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Nagarta: The 115-Year-Old College That Produced Shehu Shagari, Ahmadu Bello and other Great Nigerians

Nagarta College is located in the heart of Sokoto city, although when it was established in 1905, the place was considered a forest by locals.…

Nagarta College is located in the heart of Sokoto city, although when it was established in 1905, the place was considered a forest by locals. Daily Trust takes a look at the 115-year-old-college.

The school was founded and commissioned by Major Burdon, the British Resident who appointed Malam Dorugu as its pioneer headmaster. It was said that the school started with only 10 students but Daily Trust could not trace any of its pioneer students.

The school was upgraded to elementary school in 1916 with a student population of 105. It was made boarding primary school in 1919 and middle school in 1929.

It was upgraded to Provisional school in 1930, while the first batch of female students were admitted into the school in 1946.

The school was upgraded to Junior Secondary School in 1954 and in 1966, upgraded to Government Secondary School. It was renamed Nagarta College in 1986.

Daily Trust learnt that the first and only Premier of Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto and President Shehu Shagari were products of the school, as well as the Grand Khadi of the defunct Northern Region, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gummi.

The school also produced two Sultans and four emirs namely, Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki and Sultan Muhammadu Maccido, both of blessed memory.

The Emirs include the late and the current Emirs of Gwandu, Sir Yahya and Muhammad Iliyasu Bashar as well as the current Emir of Argungu and Etsu Nupe, Sama’ila Mera and Yahya Abubakar, respectively.

Both General Ali Gusau (rtd) and Aliyu Shinkafi were old boys of the school while the former Minister of Finance, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, was not only a product of the school but born within the school premises when his father was a principal of the school.

Other products of the school include the current Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi; Shehu Malami, retired DIG Bello Labaran and AIG Umar Ambursa, among other high-profile personalities.

Wood and Mental workshop now conference hall of the College
Wood and Mental workshop now conference hall of the College

During the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the school in December 1965, the late Premier who chaired the event, believed to be his last visit to the school as he was killed a few weeks after, said in his speech, “We are therefore here today to pay tribute to those men who, over 60 years ago, had the faith and foresight to open this school.

“I have said on occasions, and I repeat today, that there need be no conflict between our religious belief and the modern technological world in which we find ourselves. Indeed, my government is determined that our educational system must be geared to produce scientists and technologists, as well as administrators, which we must have to increase the wealth, power and well-being of our country.

“There is no doubt that we in Northern Nigeria have suffered from the too cautions and restrictive attitude to education, and particularly to secondary education, adopted during the colonial period. But there is now a general awakening.

“But while we are expanding at a tremendous speed, we are not prepared to sacrifice quality for mere quantity and we intend to do all we can to maintain the inevitable reputation of our northern secondary schools.”

However, many old students of the college opine that if the Premier would come back to life, he would not be happy with successive governments of Sokoto State and the entire North for the present condition of the school and the fallen standard of education in the region.

The Administrative block built in 1905
The Administrative block built in 1905

Our reporter, who visited the school, observed that some of its early structures were still standing, including the administrative block and some classes built in 1905.

It was learnt that most of the dormitories used by pioneer students and Sardauna’s set in the 20s have been replaced, though some of their remnants could still be identified.

However, some of the structures constitute an eyesore because of the level of their dilapidation.

Our reporter noticed some renovation works taking place, especially at the students’ hostels and laboratories which were said to be funded by the old students of the school.

Some of the senior classes as observed by our reporter were virtually empty with shattered windows and tattered ceiling but according to the principal of the College, Bello Aliyu Tambuwal, the classes were empty because of the ongoing renovation work.

Ironically, no staff of the college could remember when last the school experienced repair works until now.

Speaking to Daily Trust, the National President of Nagarta Old Boys Association, Muhammad Sani Musa, said they have so far spent N57m on the renovation.

“We renovated 6 laboratories, another set of classrooms, three hostels and the school pavilion to be a revenue source for the college.

“We also repaired the water systems, including the borehole. So, there is now water supply to the hostels 24 hours every day,” he said.

According to him, the money was sourced from the old boys of the college, including General Aliyu Muhammed Gusau(rtd); Senator Garba Ila Gada; Alh. Abdulkadir Jelani Kalgo; Alh. Namadina Abdulrahaman (Talban Sokoto); Alh. Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi (Minister of Police Affairs) and a host of others.

He said the Grand Patron of the association, Alhaji Muhammad Ilyasu Bashar (Emir of Gwandu) and other patrons like Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar (Etse Nupe); Alhaji Samaila Muhammad Mera (Emir of Argungu); and Emir of Maradun, as well as former Governor of Sokoto State, Malam Yahaya Abdulkarim (Sarkin Rafin Sokoto) and Muhammadu Buhari Tambari (Sarkin Kudu, Sifawa) have continued to play vital roles of guiding the association in several ways.

The college library which was established in 1938 and named after the then Sultan, Hassan Dan Mu’azu
The college library which was established in 1938 and named after the then Sultan, Hassan Dan Mu’azu

Musa, who belonged to the 1969 set, recalled that during their time, life in the school was so sweet and lively.

According to him, discipline was the order of the day at that time, adding that some of what they learnt became part of their lives today.

He said that teachers were serious and committed to their jobs and he could not remember missing any lesson because the teacher was absent.

He recalled that 97 per cent of their teachers were foreigners and the only indigenous teachers in the school, were the woodwork, metalwork and Islamic Religious Studies teachers.

“So, the standard of education at the time was very high and there was an intensity in terms of teaching and learning. We bought novels with our money and exchanged with others which today’s students cannot do. That is why most of them don’t know the meaning of idiomatic expressions,” he said.

He further recalled that during their school days, they were served with the best food, which they ate to their satisfaction, unlike today when students cook in the hostels to augment school provided poor meals.

On whether he was satisfied with the current state of his alma mata, he said, “We want the standard of the school raised.

“The school is facing a lot of challenges, ranging from students’ feeding, accommodation and convenience. The school also needs additional qualified teachers and teaching aids.

“And we are not happy with how the school is surrounded by shops. We are happy with the directive by his Excellency, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, for the demolition of all those shops,” he said.

He also commended the government for renovating two students’ hostels, urging it to upgrade the school to the status of a polytechnic.

Musa advised parents to imbibe the habit of contributing to the education of their children. “Education is a burden on the government.

“Parents need to contribute because government alone cannot shoulder this responsibility. There should be a token amount of money at least for boarding students. My father was an ex-serviceman.

“But we were paying school fees of one pound at that time, and for those whose parents could not afford, the school paid.

“If the government as much as introduces even N3000 to be paid for their children, the parent will start grumbling,” he said.

On the fallen standard of education, he blamed government, school management and parents, saying recruitment and posting of teachers have been politicized while parents no longer check or supervise their children.

The principal of the college insisted that the school has maintained its leading position and did not deviate from its core value of training students to excel despite its challenges.

According to him, they have enough and qualified teachers as well as laboratory equipment, adding that students were provided with 3-square meals daily.

He, however, said that lack of security has been their major challenge because the school is located in a densely populated part of the state.

He called for the total renovation of staff quarters as well as training and retraining of staff while appealing for more furniture for the students.

Bello commended the Old Students Association of the schools for the ongoing renovation work, which is complementing the efforts being made by the state government.

In his speech on the occasion of Diamond Jubilee celebration, late Sultan Abubakar III said: “Knowledge raises the fame of poor homes and lack of it destroys once-famous ones.”

He added that “ it is because of knowledge that God Almighty held mankind in greater esteem than the angels; Our Holy Prophet (SAW) has instructed us to go in search of knowledge as far away as to China.”

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