The HLA School for the Handicapped in Ibadan has been a safe haven for children with special needs since 1976. But their home is now choked by thick, black smoke from burning car parts and other waste, harming both the students and staff.
This school, housing 240 pupils with diverse needs and supported by 20 dedicated staff, faces a daily environmental crisis. The burning happens right beside the school and spills into its grounds, poisoning the air with dangerous fumes.
On a recent visit, my colleagues and I were met by this suffocating smoke upon entering. Inside, teachers, some who themselves have disabilities, were covering their noses and battling coughs. They shared how frequent bouts of sickness have plagued them and their students since the burning began.
Headmistress Mrs. Adewale Elizabeth revealed she’s written to the Oyo State Ministry of Environment but nothing has changed. This inaction puts lives at risk. Carbon emissions from this burning cause not just coughing and wheezing, but also heart problems, headaches, even cancer. For these already vulnerable children, the dangers are even greater.
We cannot turn a blind eye to this blatant health hazard. We urge the Commissioner for Environment, the head of the Environmental Task Force, the Education Ministry, and the State Basic Education Board to intervene immediately. Stop the burning, relocate it away from the school, and enforce regulations for proper waste disposal.
Letting the livelihoods of car part sellers trump the health of these children is simply unacceptable. Sustainable solutions exist, and protecting the environment benefits everyone in the long run.
The right to breathe clean air is fundamental, not a privilege. HLA School’s story isn’t just about them; it’s about ensuring everyone, regardless of ability, can enjoy a healthy environment. This appeal is a call to action. Contact your representatives, raise your voice, and demand change. Together, we can save not just the pupils of HLA School, but the very air we all breathe.
Alhazan Abiodun Rilwan,
Project Public Relations Officer (P.P.R.O),
Oyo State Community and Social
Development Agency. Ibadan.