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The Centenary of Barewa College: Reminiscences –past, present and future

By General Yakubu Gowon GCFR Today, 21st March, 2021 is BAREWA COLLEGE’s CENTENARY – 100 YEARS of existence – what an eventful day and occasion.…

By General Yakubu Gowon GCFR

Today, 21st March, 2021 is BAREWA COLLEGE’s CENTENARY – 100 YEARS of existence – what an eventful day and occasion. Congratulations Barewa College and greetings and best wishes to all who had passed through the portals of this citadel of learning in the last 100 years. To all of us alive on this centenary, let us thank God/Almighty Allah for his goodness, blessings and gift of life over the years. And to all those that have gone before us, we pray for God’s mercy on their souls; may their souls rest in peace with the Lord/Allah Shi jikansu, Shi yi masu Rahama, Shi basu Aljanna, Firdaus – Amin.

For the benefit of our guests and those who may not know and wish to know about BAREWA College and how it came about, I would like to take you through its history in brief. The need for education in the Northern Provinces/Protectorate in the first quarter of the 20th century, 1900, made the colonial Governor General of Nigeria at the time, Sir Hugh Clifford, to establish an institution of higher learning in the northern part of the country and the first of such institution was located in  Katsina in 1921. It was called “Katsina Training College” initially for training of teachers for the government middle schools not full secondary schools that were being built in each of the 12 Provinces in the North at the time. It was later upgraded and still in Katsina, to “Katsina Higher College” for the training and development of higher level man-power for employment in the government Civil Service and technical services. It was decided to move the college to a more central location, Zaria, but instead moved to Kaduna in 1945 as Kaduna College. The college was finally moved to Zaria in 1949 as Zaria Secondary School and in 1956 it was renamed Government College, Zaria as its final destination and location.

With these changes of name – Katsina Training College, Katsina Higher College, Kaduna College, Zaria Secondary School and later in the mid-50s (1956) it was re- named Government College Zaria. Years later, in 1971, at the Old Boys Association Golden Jubilee meeting at the School ground at which I was visiting as Head of State, the meeting in their wisdom decided to adopt BAREWA as the new and permanent name for the school, and so it has remained to date and for the future. The name BAREWA was derived from the school badge/emblem of a leaping Gazelle with a BAREWA school motto in Arabic – “Manjadda Wajadda”, meaning “He who tries succeeds and leaping into progress”.

The school has had a chequered history of development from a humble low number entry to, at various times a vastly expanded bustling institution. The school taught the boys well in character and learning that helped them over the years make sterling contributions to the progress and development of their region, states and the nation at large. It has produced leaders in practically every facet of our life – in politics and leadership, governance, economics and finance, education, science and technology, defence and security and many other areas of human endeavour.

Barewa College Alumni have been closely working together and alongside their other colleagues from the region/state and nationally for the development and progress of their regions, states and nation, and did achieve an appreciable success. But it had also suffered some undeserving neglect and deprivation. The college had expanded haphazardly beyond the limit the infrastructure could bear. It was labelled an elitist school for the rich and famous and unfortunately, the authorities at the time succumbed to it and gave vent to diluting the college’s former high academic standard that led to a fall in the quality and high standard the college is known for. Graciously, with a change of leadership and upgrade of the teaching staff and facilities, it has gradually improved to an acceptable standard.

However, more efforts and hard work are required to get the college back to its past glory. What is urgently required today is commitment by all the 19 Northern States to be responsible for the upkeep of the college, paying equally or proportionately to the number of students sent to the college. This treatment should also apply to sister college, Government College Keffi founded in 1949 and temporarily located in Kaduna before it was moved to its permanent home, Keffi, in today’s Nasarawa State.

Another suggestion is to recommend to the Federal Government to take it over as an additional Special Unity School as Kings College, Lagos. The essence of all the above is the realization that indeed good and sound education creates peace, unity, security, prosperity and generally for the society, values most desirable today and always.

Threats to education:

For some years now, Nigeria and particularly the Northern states of the country are experiencing and facing serious security problems and threat to education through the hostile and nihilistic activities of Boko Haram and lately banditry for ransom, and the herdsmen-farmers’ incidences nationwide that had threatened the much desired peace and tranquillity necessary for any meaningful development and progress in our country and nation.

These crises situation must be ruthlessly dealt with by the government’s security forces and all. BOBANS/YAN BAREWA must be involved and committed in dealing with this evil creating havoc in our midst and today threatening the peace, law and order and development in the country.

It gives the Northern states and all who come from there a bad name and image. I believe the collective wisdom of BOBA members, of various backgrounds, from their various locations, can make a positive contribution in dealing with this matter and help to make the Northern states secure, united, peaceful and prosperous; a place promoting scholarship, business, tourism, industry, agriculture, livestock production, ranching, trade and health. BOBANS/YAN BAREWA, I call on your sense of patriotism to help the Nation find a solution and attain this essential objective.


To be concluded


An abridged version of a lecture  delivered by General Gowon, Chairman Board of Trustees of Barewa Old Boys Association on the occasion of the Centenary celebration of the college held on March 21, 2021

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