MINISTER of State for Education Mr. Kenneth Gbagi’s advice to heads of higher institutions to grant their students leave at weekends to register at their homes for the April elections is introducing further dislocation to the dissonance that government has introduced in education since the beginning of the year.
After the miserable excuses it gave for keeping primary and secondary school pupils at home during the registration exercise – while claiming the schools will be registration centres, only a few schools are being used – the Minister is warning that the country will be shut down in April for the elections.
“I 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.
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,” Mr. Gbagi said.
Mr. Gbagi is speaking for government. His advice is an order that will disrupt education in higher institutions across Nigeria. What is it about the 2011 elections that government wants to place it above everything? Did Mr. Gbagi give any thought to the implication of his advice?
Government is under the impression that the suggested travelling distances are small. Why should a student in Maiduguri travel to Lagos , for instance, to register? Should the student not register and vote in Maiduguri ? Has the Minister considered the risks millions of our students will face travelling our roads? Who will pay for the trips? Will schools be shut again because of weekend elections?
Explanations for these interruptions of our lives are more annoying. The Minister said a shooting incident in Jos at a registration centre justified government’s decision to close schools in order to protect our children.
His choice of example was extremely poor. Without registration exercise, shootings, killings and riots go on daily in Jos. It is even worse Mr. Gbagi admits that government with all the resources it has resorts to security measures that exhibit weakness. Are we to believe government could only guarantee security of pupils if schools were shut?
The importance of the elections is over-stated. It is another of the numerous indications of the selfishness of politicians who believe the success of their schemes to hold office is more important than the future of the country.
If government can treat education with such desecration what is left? If a Minister of Education can impose such risks on our children, where is government’s avowed love for these children?
Government should ensure the success of the elections but it can do it with minimal disturbance of our lives. There must be more to this country than elections.