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‘Unity Colleges: We have a legacy to defend ‘

It may be recalled that the junior component was cancelled in 2008 as a result of   wrong interpretation of the National Council on Education (NCE)…

It may be recalled that the junior component was cancelled in 2008 as a result of   wrong interpretation of the National Council on Education (NCE) decision of  2005 on disarticulation of policy arising from the application of the Universal Basic Education (UBEC)  Act 2004. While briefing newsmen, Information and Communications Minister, Professor Dora Akunyuli, said the decision  was sequel to public outcry calling on government to reconsider the decision in the 104 federal unity colleges in the country. “Because of the need to improve skills and enhance standards  and to answer the yearnings of parents, as a listening government, council considered and approved the restoration of the junior school to Federal Unity Colleges with effect from 2010/2011 academic session commencing from September 2011,” the minister added.

The first federal government college in Nigeria was known as King’s C ollege, Lagos, an all boys school; founded in 1909. The purpose of establishing the school was to train manpower for establishment of the then colonial government. In 1927, the government opened Queens College, Lagos, an all-girls schools, but this time around giving consideration to girl-child education, which was hitherto not given attention. The success attained by the schools in providing young  Nigerians  with quality education and at the same time imbuing them with patriotic values, fostering national unity and proved a veritable instrument for national integration and unification. It was what impressed the administration of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa  in the immediate post-independence era. This led his government to establish three more federal unity colleges, based on the then regional structure of the country. Bearing in mind   that the earlier schools were sited in Western Region, the three additional schools founded in 1966 were sited in Okposi, Eastern Region; Warri, Mid– Western Region and Sokoto, Northern region.

The three additional new schools joined King’s College and Queen’s College formed the first generation of federal unity colleges under the proprietorship of the federal government of Nigeria . It is evident that the need to use the schools as instrument for strengthening the bond of unity among the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria certainly played a predominant role in the government’s decision to establish them. Subsequently, the federal government colleges were given the common motto of “PRO UNITATE”.

As a result of Nigerian civil war fought for three years from 1967, Federal Government  College Okposi was vandalized and Warri was merged with Sokoto. At the end of the war in 1970 and during the period of rehabilitation, reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of Nigerians as an aftermath of war, the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, visited Federal Government College, Sokoto. The   General was impressed when he saw young Nigerians from all the cultures, tribes, religions and economic background under the same roof  pursuing common national objectives of national unity in diversity, with the school serving as the melting, for all their differences. General Yakubu Gowon was excited with what he saw and made him to make an acclamation that led to the  establishment of such schools in all the states of the federation. As a result of this policy on education, there are now 104 federal government colleges in the country, comprising of 80 federal government colleges and federal government girl’s colleges, 21 federal science and technical colleges, two federal science colleges and one Suleja academy.

The predicament of unity colleges started when the self-acclaimed Madam “Due Process,” Oby Ezekwesili then as education minister, attempted to sell out the 104 unity colleges in a typical manner of arrogant arrogation of power and lamentable misplacement of priority of a negative thinker. She argued that she wanted equality for all Nigerian students. And that the only way to bring about equality is by government privatising the 104 unity colleges so that all parents should go and privately educate their wards even when the overwhelming majority of them cannot afford the cost.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has also argued that there is no due process to privatization other than the outright hand over of what belong, to all to one or few privilege persons with the aim to guarantee huge profits and deepen the level of probability of governments toward the people.

The pro-unitate forum and the association of senior civil servants as agents of positive change vehemently reject and condemn the privatization in whatever guise.

The pro-unitate forum which later metamorphoses to Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) played a very active in role in the Public Private Partnership Programme.  Because of the very short notice and in the quest to ensure that our ailments were not handed over to organisations whose interest was purely that of immediate financial gains, the association solicited for and got financial support from kind hearted members to enable the association obtain bid documents for 100 unity schools. The intention was to secure and hold those schools in  trust for the  alumni associations until when the old students of these unity school were able to organise their alumni associations and take over the management of their alma mater.

The reversal of the planned privatisation of the 104 unity schools was announced by former minister of education, Professor Aja-Nwachukwu in the early days of the Yar’adua administration in 2007. This reversal was due to the outcry from several quarters of Nigerian publics.

Ishaq Modibbo Kawu in his article “Unity Schools: The ugly face of privatisation” in Daily Trust of Thursday, September 7, 2007 argued that the sale of the unity schools represented one of the worst crimes which the Obasanjo regime perpetrated against the Nigerian people. It was indeed the ugly face of privatisation of public enterprises. The project had been opposed by the Nigerian people because the schools had been established for a national purpose which people felt remained relevant and should be protected. Those who took the decision to ignore that vital sentimental attachment to those schools did not share our national values.

Ahmad Muhammad Danyaro, President, Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA), Bayero University Kano Chapter, [email protected]

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