Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 15 September 2012 | 8,722 times
The forceful takeover of schools from missions by the government shortly after the Nigerian civil war was meant to punish churches for providing relief materials for starving millions of Biafrans, Catholic Bishop of Umuahia, Most Rev. Bishop Lucius Ugorji, has said.
The Catholic Priest made the revelation during the formal handover of 19 secondary schools to their original owners. The ceremony was performed at the Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, Abia State capital, with Governor Theodore Orji declaring that the takeover of schools by government after the civil war has done more harm than good.
News Express reports that the government of the defunct East Central State took over mission schools through Education Edict of 1970 which was abrogated by Abia State Education (Return of Schools) Law 2011.
Ugorji who spoke on behalf of those who were handed back their schools, said the churches, in collaboration with Caritas International, provided relief materials to ensure succour for starving millions of Biafrans, when the federal government had employed starvation as weapon of warfare to send the Biafrans to their early graves.
Biafrans, it would be recalled, were exposed to severe hunger, leaving many of them starving to death or were malnourished and suffered from Kwashiorkor when the federal government blocked all food supply routes to the enclave as a means of coercing the secessionist Biafrans to succumb to federal authorities.
Ugorji noted that agitation for return of the schools had been on for over 40 years and promised that the churches would return the schools to their pre-takeover glorious days with good academic standard, morals and enforcement of discipline.
He said that the performance of the new owners would be a good incentive that would facilitate the return of the remaining schools still under government control, adding that he was happy that the return of schools was backed by law.
“I want to assure the government and the people of Abia State that as the proprietors of these schools, that we are committed to excellence and discipline and we will inject morality and spirituality into the schools,” the bishop said, adding that Governor Orji has done what past governments failed to do.
Performing the handover ceremony, Governor Orji noted that the takeover of schools by government after the civil war has not yielded the desired results as the school system has witnessed falling standard of education with deteriorating moral values while indiscipline was reigning supreme.
He said the enthusiasm of the mission school owners to take back their schools and manage them better for the general good of the state emboldened his government’s decision to return the schools to their original owners.
“It is our hope that what we have done is in the best interest of every person,” the governor said.
He said that all teachers in the affected schools would remain there while government would take care of their conditions of service, including payment of salaries, allowances, gratuities and pensions.
He assured that having started the first phase of the handover involving 19 secondary schools, the rest of the school, the primary schools would eventually be returned to their original owners.
“Our government is anxious to improve the standard of our education in this state at all levels in this state,” he said, adding that government was encouraged by the support from the private education operators and the performance of Abia students in external examinations and competitions.
Chairman of the occasion, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, commended Governor Orji for his thoughtfulness and courage in handing over the schools to their original owners just as the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Monica Philips, enjoined the beneficiaries to reciprocate government’s gesture and abide by the conditions of the handover.
The Catholic Church got back five schools being the highest; followed by Methodist church with four and Anglican Church with three while Qua Iboe, Seventh Day, Apostolic Christian Church, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Church got one each and private individuals two.
*Photo shows Gov. Orji giving the certificate of ownership of some Catholic schools to Most Rev. Lucius Ugoji, Catholic Archbishop of Umuahia, during the official handover ceremony of schools to their original owners in Umuahia. Watching is the state commissioner for education Mrs. Monica Philips. Photo: Ibeabuchi Abarikwu.
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