Inventing and commemorating Queen Elizabeth school, Ilorin, in Nigeria (1956–2016)

Kay Whitehead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the establishment of Queen Elizabeth School (QES), the first government secondary school for girls in Northern Nigeria in 1956, and commemorations in 1961, 1981 and 2016. Connecting past and present, several invented traditions were deployed to socialise students, secure QES’s reputation and status, and foster national unity among Nigeria’s diverse peoples. In 1961, British Woman Education Officer Kathleen Player, the foundation principal, highlighted QES’s alignment with the traditions of the British Public school and its commitment to ‘unity in diversity’ following Nigeria’s independence in 1960. She was honoured during QES’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 1981, and new traditions promoted institutional and national loyalties. However, the 2016 commemoration coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Sir Ahmado Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria (1954–1966). In this context, Player’s legacy and the colonial past were marginalised in favour of Bello as founder of QES and symbol of national unity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-272
Number of pages19
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Girls’ secondary schooling
  • Invented traditions
  • Nigerian education
  • School commemoration
  • Women educators


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