As the voters registration exercise is coming to an end with schools re-opening on January 30, 2011, Mr Kenneth Gbagi, Education Minister, State, has advised Vcs, Provosts and Rectors of tertiary institutions to allow their students to go home and register now because there won’t be movement in April during election. He spoke in this interview with Vanguard
Hullabaloo over closure of schools
Let me first and foremost thank parents across the country for the extra_burden, having made preparation for their children to go back to school _ that as a result of the exigency of our political landscape, I was compelled as Minister of State for Education to close down schools, I did close down the schools because there was a request, first and foremost from INEC chairman, requesting us to do so.
When the objectivity of the request, which bothers mainly on the security of our children was considered, of course, we owe the country, we owe the entire world a duty and responsibility to ensure that our children are protected and are safe from any form or danger.
Not knowing the situation or extent of zealousness of persons who want to register , we preempted whatever unlikely event and closed down schools, we are however, vindicated as a government, given the gunshots and killings in Jos for instance with regards to the registration, that our decision was the best, we stand by it and thank Nigerians that have complied with the order for their understanding and wish them the best.
It was a difficult decision for Mr. President
The decision to close down schools was a difficult one for Mr. President, he was against it, he wouldn’t want children to stay at home, but, when the issue of security was canvassed, particularly, by the agency that is charged with the responsibility to register, saying that it would be unsafe, I completely agreed and the President as a father, reluctantly, directed that we should proceed because of the safety of the children.
Jonathan physically withdrew his child from school
The report that the children of the President were going to school was not correct and I say categorically to you, the President’s children never went to school except one day, not knowing the situation and the President, physically, went and withdrew the child from school in compliance.
I was shocked because there were rather rumours to the effect that I have called off the closure of schools, which was not true, so the President’s children never went to school. Don’t forget that he is a very law_abiding citizen, if you have ever sat down in council with him, you will find that he is a democrat, he is somebody who is honestly afraid to violate rules of this country.
Schools re_open Jan 30
As we speak today, schools will reopen on January 30, that decision has been taken and as the minister in_charge of schools, we have not had any discussions as to extending the date of resumption in line with INEC problem, which is a matter we will take back to council, next Wednesday at deliberation time.
Movement will be shut down in April
I also advise all students of tertiary institutions who have not yet registered and above 18 years, to proceed home, particularly during weekends, to register because during the April elections, we will shut down movement across the entire country. And if we do so, registering at school will not be beneficial to them and because this strata of Nigerians are quite a sizeable chunk, we advise that vice chancellors, provosts and heads of higher institutions generally should cooperate and ensure that their students go back home during weekends to register, and by that, INEC officials are enjoined to please give them priority when they come to register and go back to their schools.
Govt. to deal with unruly proprietors
It is lawless for any institution or proprietor to violate the instruction of the government on public holiday for the INEC registration exercise.
I have told the proprietors of private institutions in the country that I am going to summon them to a meeting immediately after the registration and I will take up the issue with them, and come up with a decision, which of course, will be made public.
We‘ll revive education
Mr. President sees education as the solution to the problems of this country. To him, the first problem of this country is education, the second problem is education and the third problem is education. I believe very strongly that the educational sector requires a surgery and our knives are already in the burner to cut it to size.
A couple of weeks ago, we inaugurated the Educational Presidential Task Force, headed by no less a person that Professor Obayan , who is a world_class educationist. We believe that they will submit their report first week of March and we will take it up from there to bring our education back to life. I can readily tell you that we are changing the 6_3_3_4 system; we are going back to primary school, 1_6 years; College, 1_5 years and HSC, two years, that is the system we are going to put in place and which I think is the way forward.