The 2012 edition of the annual Abuja Carnival, which began on November 24, ended on Wednesday.
Hosted by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the carnival draws participants from all the 36 states and from outside the country.
As a showpiece of Nigeria's rich and diverse cultural tradition, the carnival is highly regarded. This is true of this year's edition as foreign participation included countries like Trinidad and Tobago, India, China and Egypt, among others.
This positive aspect of the annual event was once again dampened by the forced closure of schools in the FCT to provide accommodation for carnival participants.
The affected schools, shut down three days before the carnival's commencement, reopened yesterday for boarding students; day schools were scheduled to reopen today.
These frequent closures have been a sore point in carnival organisation in the FCT, particularly this year when some of the students were already mid-way into the end of first term examinations. The negative consequences of that disruption on an already challenged education system should have been obvious to the FCT administration.
Students have already lost weeks of learning to public holidays for independence anniversary and religious festivals. A further week's loss of teaching and learning could have serious impact on the results of terminal examinations of affected schools, at least in the short term. When very low success rates are thereafter recorded in external examinations as has been the case in recent years, examination bodies are often blamed.
Besides, the safety of the students is compromised when they have to travel on accident prone roads to and from their homes due to such irregular closure of schools.
Those responsible for disrupting learning in these schools need reminding that the cumulative effects of the unplanned closure of schools would mean students staying longer at home, making poor academic results all the more likely.
The action of the FCT administration is more or less equal in effect to planning for students' poor academic performance. The common argument advanced by advocates of the disruptive closure of schools, to the effect that students of the affected schools would receive extra-lessons, has no pedagogical foundation. The psychological stress through which students are made to undergo in the name of extra lessons in lieu of lessons missed has its repercussions on the mental activity of the learners.
It is ridiculous that organizers of the Abuja Carnival as well as the FCT administration find it convenient to close schools in order to secure accommodation space for carnival contingents, instead of negotiating with the numerous outlets of the vast hospitality industry in Abuja for concessionary rates. If the focus is on free accommodation for the participants, the National stadium, the Parade Ground, and even the Eagle Square, in Abuja would have been very good alternatives. The annual closure of schools for the carnival when the students are not participants should be discouraged. At the very least, organizers should be creative enough to seek sponsorship from carnival promoters to pay for hotel accommodation for their guests.
The academic work in schools must not be subordinated to the organisation of carnivals; both can be held, with one not disrupting the other. Carnival organisers and officials of the FCT do not need to be told that education is the bedrock of development and the future of any nation. Beginning from the next edition of the carnival, the organisers should begin liaising with education authorities to consider dates for holding the event that will not clash with school activities in the FCT.
The planners should also consider alternative accommodation outside schools to accommodate contingents. The Federal Ministry of Education should ensure that the FCT administration puts a stop to the practice of closing schools for one carnival or another. Indeed the organisers of the carnival should consider staging it between Fridays and Sundays in order for the event to attract spectators beyond government officials and those accidentally caught up by it.