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More on mega schools in Borno

My piece on the budding mega schools in Borno, in mid-December, attracted plenty of reactions. My colleague, Buhari Hassan, a keen follower and contributor to…

My piece on the budding mega schools in Borno, in mid-December, attracted plenty of reactions. My colleague, Buhari Hassan, a keen follower and contributor to this page, was one of the first to respond. Though living in Kaduna, Buhari keeps his nose close to happenings in Borno and did not spare this page for being rather mild and timid in treating the subject matter. He said:

“Your account of the Mega schools built by Governor Kashim Shettima is rather tame and without much conviction. As a proud Indigene of Borno and product of Hausari Primary school (opposite your family compound) and Yerwa boarding Senior Primary School, I expected you to show more enthusiasm, go into memory lane (as you did in some of your previous write ups) and juxtapose the current status perhaps with an interactive session with some of the orphaned children and those of Hanagamba, Mbororoji Fulani would have made a great reading. I recall the Governor’s pledge to the Fulani Maigadis to build befitting schools and enrol their children. The vision of those parents and their children will be marvellous. Such a stellar performance by Governor Kashim Shettima deserves more than a neutral narrative.” Buhari Hassan

I agree with Buhari that the said column was a bit subdued but I would say its matter of style rather than the reporter putting blinkers to such huge achievement. I have gone round to see many of the schools and gathered more briefs on the mega schools – something quite unique in this part of the country. I am sure many more will view them in the next few days, before inauguration, to confirm assessments that nothing was spared to make these schools truly mega. I am already witnessing the plans for the take-off of the schools, the funding, enrolment of pupils, recruitment of teachers, feeding and transportation arrangements, the whole hog! The story is ongoing, an unfolding saga which we shall continue to comment upon, even if it just means poking a finger in the bleary eyes of those demented terrorists, the Boko Haram.

The story behind the conception of the mega school for the Mbororoji Fulani is truly an ennobling one. The Governor Kashim Shettima was said to be moved by an encounter he had with them last year when he was inspecting the mega schools under construction along Baga road. He found that the security men were all Fulani nomads that had probably lost their cattle to cattle rustlers and Boko Haram bandits. They were living in the uncompleted buildings, eking out a precarious living, in tow with a number of children of school age who were not attending any school. The Governor was worried that the children were not only out of school but were on the route to inherit their parents’ livelihood to end up as gate boys and girls.

He resolved to cut this vicious cycle of poverty and decided to lead the campaign to have the Mbororojis send their children to school. After weeks of patient persuasion, the parents finally allowed their children to be enrolled. The first set of eleven kids were sent to Elkanemi College, an elite private institution in Maiduguri, under sponsorship of the state government.  This noble act of the Governor spread fast among the community of the Mbororojis and as he made more inspection tours he met more of them and realized that they were a sizeable community that needed to be catered for. One of the mega schools was therefore dedicated to their children. This was the school that was commissioned recently by the wife of the President, A’isha Buhari.

Another reader and also a valued contributor to this page, Dr. Saidu Samaila, took up gauntlet with some perceived cabal in northern and central Borno for the concentration of educational institutions in Maiduguri. He started by paying glowing tributes to the Governor for the mega schools and added:

“But the devil lies in the details. The elites of Northern & Central Borno for their unlimited love for Maiduguri, have successfully created a city state at the expenses of their two Senatorial districts. Even before the arrival of the Infamous Mohammed Yusuf and his murderers, most of our elites deserted their homelands for the third largest city in Nigeria. Almost all institutions of learning are situated in the Metropolis e. g. University of Maiduguri, Ramat Polytechnic, Kashim Ibrahim College of Education Elkanemi School of Islamic Theology, Borno State College of Agriculture, Mohammed Goni College of Legal & Islamic Studies, School of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Hygiene, and the newly created Borno State University. Even the Federal Government College is in Maiduguri, the Federal Staff Training Centre and the Centre for Blind Education are all in our mega city.

“You will observe that Maiduguri, the third largest city is without industrial base, with no processing or production, but with mostly migrant population who are without vocational training and preparedness for urban life. This breeds insecurity.

“Now instead of resettling the population back to their respective locations across the state we are encouraging them to settle down in the city without having a source of livelihood. For our proud and hardworking people, it will be much better and easier to forget the recent sad past if they can go back to their various ways of life.

“The experts on security amongst other things blamed economic problems being part of the factors that made the youths to join terrorism. Lack of gainful employment is another factor.

“Finally, our legislatures and representatives at the NASS have yet to make demands or present bills or motions for the creation of educational institutions in the other parts of the state.” Dr Saidu Samaila

Quite right, Saidu, there is a preponderance of educational institutions in Maiduguri. But one has to realize that Maiduguri has served as provincial capital for Borno Province for many years before becoming a state capital. When Nigeria was broken into 12 states in 1967 by General Yakubu Gowon, Bauchi was initially the capital of North-Eastern State (now comprising Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States) and the new Governor, Major Musa Usman operated from there for months before realizing that it would be more convenient to move to Maiduguri that had better facilities, particularly airport.

Most of the educational institutions you mentioned were planned and executed during the North-East days by officials who were not indigenous to the north or central Borno. The Commissioner of Education was Ibrahim Biu, a splendid gentleman as I came to know him, who had earlier served as a Minister in the Northern Nigerian Government led by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Premier Ahmadu Bello. The first Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education was Liman Ciroma who came to be better known later as the Secretary to the Federal Military Government (1977-79) led by General Olusegun Obasanjo.

I am sure my colleague Othman Kyari (Professor and recently Chief Medical Director, UMTH) will recall that in 1973, as ABU Zaria students on holiday, we used to take rides on his newly-acquired Vespa motor-cycle to go way out of town to view the new buildings coming up for the North-East College of Arts and Science (NECAS). It was the same buildings that were taken over, two or so years later by the Federal Government to start the University of Maiduguri. Ditto for many other such educational institutions in Maiduguri.

Maiduguri itself ballooned to what it is today by default. But so long as the security situation remains dire in many parts of the state, it will continue to be a challenge to provide quality education to hundred thousands of displaced kids. The kids, many of them orphans, are now in Maiduguri and this is where they will be educated.


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