At inception, the idea was for Queen Elizabeth School (QES) Ilorin, one of the surviving British legacies, to be the best in the country for the education and moral training of the girl child.
Subsequently, machineries, championed by Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England, were put in place. This was under the then government of the Northern Region headed by the late Premier and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
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That synergy, which was envisaged to liberate the engendered “girl-child”, later birthed the famous and iconic institution that has produced some of the best female brains in the country.
Conspicuously situated along the Lagos-Ilorin Road, Ilorin, its population has grown from the 54 pioneer students to over 875 from JSS1 to SSS3, including those on exchange from the other 18 northern states and the south.
Although established in May 21, 1956, it was officially opened a year later on November 21, 1957 under its pioneer principal Miss K. A. Player, who was succeeded by two other expatriates – Miss Stantan and Miss Mellor, before the headship was passed to Nigerians starting from 1969 after the country’s independence.
From the era of its pioneer principal to the present era of Hajia Sidikat Lawal, the first old student to be so considered, the only all girls school in the state that is not running day schooling has had quite a historical narrative that is repleted with nostalgia for the old students. Many of them are scattered across the nooks and crannies of the country, excelling in their various fields of endeavours.
For those familiar with the school’s trajectory, Queen Elizabeth School Ilorin is presently going through the third phase in its existential quest, which is that of consolidation. The two earlier stages are synonymous with the idiosyncrasy of educational development in the country. The school has once moved from its days of glory to living within the shadows of its lost reputation.
But under the new Sheriff, QES appears to be getting its groove back, thanks to the efforts of the present government and solidarity of the old students from home and Diaspora to save their alumni.
The result of the students after the completion of the ongoing West African Examination Council (WAEC) for senior Secondary Schools and Junior NECO will say much about how far Mrs Lawal has gone with her resolve to bring back the “good old days” combining learning and social activities to deliver exciting and quality education to the students.
A staff of the school who highlighted that “middle phase” before the present “revolution” stated thus: “At a time, the competition for places here was so high that parents don’t mind if their children or wards will be sleeping on the floor just to be part of the system here. That was when the school was being handled by disciplinarians, until politics and sentiment crept in.
“That period of excellence later snowballed into one of great concern which also incorporated what I will call a “stealing galore” of some of the school properties like bunks, mattresses and other properties. It got to a stage where students in the school clinic lacked spoons and cups to take their medicines or even to feed. Many of them preferred to defecate in the bush, exposing themselves to dangerous reptiles because of the state of our toilets. The nettings in the hostels were nothing to write home about and we had issue of lack of electricity.
“To make matters worse, appointment of staff became politicised, leading to drop in the standard of teaching, and a lot of parents were forced to withdraw their children,” the staff said.
The source added that the period foisted a challenging regime of neglect and abandonment which led to deteriorating facilities and near dearth of infrastructural development.
But one of the longest serving teachers in the school who recently retired after 20 years of service, Mrs Florence Arinola Ifabiyi, said the school has been fortunate to benefit richly from its old student in the areas of infrastructural development and several other interventions.
Mama St Clair as Mrs Ifabiyi was popularly known said Governor Adulrahman Abdulrazaq has tried for giving the school quality and befitting asphalt roads within the premises which is unprecedented as well as several other interventions. She added that the late Dr Olusola Saraki, who donated and fuelled one of the big generating sets for years and provided a bus, assisted greatly in the provision of constant electricity and ease of transportation.
She however advised that for the progress and development of QES to be faster and coordinated, the federal or state government must revisit the policy of two principals running the school because of the “tension and cold war it has created over time.”
For top players in the education sector, Queen Elizabeth School Ilorin has not disappointed in actualizing the dreams and objectives of its founding fathers with the far-reaching impact it has had in the promotion of the girl child education.
Today, after over six decades, many of its products and exports did not only go on to showcase their academic prowess in the cause of furthering their education, they call the shots across the government, public and business sectors in line with its slogan “We are always first”.
The contribution of its alumni to the development in the country is pronounced and intimidating.
The roll call of these amazons who are listed on a board hung at the reception have the likes of former First Lady of Nigeria and one time Chief Judge of Niger State Hon. Justice Fati Lami Abubakar; first female presidential aspirant, Mrs. Sarah Jubril; first female engineer in the North, Engr. Yelwa Tella; first Executive Secretary, National Women Commission, Dr. Eyantu Ifene; first female Veterinary Doctor in West Africa, Dr. (Mrs) Fabunmi; first Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Dr. Gambo Laraba Abdullahi; first Executive Secretary, National Mass Literacy Agency, Hajia Iyami Ahmed; and first female Solicitor-General and Director-General, Kwara State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Nima Salman Mann.
The endless list of the school’s “firsts” also include first Executive Secretary, Kwara State Women Commission, Mrs. H. S. O. Alayoku and first Provost, College of Education (Technical) Lafiagi, Dr. Mrs. Comfort Adu. There have also been first generation of female commissioners and Director General in the northern Nigeria including Salamatu Audu and Hajia Aduke Kuranga including business executives such as Chief (Mrs.) Ruth Otitoju; Senator Khairat Gwadabe, sister to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq who once dug a borehole for the school to ease its water problem, billionaire businesswoman and oil magnate, Hajia Muinat Bola Shagaya; Mrs. Mariam Pam; Mrs. Eniola Olubobokun and Hajia Amosa Adewusi, among several other pound Queens who are doing the school proud in their chosen fields.
But QES has however not laid its golden eggs to expand the country frontiers of development alone. It has benefitted immensely and continues to from its alumni who have ensured that interventions have not stopped especially now that one of their own is at the helms of affairs as the principal of the school. This is aside the government’s statutory obligations.
Aside the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which renovated classrooms equipped with modern facilities, completed two new hostels with the capacity to accommodate 200 students and provided a modern ICT centre with a brand-new Coaster bus during its 56th anniversary held July 14, 2012, another major landmark event was the intervention of Justice Fati Abubakar.
The former Chief Judge of Niger State whom the school library was named after, donated N40m from which the school relied on as one of its major sources for renovation works then.
While speaking to Daily Trust about the struggles and triumphs of the school, the principal of the Senior Secondary School, Hajia Sidikat Lawal, who assumed office on January 8, 2020, said the school presently has nine hostels for 1,500 students, adding that one of the recent challenging periods was the storm of March 13, 2020 which blew off roofs in the premises until the governor rescued the situation.
“Incidentally I belong to the class of ‘81 and during our time as students, we experienced many good gestures, our principals were upright and ensured that we had the best. After I assumed office, our students performed very well in the last WASSCE and SSCE examinations and we are not doing badly in the area of sports, spelling bee, quiz and debates. I came here through the clamour by the old students and since then, they have rallied round me.
“They have renovated the dining hall, clinic, the old chemistry lab that have been out of use for quite some time now. They have also donated solar street lights and renovated and equipped the physics and biology labs that were recently commissioned. The most recent is the complete turnaround of the Hadijat Hostel. The government can’t do it all and that is why I went round to solicit for support from our old students who have risen to the occasion to save their Alma Mata.”
In her remarks, the Commissioner for Education, Hajia Saadat Modibbo, said “The government has been extremely supportive in addition to the support from the old girls.
“In the past, our exchange students used to stay back when the school closes but now, their transportation is paid by the government and the school gets support for their feeding every month.”
A former student, Naphisat AbdulKareem, said the authorities need to look at how to solve the issue of water and toilet facilities.
Also, one of the teachers, Mr Adesoun Opeyemi Ademola, who joined in 2018 said almost all the infrastructural faculties have been restored, “But one of our major challenge is the issue of water in the staff quarters which has really been a source of concern for us.
However, during a tour of the school, Daily Trust observed that some areas like the “Village” which housed clerical and other junior workers is in a very bad shape and needs speedy intervention.
Also, although substantial part of the entire road network in the school has been asphalted, there are some portions that have been left uncompleted from which the asphalt may begin to fail, especially now that the rains are here.