Muslim community in Ondo State has kicked against the return of some schools to Faith Based Organizations, saying the action amount to fraud of the century.
The state government had announced its plan to return schools founded by religious organizations and individuals to their original owners if they were willing to take them back.
Since the announcement, four schools including secondary and primary institutions have been returned to the Catholic mission after necessary formalities.
There is a standing committee, headed by the commissioner for information, Mr Femi Agagu, set up by the state government that is visiting schools to be returned to their owners.
The Muslim community at a press conference in Akure, on Wednesday faulted the action of the state government saying islamic faith in the state was against the move.
The Secretary of the League of Imams and Alfas Akoko branch, Ondo State, Abdulrasheed Akerele, who spoke on behalf of Chairman of the League, Ahmad Aladesawe, said returning schools to the missionaries is illegal.
“Ondo state government for the sake of posterity, the unborn generation, the development of the state and even for the sake of the traumatized and impoverished masses, should not return schools to Faith Based Organisations.
‘This is because of its daring consequences as more children will be thrown out of schools because their parents would definitely not be able to afford the fees that will be imposed by such organisations.
“Returning of schools to Faith Based Organizations, (FBO) will be the fraud of the century because this is simply handing over public properties to Private business orientated individuals in the name of FBOs.
“We want to say that the return of schools to FBO’S is archaic, barbaric, backward and non progressive. It is a call to return to the colonial era and above all, the call is contradictory to the electoral promises of the present administration.
“It is a call to hand over public properties to individuals ‘in the name of Faith Based Organisations. It is a call to return to the dark era in the history of educational development in our nation, the call is fraudulent which is against progressive educational policy.
“It will result in more children being thrown out of schools, it is a call to deny the children of the impoverished masses access to affordable and qualitative education in an atmosphere of religious freedom devoid of bigotry.
“The idea of the ‘Original Owner’ of the schooI is fraudulent as it is a call to hand over government property to cooperate bodies in the name of FBO’s.
“The question that have been begging for answer whenever the issue of the return of schools to the ‘Original Owner’ is raised is, if the FBO’S are claiming the Schools originally belong to them, what do we say about the huge amount of money the government used in compensating them (even though some of the organizations are denying this historical fact)
“When the schools were acquired in the 70’s, are they ready to refund the money in its true value i.e. 2 dollars to one naira , or are they ready to buy the school in its present value? If the answer is yes, then we think the government is morally bound to publish the memorandum of understanding they signed with the alleged ‘Owners’ before the conclusion of handing over the schools to them.
“We want to say clearly that the idea of the ‘Original Owner’ is nothing but a cheap propaganda in order to arouse unwarranted sympathy from the innocent masses who are ignorant of the consequences of this heartless request.
“It will be a bad precedence, an ungodly act and the fraud of the century that the property that we (Muslim, Christian and traditional believers) owned together under the government trust to be handed over to profit oriented organisation under the guise of been original owner or FBO’S after acquisition, full compensation and heavy investment on the school by the government using the Tax payers hard earned resources.
“When schools are returned to the so called ‘Original owners’ or FBO’S, will the government hands off primary and post primary education? if no, will they quickly build new schools to cater for the children of the masses who will definitely not be able to afford the consequences of that action?
“If the answer is no, then the implication is more children will be thrown out of the school by this move.
“This will be antithetical to the vision of providing qualitative educationto the majority of the Ondo State children.
“Nigeria is currently battling with serious security issues and one of the factors traceable to this situation is ignorance and illiterecy orchestrated by over 40Million out of school children.
“It should interest those advocating for the return of schools to private organisations in Ondo state that our dear sunshine state account for over 44000 of such out of school children.
“Handing over of schools to its ‘alleged owners’ will do nothing but increase this number which will portends a very serious security challenges to our peaceful state.
“Without fear of contradiction, the call for the return schools to FBO’S or their ‘Original Owners’ is nothing but a call to return Schools to the Christian Missionaries or Church. This was established at the summit based on the arrays of supporters of the agenda which are majorly Christian Leaders.
“We say without the fear of contradiction that this call is dubious, callous and fraudulent.
“It is a calculated attempt to further deny the Muslim child free access to qualitative education in an atmosphere of religious freedom.
“All our fathers who are now elder statesmen who had the opportunity to attend the formal schools especially in the south in the early fifties and Sixties would bear us witness that it is a call to re-awaking the systematic Christianization of the Muslim children.
“Anybody who knows the history of education in Nigeria and the adventure of the Muslim child in his quest to formal education which was then in the custody of the Christian Evangelists would agree with us that this period can best be described as a dark period in the history of education and development in our dear Nation.
“Ondo state government for the sake of posterity, the unborn generation, the development of the state and even for the sake of the traumatized and impoverished masses shouId not return schools to the FBOs under any banner or guise.
“This is because of its daring consequences as more children will be thrown out of Schools because their parents would definitely not be able to afford the fees that will imposed by such organizations.
“As at now, more than 80% of the students on enrollment are in the register of the public schools, their parents are at the mercy of the government to provide qualitative and affordable education for their children, what will be the plight of such Parents and their children considering the fact that more than 70% of Nigerians are living below the poverty line.
“Returning of schools to FBOS will be the fraud of the century because this is simply handing over public properties to private business oriented individuals in the name of FBOS.
“It is a call to the return of the nation to the dark period in the history of educational development when educational institutions were used as tools in the hands of the religious bigots for forceful conversion and intimidation of the masses.
“It will work against the federal government policy on education as well educational policies of prominent international bodies with stakes in educational development of the nations at large and Ondo State in particular.
As alternative, the Muslim community suggested that Rather, the government should build more schools, improve on the existing educational infrastructures, increase or improve on the educational personnel especially teaching staff as well as provide adequate teaching and instructional materials.
“This can be achieved most importantly considering the dwindling government resources by dedicating the governor’s security vote’s to educational development.
“The government should establish Ondo State Education Trust Fund and set up a committee of eminent personalities to manage the funds that will be so accrued.
“Ondo state should also increase the budgetary allocation for education with these measures there will be more than enough funds to manage, improve and take the educational sector in the state to an enviable height.
“This is what we called a ‘herculean agenda’ and if our amiable governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN could embark on its implementation and ignored the ill advice of returning schools to FBO’s, posterity will not only smile at you but also write your name in gold.
“We want to say that if the Governor will go ahead to return schools to the so called “Original Owner” after acquisition, full compensation and huge investment using our hard earned resources (Tax) then we will have no option but to seek redress using every legal and constitutional means available to us as a cardinal member of Ondo State Community with vested interest in the educational development of our dear sunshine state.”
The state government had last month named the schools to be returned to their original owners to include St Thomas Aquinas College, St. Louis Girls Grammar School, Akure and two primary schools.