Why alumni should support their alma mater, by Audu
Mr. Haruna Audu is the newly elected secretary-General of Barewa Old Boys’ Association (BOBA), Zaria. He is a media professional, public relations expert and lecturer. In this interview with TINA ABEKU, he lamented the country’s deplorable education system, roles of alumni associations and why old students should support their alma mater to reposition the sector and restore its lost glory.
Can you give a brief history of Barewa College Zaria?
Barewa College, Zaria, variously known as Katsina Teachers’ College, Katsina Higher College, Kaduna College, Zaria Secondary School, Government College, Zaria, and now Barewa College, Zaria, was first established as Katsina Teachers College in 1921, essentially to train teachers for Northern provinces.
As the need to recruit northerners into the civil service became greater, the college was upgraded to Katsina Higher College in 1929, with emphasis on manpower development. It was then that teaching of science was introduced to equip the students with opportunities for technical training, engineering, pharmacy, forestry, agricultural as well as medical studies.
It was also in 1929 that the idea of moving the college to a more central location, and raising it to the same level as Yaba College was muted but the global political and economic situation of the period made the colonial administration to change gear. The new location was originally in Zaria, but at the point of implementation, it was switched to Kaduna.
The name Barewa was adapted in 1971. This followed the emergence of six state governments in the former northern region, some of which had begun at the time to establish their own government colleges. All students of Barewa College are assigned admission numbers, and they hold on to it for life.
What values do your alma mater stands for?
Like every other group, BOBA is interested in what happens in the college. You will agree with me that the state of education in the country has become very depressing. For me, the most important aspect of my education took place at the primary level. That’s where the foundation was set for me.
We can’t say the same thing today. Public education has been abandoned and as a result, the bad quality in public primary schools translated to public secondary schools, which, in turn, spread to public universities. So, we are struggling with quality across those two levels.
When I went to Barewa College in 1976, 80 per cent or more of the teaching faculty was international. We had British, Canadians, Irish, Americans, Ghanaians, Cameroonians and Nigerians as staff and it was top notch. There was discipline, respect and order, while funding was not an issue.
The highest number in any class was 28 so that the teacher could manage. There were between 25 and 30 students in a class back in the day, so quality could be maintained, but between 1981 and 1991, everything went down.
What has BOBA contributed to Barewa College?
The school has witnessed significant transformation in the last five years in terms of physical facilities. The present governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-rufai, is an alumnus and has contributed significantly to the school. Five other schools in the state also got similar facility upgrade from the government.
BOBA, like other similar groups, was established to provide special interface between past and present students of the college, facilitate and maintain contact among past and present students and teachers to organise and carry out yearly activities of members.
There were classes in Barewa College that had 78 to 100 students, how can the teacher cope with no corresponding funding? As we were expanding, we were not investing. If the population was growing, how come we are not assigning resources to meet the needs of the growing population?
Education has suffered in this country and we can see it in the type of graduates being produced. So, as an association, we decided to pay attention to what’s happening to our alma mater.
Barewa College has produced five of the presidents of Nigeria and other top government functionaries.
For the five years I was in Barewa, there was never a time I heard that laboratories had shortages of any kind. Our woodwork shop was one of the best with equipment, but now, I only see those equipment on television. We were fed three times a day, with free uniforms and exercise books. I was paid during holidays to go home, it was called ‘journey money.’ What happened to us now?
When you look at statistics and data, the north is still educationally backward, we believe this is a ticking time bomb and we need to do something about it, by helping with the provision of basic teaching and instructional materials, as well as teachers training.
As an alumnus and newly elected secretary, what are you bringing on board to add value to the school?
We need to mobilise the younger generation of BOBA on the need to give back. I made a vow to myself that we would make an effort to bridge the generational gap, while providing trainings in skills development.
It is not just about BOBA, but what all of us can do to help our alma mater. This is one of the major ways we can support the government to improve the sector. To start with, let us encourage public officials to take their wards to public schools, as this will grow the system.