Former education minister condemns Jonathan’s almajiri schools

Babalola Borisade

A former minister of education, Babalola Borisade, has said the decision by the federal government to build almajiri schools across the northern part of the country is wrong.

Mr. Borisade who spoke to our correspondent in Abuja said instead of building special schools just to cater for the almajiris, the government should have found a way of integrating them into the formal school system.

“When I was the Minister of education, we started the integration of normal schools with these almajiris, what we planned to do in conjunction with the UBE, was that in each normal school, at least two blocks of classrooms will be earmarked for the almajiri students whereby they will undergo their Quranic studies for say two hours and then join the rest of the pupils for normal studies afterwards,” he said.

Mr. Borisade said by building almajiri schools separate from the normal school system, the government is denying the almajiris the benefit of acquiring formal education.

“There is contradiction in the whole arrangement, and it needs to be sorted out or the objectives of government will not be achieved,” he said.

The former minister also said all forms of education are good, but added that no one should be denied access to both formal and informal education.

Vice President Namadi Sambo had during the closing ceremony of the National Quranic recitation competition held in Katsina recently announced that the federal government had awarded a N5bn contract for the construction of almajiri schools under the second phase of the almajiri education programme.

As part of the programme, President Jonathan last week travelled to Sokoto to commission what authorities describe as model almajiri schools.

Mr. Borisade, who was also a minister of Aviation during the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo, was asked to comment on the spat between the National Assembly and British Airways over air fare disparity between Nigerians and nationals of other countries.

In response, he said the issue of disparity had  a long history and is not restricted to price alone.

“I think this issue goes beyond air fare, but Nigerians are charged higher for even payments for visa and others, this can be traced to the oil embargo in 1973 in which oil producing countries were marked out, we were indexed because there was a feeling we were making too much money. People did not pay attention to such things until now”.

Mr. Borisade also said Nigerians should actually take the blame for being treated this way by the foreign airlines because of their taste for first class treatment.

“In Europe nobody knows about anything first class, what they have is business class, but because they know we like conspicuous consumption, they charge us for first class,” he added.

Mr. Borisade also took a swipe at the National Assembly for the way they are handling the matter warning that they should not scare away the foreign airlines since Nigerian airlines were not flying all destinations.

Mr. Borisade advised the legislators to seek the opinion of experts as, according to him, all businesses have their peculiar ways of operation and not all of the airlines will go public as to how they arrived at some of their decisions.

He said the National Assembly needs to find out how much the airlines pay for landing, parking and aviation fuel in Nigeria and compare it to Ghana and to also look at the security of the environment.

“You know in the aviation industry, Nigeria is a high risk area, while Ghana and even Benin Republic are not.”

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