Daily Trust (Abuja)

10 March 2014

Nigeria: Closure of Unity Colleges - Thousands of Students Face Uncertainty

Photo: © UNESCO /M. Hofer
A student writes on a blackboard.

Damaturu, Yola, Abuja — Thousands of Federal colleges' students who have been asked to move from their locations in the North-East to other states have been left in the lurch because their parents have opposed the transfer, Daily Trust learnt at the weekend.

Five Unity Colleges have been shut, following the killing of at least 29 students at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, Yobe State two weeks ago.

The closed colleges are in the three states under a state of emergency--Borno, Yobe and Adamawa--because of a deadly insurgency.

An estimated 10,000 students have been affected by the closure, according to reports.

The Federal Government told students in those schools to move to other Unity Colleges in Kaduna, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe and Borno states.

The relocation is coming with less than two months to the start of the school-leaving certificate examinations, and this has left thousands of candidates in a state of uncertainty.

While government has told them to sit for their examinations elsewhere, many parents are saying their children are not going anywhere.

Parents who spoke to Daily Trust said the transfer was going to be impossible because of the costs involved.

Already, the government had said parents would bear the costs of moving their wards to the new locations.

"Transfer is not the answer at all," said Moses Yakubu, a parent of a student of the Federal Government Science and Technical College, Michika, Adamawa State.

"We welcome the closure but let it not last for long. Let Federal Government be serious about tackling the insecurity so that schools will be reopened soon," he added.

Other parents who spoke to Daily Trust also said instead of transferring students, the government should strengthen security at the affected colleges.

On Thursday, the North-East Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) met in Bauchi and rejected the closure of the colleges.

They complained about the financial costs of the transfer, and said government was shirking its responsibility of providing security by shutting down the colleges. They also demanded that the decision be rescinded and security be provided at the colleges.

Staff of the Michika college said they were also told through a circular to relocate to a similar college in Dayi, Katsina State.

Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, some teachers in Michika said they were not moving because they fear no allowances would be paid to them.

A senior school administrator in Michika said the general opinion among the staff is for the Federal Government to close the school temporarily and work towards improving security in the area, and not to transfer workers.

The official, who did not agree to be named, said workers objected to any long-term closure that would see the students transferred to another place, saying this would confirm government's failure to tackle the security situation in the North.

He wondered how facilities in the Katsina college can accommodate additional 700 students and 40 teachers from Michika.

He added that parents have also rejected the transfer of their wards, and a meeting of the Parent-Teacher Association has been scheduled for today to discuss the matter.

"The parents are the ones to bear the cost of maintaining their children, so they have to complain," he said.

A teacher in the Michika college said he was skeptical about the transfer because the ministry may not pay their entitlements.

"Teachers want to find out whether they will be paid disturbance allowance. We want it written and spelt out so that we can hold the ministry officials by their words," the teacher stated.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday told Daily Trust parents of students of the five Federal colleges shut down are to bear the transportation cost of their wards to the various schools that the students were asked to relocate.

A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, told our reporter by telephone that at a meeting with ministry officials, the affected parents had agreed to shoulder the responsibility of relocating their wards.

"We met with parents, officials of the Parent-Teacher Association and the teachers themselves and we have agreed that parents of the affected students should shoulder the burden of the transportation fares," he said.

"It is not true that parents are complaining about that. This is an issue that involves lives of human being and therefore should be taken with all seriousness," he added.

The Federal Government last week announced closure of the five Unity Colleges, and asked students to relocate.

Schools affected are Federal Government Girls College, Munguno and Federal Science and Technical College, Lassa in Borno; Federal Government College, Potiskum and Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe; as well as Federal Science and Technical College, Michika, Adamawa.

Candidates registered for the West African Examination Council and National Examinations Council examinations in the Potiskum college would have their examination centres relocated to FGGC in Bauchi, while those in FGGC Munguno and FGC Buni Yadi would also relocate to other schools.

The ministry asked other students "who are affected by the closure of the schools but not writing public examinations" to relocate to FGGC Bauchi, FGGC Bajoga in Gombe State, FGC Maiduguri in Borno, FSTC Kafanchan in Kaduna and FSTC Dayi in Katsina.

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InFocus

Nigeria to Close Unity Colleges

A student writes on a blackboard.

Approximately 10,000 secondary school students will be affected by a government decision to temporarily shut down five out of the 80 unity colleges in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe ... Read more »