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FG considers closing school during general elections

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To ensure a hitch free general election, The Federal Government hinted during an interactive session with newsmen that it might shut down private and public schools in February.

Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who gave the hint on Saturday, said the state commissioners for education from the 36 states of the federation had been summoned for an emergency meeting today in Abuja.

He, however, denounced reports in some quarters that the Federal Government had unilaterally ordered closure of schools nationwide for two weeks.

Shekarau said the Federal Government could not have made such pronouncement without necessary consultations with relevant stakeholders, especially the state governments that owned and controlled greater number of schools in the country.

The emergency meeting of the 36 commissioners for education in the country is to deliberate on whether to shut down schools before the commencement of the forthcoming general election.

Already, while some institutions would be shutdown and resume after the elections, others that are sitting for examination would have to complete the examinations before February 14.

The decision to close the schools follows palpable tension that has gripped residents of major cities, especially flash points in Northern Nigeria that were prone to post-election violence in the 2011 general election.

On whether schools would be closed during 2014 election, Shekarau said: “As far as the Federal Government is concerned, nobody has made any statement in respect of closure of schools during election. But we are also aware that there are agitation and questions and conflicting views. Some are agitating that schools should be closed and some are saying there is no need to close schools.

“So to address this issue, the ministry has already summoned a meeting with all the states commissioners for education and stakeholders in education for today, (Monday), in Abuja.

“We feel that we in the ministry should not just sit in the office and issue such directives. We will meet with all stakeholders in the states and look at the benefits and disadvantages of closing down schools. But I want to assure you that we are going to put the interest of the nation first.

“You remember when Nigeria had Ebola crisis, we deliberated on the issue before we made joint statement and it went well. So after that meeting, we would brief you on whether schools would be closed during election. We would also give you reasons why schools should be closed.”

On incessant strike actions by the staff union of tertiary institutions, the minister said the Federal Government was trying to address the challenges of the institutions.

He said this had translated in the industrial peace currently being witnessed in the nation’s universities and other tertiary institutions.

He said: “I think we are making some progress on incessant strike actions in the sector. We have succeeded in ensuring we have strike-free sessions in our institutions and we are working hard to achieve this. We are determined to achieve this and the issue of strike would be a forgotten issue.

“This doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. There is hardly any sector where there is no problem but frank and strong discussions can resolve them. It is our hope that exchange of views would help us to be strike-free in this country”.

He said the Federal Government has also concluded arrangement to approve nine more universities to the 18 that had been approved in three years making 113 universities in Nigeria.

In her presentation the Minister of State for Education, Professor Viola Onwuliri, said the federal government is committed to ensuring access and quality education to every Nigerian.

Hence the Federal Government provided N1 billion to support adult education, distributed 126.1 million textbooks to all states of the federation, $250,000 was given to unity schools for rehabilitation, 78 modern laboratories constructed and 35 girl child schools constructed across the nation.

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