicity—are very significant and note-worthy evidence.

            Only one human safety study has been carried out. Its resu;lt is why no other person has volunteered for clinical study.

            If as you said, “long term studies are also needed to determine the effects on humans”, this should necessitated the banning of GM foods until the long-term studies have been carried out and safety deter mined. But take note that the study by Seralini et al lasted for two years and that this is a very long time, being the life span for rats. For human being this may be one hundred years. But, as I noted, no person has volunteered after the first. The producers have not volunteered and refused the challenge to volunteer. Will you volunteer for the safety study? I can bring experts to Nigeria if the president or any state government will write them asking them to come and carry it out and will finance their coming and pay them for doing this.

            My question: “Was that day the first day that they drank from that source of water?” does not display naivety because diarrhoea should be severe to cause death and the immune system would have been subjected to overwork before this happens–which is NOT a one-drink affir. You noted: “Change is the only constant thing in life …” May I reason with you that change is change and a constant is a constant. I mean that a constant is NOT changing and a changing quantity is NOT constant. A constant is generally an assumption, maybe, imaginary one, made for experimental purposes while change is REAL translation from one place, form, quantity, quality, etc to another.

            You also noted: “and as such, water sources can get contaminated at any time”. Right. I reason that the effect of the contamination will be mild of severe, short-term or chronic depending on the contaminant and the immune response to the effect of the contaminant. Following this, I asked whether that day was the first time that they drank the water because I reasoned that the deaths seem to have happened too quickly for one drink of the water. By the way, what contaminant caused the diarrhoea?

            I am waiting for FULL investigation. This, as I noted earlier, should include investigation of all solid and liquid foods eaten on that day, including milk. Send me the conclusion if you read it, just in case I miss it. Thanks and good night. I am tired.

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