Norths' 1st female college: Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin preserving colonial legacy
57 years after, the first Girls’ Government Secondary School to be established in northern Nigeria, Queen Elizabeth School (QES) Ilorin, still strives to preserve its standard, structure and sustain the reputation it has built amidst plummeting education standard in Nigeria. Weekly Trust in this report looks at the state of the school which remains an important vestige of Nigeria’s colonial experience.
The establishment of the Queen Elizabeth School Ilorin on May 21st, 1956 by the then Northern Region Government under the leadership of late Premier of the Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto was a response to the clamour for a special college that would provide sound education for girls in the region to improve girl-child education.
The initiative was sequel to suggestion by Queen Elizabeth who was to later formally open the school on November 21, 1957.
Located on the Lagos-Ilorin road, the school which started with 54 students, now has 850 students comprising of both the senior and junior categories as well as students on exchange from the other 18 northern states and the south.
Following state creation in 1967 the school was inherited by the Kwara State Government, but still admits students across states in the north.
The school was administered by three foreigners, including the pioneer Principal Miss K. A Player, Miss Stantan and Miss Mellor until 1969 when Nigerians started heading the school till date. After the exit of the three expatriate principals, the school has produced 10 principals including one for the junior section in line with the present Universal Basic Education (UBE) policy.
Undoubtedly, the school since inception has been able to achieve the objectives of its founding fathers given the high calibre of women it has produced. They are found as movers and shakers of the Nigerian society either in government or business. This is a reputation which the school has often flaunted with the slogan, “We are always first”. Among the first as listed on the school’s board hung at its reception is the former First Lady of f Nigeria, Hon. Justice Fati Lami Abubakar who is the current Chief Justice of Niger State; first female presidential aspirant, Mrs. Sarah Jubril; first Vice Chancellor of University of Abuja, Dr. Gambo Laraba Abdullahi; first female Engineer in the North - Engr. Yelwa Tella; first female Veterinary Doctor in West Africa - Dr. (Mrs) Fabunmi; first Executive Secretary, National Women Commission - Dr. Eyantu Ifene; first Executive Secretary, National Mass Literacy Agency - Hajia Iyami Ahmed; first female Solicitor-General and Director-General, Ministry of Justice, Kwara State. Mrs. Nima Salman Mann.
First Executive Secretary, Kwara State Women Commission, Mrs. H. S. O. Alayoku; first Provost, College of Education (Technical) Lafiagi. Dr. Mrs. Comfort Adu; first generation of female commissioners and Directors General in the northern Nigeria including Salamatu Audu, Hajia Aduke Kuranga; business executives such as Chief (Mrs.) Ruth Otitoju, Hajia Airat Rasaq, Hajia Muinat Bola Shagaya, Mrs. Mariam Pam, Mrs. Eniola Olubobokun, Hajia Amosa Adewusi, among many others are doing the school proud in their chosen fields.
The Queen Elizabeth School just like other old secondary schools in Nigeria has had a history of excellent academic performance by its students. These students as shown by their calibre did not only leave the various schools already made, they also graduated from universities and other higher institutions of learning with distinctions in their respective disciplines.
However, presently the reverse is the case across the country. The Queen Elizabeth School is therefore not an exception. Although stakeholders are said to be working relentlessly to sustain the sterling academic record of the school and preserve the excellence of the “Queens”. For instance, Weekly Trust gathered that the school’s performance in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Examinations which used to be 12 per cent of recent has leapfrogged to over 50 per cent pass in 2012 for students who had five or six credits including English and Mathematics while the percentage of others who also had five credits with either Mathematics or English is put at 80 per cent. Percentage of pass in the last WAEC is said to be higher as it was still being expected as at the time of filing this report.
The immediate past Principal of the school, Hajia Munirat Ayinla, who attributed the decline to flippant attitude of students whom she accused of wasting their time on frivolities, as well as lackadaisical attitude of teachers and lack of required learning materials, explained that a number of strategies were put in place which yielded results and improved the performance of the school academically.
She said “we put in place a very strong academic board which consists of the HODs, class supervisors, exam officer, school counsellor, then the school management and we meet every fortnightly to review the progress of our students vis-a-viz their academic performance. Apart from that we really made sure that students had their text books.
“We made sure they had all the recommended text books. We employed teachers with the help of PTA in areas where we think we didn’t have enough teachers. We employed experts on our own and they are being paid by the school and the PTA.
“Then we introduced special coaching and it is mainly teaching. We got teachers from outside and even on Saturdays particularly for our final year students. That actually helped a lot. We were able to see the difference. In addition, I was able to get the multi-choice learning centre for the school where our students were exposed to practical aspect of learning,” she said.
Old students as pillars of support
Queen school represents a good example of the strategic importance of school’s alumni; how the old students could complement government’s efforts to arrest the decline especially the decrepit state of infrastructure in various schools. Apart from the government’s statutory obligations to the college, Queen School has been able to leverage on the array of personalities it has produced to help contribute to the school’s upliftment.
The 56th anniversary of the school held on July 14, 2012 amidst pomp and pageantry would forever remain indelible in the history of the school. It was at that ceremony where several dignitaries were honoured with medals that the school was able to, with the help of one of the awardees, court the attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is currently embarking on several intervention projects in the school.
The projects include the renovation of 70 per cent of the school’s classrooms to be equipped with modern facilities, building of two new hostels that can accommodate over 200 students, a modern ICT centre and presentation of a brand new Coaster bus. All the projects are almost completed, Weekly Trust investigations. The PZ Cussons through Justice Fati Abubakar renovated the school Assembly Hall which has been completed with air-conditioners installed. The state government has also promised to complete the rest of the classrooms and other infrastructures required in the school, according to Mrs. Ayinla, adding that “by the time the renovation of classrooms and other CBN projects are completed, the school would have been given a befitting facelift.”
Beside the 56th anniversary, the landmark events the school organised in the past were the 40th anniversary which, according to the former Principal, Alhaja Ayinla, “yielded good dividends for the school”. It was during the 40th anniversary 17 years ago that Justice Abubakar whom, the school library was named after, donated N40million. This donation, according to the former principal who was once a Vice Principal, remains a source of major renovation works in the school until recently.
Similarly, the school’s Golden Jubilee in 2007 was celebrated in grand style with galaxy of personalities in attendance. Among them was the late strongman of Kwara politics and founder of the Northern Union, Dr. Abubakar Olushola Saraki who donated a bus to the school, an official car to the Principal and a big generating set the school now uses.
The new Principal of the School, Alhaja Rahmat Abdulrahman who assumed office in April this year, told Weekly Trust that the old students intervene consistently in areas where the school is lacking.
“The founding fathers of this college have laid a solid foundation for its development. The structures built over the years are still very strong and solid. Except the minor repairs on the windows and ceiling, the structures are still intact like the administrative block, classrooms and other structures built by the founders,” she added.
However, the principal harped on the need to improve the infrastructure which she noted is one of the major challenges the school is facing as a result of the explosion in students’ population. “But with the intervention by the CBN, the government and other philanthropic individuals, we believe the infrastructural challenges are surmountable,” said Mrs. Abdulrahman, adding that, “this is a unity school with a difference, because all the 19 northern states are represented. We also have students from South-East and South-South “.
The second principal of the school, Hajia Nike Ogunwale told Weekly Trust that “the old students are doing us proud. We have different facilities both from government and individuals and you can see the school is growing from strength to strength.”
The principal’s office is decorated with portraits of past principals of the school including the three expatriates. It was gathered that the first Principal of the school, Miss Player, an Italian who is now late, willed 1,000 Pounds to the school at the time of her death. “Many of us didn’t know her, but we were informed that she willed 1,000 Pounds to the school,” explained the former Principal. The money was used to buy a set of books tagged Miss Player’s books,” she added.
Alhaja H.O Ayo, a former Principal of the school (2007-2010), said emphasis is not only on academic, but the students are also thought moral “and to the glory of God, the students are not only academically sound, but morally upright”.
The school was bubbling last Wednesday when its Press Club members met the Principals in a programme tagged, “Principals meet the press”. It was aimed at feeling the pulse of the students. It was an occasion that brough school together all the students resplendent in their sky blue and white uniform who thronged the dining hall venue of the programme, to share feelings and relive experiences with the administrators.
The Head Girl of the school, Olubiyo Toluwase Grace told Weekly Trust that the institution is “a wonderful school with high dignity and respect”. She, however, called for more intervention in infrastructural facilities.
Also, Adebayo Temidayo in JSS 3 said the school is “an environment for intelligent people”, adding that “academically, the students are good and the teachers are of high quality.”
The Parents/Teachers’ Association (PTA) Chairman, Alhaji Isiaka Salawu pledged the continued cooperation of parents with the school authorities through the provision of financial and material support, recalling that the association recently bought 12 sets of computer ,to the school just as it pays part-time teachers, among other interventions. “We thank God, the standard has progressively increased and we are well pleased with the standard,” he added.
Kwara State Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaji Saka Onimago said in line with the premium, the AbdulFatah Ahmed-led government places on education, the school has constantly received government’s attention and support. Onimago, who spoke through the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Alhaji Abdulhameed Alabi, however, said the government is appreciative of the several interventions from individuals and corporate organisations while appealing to other stakeholders to follow suit and provide aids to the school being the first girls school to be established in the north.
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