By Chioma Obinna
LAGOS—A group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has described as retrogressive, unproductive and backward closure of all public schools within Abuja municipal area for 10 days by the Federal Capital Territory Administration to pave way for the ongoing Abuja carnival.
In a statement issued in Lagos, Tuesday, the group urged the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mr.Bala Mohammed, and Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai, to put in place legal framework that would make it impossible for the educational rights of Abuja residents to be abridged whenever the annual Abuja cultural festival was to take place.
The statement jointly signed by the group’s National Co-ordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and National Media Affairs Officer, Miss Zainab Yusuf, asked the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory Administration to pay heavy financial compensation to the students of the affected schools for the loss of valuable learning periods and extracurricular opportunities that were their inalienable rights as bonafide students.
It noted that the closure for 10 days of those public schools had conveyed the wrong impression that Nigeria placed more premium on cultural dances and other mundane celebrations than on the core value of human capacity development, skill acquisition and educational empowerment of the youths.
“We are shocked beyond comprehension that at a time that clarion calls are being made to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the educational sector in order to arrest the sharp decline in standards and other man-made institutional imperfections, the Abuja Federal Capital authority has decided to close down schools for ten days so that the members of the political class could assemble to watch as female teenagers dance naked in the streets of the nation’s capital.
“This is shameful, reprehensible and deplorable and must not be repeated,” the group stated..
It questioned why the secretariat in charge of the Abuja carnival had not deemed it appropriate to establish play grounds where such events could take place every year.
HURIWA said it will approach President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Assembly and Federal Ministry of Education to protest against the arbitrary and forced closure of public schools in Abuja for Abuja carnival, even when it was clear that students ought to be writing their end of year examinations at this period.
“We seriously condemn this primitive and anti-education decision by the federal capital Territory Administration to close down public schools, for ten days to allow participants at the poorly attended annual Abuja carnival to use the schools as residential quarters.
“This barbaric and unproductive practice amounts to a violation of section 18 of the constitution of Nigeria and stated that the practice is a clear case of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the most brazen dimension,” the group said.