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General Murtala College in ruins

The 100-year-old famous school is currently in a deplorable state and begging for urgent attention,

General Murtala Mohammed College (GMMC) Yola is one of the oldest schools in Northern Nigeria today and has produced outstanding alumni who served at the top level of governments, industries and the academia. But the 100-year-old famous school is currently in a deplorable state and begging for urgent attention, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

 

In the colonial Northern Nigeria era, Captain F.W. Taylor, the Junior Superintendent of Education started preparation for a school in Yola in 1916. Taylor left for war service in 1917 and returned in 1920 to reopen the school.

The enrolment of the first set of 11 students was contentious as many parents wanted their children to work on the farm or did not want them to enrol in the white man’s or ‘nasara’ school as the locals called it.

The first set of pupils comprised of mainly the children of district heads, judges, administrators in the Native Authority and other people who realised the potential of Western education.

The school, which started as elementary, was upgraded to Middle School in 1930 and by 1957, it achieved the status of secondary school and renamed Yola Provincial Secondary School.

In 1967, the military government under General Aguiyi Ironsi abolished the provinces and promulgated a unitary form of government as a result of which all provincial schools were converted to government secondary schools.

Hence, the school became GSS Yola and ten years later, when the then Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed fell to the assassin’s bullet in 1976, GSS Yola was renamed General Murtala Mohammed College (GMMC) in his honour.

Personalities including a former Vice president and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; former Defence Chief, General Gibson Jalo; former Naval Chief and governor of Adamawa State, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako; former Inspector General of Police, Gambo Jimeta; former Air Chief, Air Marshal Ibrahim Alfa; Air Marshal Natiti; the current chairman of the North East Development Commission (NEDC),  Major General Paul Chabri Tarfa; former Education Minister, Professor Jibril Aminu; a First Republic Minister, Danburam Jada, and governor of the defunct Gongola State, Abubakar Barde, were all students of the college.

Others are former Adamawa governor, Saleh Michika; a historian, Professor Sa’adu Abubakar; Alhaji Muhammadu Mubi; former Minister of Environment, Hassan Adamu and former Adamawa governor, Bala James Nggilari to mention just a few.

The school has graduated over 80 sets of students over the last century of its existence.

Atiku Abubakar served as the first President of the Alumni Association which takes pride in the school’s motto: Tiddo Yo Daddo, a Fulfulde phrase meaning: He who strives, succeeds.

Concerns over deplorable state of GMMC

Despite the calibre of men it produced over the last century, and its huge contribution to human resource development, the school has been neglected and allowed to degenerate.

Findings by Daily Trust Saturday showed the hostels are in bad shape; looking too old and without window cover or mosquito nets, with students sleeping on mats spread on bare floors in the absence of beds or mattresses to sleep on.

At the class room area, visitors are always greeted by decayed roofing, falling ceiling sheets and a few broken chairs and desks hardly enough for a quarter of the students. Students take lessons sitting on bare floor.

Some of the students who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday complained of unhygienic environment and poor feeding as well as lack of basic learning facilities in the school.

A student told our reporter that the food served at the kitchen was always inadequate and of poor quality, saying those who had the means brought in foodstuff or buy food from vendors.

“We are given only ‘kunu’ for breakfast and seldom with a piece of bean cake. The meal for lunch and dinner is almost always a plate of ‘tuwo’ with baobab leaf soup. Sometimes, we are served rice, but that is once a week. No meat at all,” the student said.

Another student revealed that he and his friends have contemplated searching for menial jobs outside the school to enable them raise money to support themselves.

“We sleep on mats because there are no beds or mattresses. In the whole of my hostel, there are only two old beds. Some students arrange planks on the beds to sleep on in place of mattresses. The food they cook for us is bad. Sometimes, the tuwo is so badly cooked that part of it turns out to be maize flour but we eat it like that because we don’t have a choice,” a student said.

Meanwhile, a teacher who sought anonymity said sometimes, they lack chalk and other materials due to unsteady supply from the state government while teachers provide teaching aids like rulers, compasses and instructional materials they use in the classroom.

“There is shortage of furniture, so many students sit on the floor. In this age, we are still using chalk and blackboard instead of projectors and board markers.”

Highlighting some of the problems bedeviling the school, the GMMC Principal, Senior Secondary Section, Abubakar Baba Abbas, complained of inadequate teachers, chairs, beds, mattresses as well as poor hostel conditions.

He said the school’s dispensary has been without drugs supply while the premises remained unsecured as the perimeter fence has fallen at various points with some improper businesses such as beer parlours springing up around the fence.

“We have a nurse posted by the state government but there are no drugs from anywhere. Beds are not enough and students bring their mattresses. The 1978 set donated mattresses and 12 beds which could not go round. Members of the alumni association are renovating some of the buildings,” the principal stated.

Also speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, the College’s Centenary Celebration committee Publicity Secretary, Salihu Baba Ahmad, said he shed tears over the present squalid condition of his alma mater during a recent visit.

“Everything is wrong with the school. When I visited the school recently, I burst into tears because it was very emotional. I met school children living like refugees; their condition worse than that of prisoners.

“They sleep on bare floors. You see students roaming about without uniforms. You could not distinguish who is a student and who is not. No books in the library. The situation could have been worse if not for the intervention of the Alumni,” he said.

Reminiscing his old days as student between 1975 and 1981 when the quality of teaching was high and students’ welfare a priority, Baba-Ahmed said students lived like kings in those days as the school provided all their needs.

“In our days, we were given transport and pocket money; mosquito nets, insecticides, soap, detergent and tissue paper, and our dispensary was as good as a Maitama (Abuja) clinic. We bathed under a powerful shower. We had laundry service. At the kitchen, we got an orange after every meal. If the food was too oily or peppery, there was a suggestion box for complain.

“There was library and museum. A projector for Saturday shows. I played basket ball; I was given the ball to sleep with. There was press club that gave bulletin which was read weekly at the assembly. All these suddenly disappeared,” Baba Ahmed stated.

Alumni plans centenary celebration

The chairman, Local Organising Committee for the Centenary Celebration, Abubakar Saad Gambe, told our reporter that the association had come up with a comprehensive needs assessment chart based on which they were mobilising old boys and some corporate bodies for massive renovation of decayed facilities, adding that a number of hostel blocks had so far been rehabilitated.

On the centenary celebration which was shifted from April 2020 to December 2021 due to the Corona Virus lockdown, the chairman said alumni members all over the world have been communicated and were expected to assemble in Yola for the grand commemoration of a historical milestone of the school. He noted that the association plans to use the event to turn around the school.

Gambe said the idea of celebrating the 100 years of GMMC first came to his mind in 2016 in Sokoto while attending the 50th anniversary of the Federal Government College Sokoto where he had worked as principal.

“In 2016, I was invited by the Federal Government College Sokoto where I had served as principal, to attend their 50th anniversary. While collecting a gift from the chairman of the occasion, General Yakubu Gowon, I reflected on the fact that my own secondary school will not only be celebrating 50 years but 100 years,” he stated.

He therefore sent an article to Daily Trust newspaper which was published the next day. The article, which expressed the need for old boys to celebrate the milestone, attracted huge reaction from old boys and their families.

Hope  for GMMC

However, there appears to be hope in the horizon for the famous school as some of its products have indicated readiness to turn around its fortunes.

Receiving the Alumni committee of the college in his house in Yola in July, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar lamented the current dilapidated state of the college that made him what he was, promising to assist in turning around the school.

The former vice president promised to participate in the renovations, repairs and provision of supplies needed to uplift the standard of families at the GMMC.

Atiku, who pledged to fund the final phase of the celebration – the December 2021 gala activities, thanked the committee members for their sacrifices in making the centenary celebration a reality despite the fact that most of them were retirees.

The committee also visited Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako at his Abuja residence to solicit for his support in the upcoming event.

A veteran journalist and book author, Yakubu Abdullahi Yakubu, said he was looking forward to the celebration because his late father, Abdullahi Yakubu was an alumnus of the college.

“My late father was a graduate of the GMMC with admission number 506. The late Lamido Aliyu Mustapha graduated in 1943 and Hamidu Alkali in 1944,” Yakubu stated.

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