Western formal education was slow to take off in many parts of the former northern region. It was even more so in pockets of the region. In the Gwoza area of Borno State, the resistance was obviously stiff. The first primary school was built in 1929 in the town of Gwoza and it spent its entire pioneering first year with just eight students. And even those eight students who were wards of village chiefs were torn from their parents and admitted to school under duress. Another three more years attracted only 13 more students, for a total of 22 students in four years.
The colonial administration was on its last legs and had to throw in the towel and go back to the drawing board. The school was specifically for hill dwellers who were largely traditional devotees, but they were obviously shunned largely because it was a boarding school and separated them from their children who helped with household chores and to agriculture. In 1933, the colonial administration decided to relocate her to a day school in Hambagda, a village higher up in the hills, surrounded by a number of villages within walking distance. Improvements were quickly evident which, together with more coercive measures on parents, ensured a good number of admissions.
In 1941, three more schools were opened with clearly dismal results. Ngoshe’s school started with two pupils, Warabe four pupils and Guduf four pupils. Acceptance was slow as age-old mistrust persisted. These were the tumultuous beginnings of Western formal education in Gwoza which Haruna Idrisa Timta has meticulously chronicled in his book, The Historical Development of Western Education in Gwoza since 1929. The book was launched in October 2021. Although i missed attending the event, the author let me know about the progress of his writing over the years.
Haruna has been working diligently on the book since retiring from the Borno state civil service in 2005. He has been a teacher for most of his civil service career, starting as a 2nd grade teacher at Gwoza Native Authority, then NCE teacher, and on graduating in 1978 from ABU Zaria, taught history at various schools in Borno State. He was the Registrar of BOCOLIS then its Provost. He has also served the Borno State Government in many other capacities as Local Government Secretary, Commissioner, Permanent Secretary and Head of Civil Service where our paths have crossed many times.
The book is replete with stories of anguish in the earlier pursuit of bringing Western formal education to the Gwoza region and the upliftment that rebounded to the successes that were later achieved. Other schools were built from 1941 and their number exploded after independence. Apart from government intervention, the author also acknowledged the crucial role played by Christian mission schools in raising the level of education and enrollment in Gwoza. Thereafter, many Gwoza left for secondary schools in Maiduguri, Keffi, Zaria, Kaduna and many other remote places. They ended up populating many institutions of higher learning in the North.
Although the author is eminently qualified to deal with the subject, he has nonetheless been tireless in contacting the National Archives and Arewa House in Kaduna to unearth material. He also interviewed a number of them, both locally and elsewhere, to amass an impressive amount of data to reconstruct the events that led to the rapid progress of education in Gwoza.
The book is also accompanied by a list of Gwoza’s pioneers in the fields of scholarship and public service, showing at first glance an impressive number of 33 professors, 60 doctors, 85 engineers and 69 lawyers, making Gwoza today one of the most educated enclaves in Borno. State. From the list, I can easily pick the name of our contemporary of ABU Zaria, Professor Abdullahi Mahdi who at one time became its Vice-Chancellor. He also became the first Vice-Chancellor of Gombe State University. I also found the name of my late friend and colleague, Senator Umar Hambagda, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the current enfant terrible of the National Assembly and the first National Legislator of Gwoza, Dr Asabe Vilita Bashir now at representatives room.
Re: As the election campaign looms
I read your article “Ahead of the election campaign”. Although you mainly focus on the problems facing the two main parties, the APC and the PDP, you believe that “the country needs a strong and stable PDP as a counterweight to the APC for the benefit of plurality politics and the survival of democracy” completely ignored the emergence of a third (and even a fourth) party. Not once did you mention the imminence of Peter Obi and his Labor Party, or Kwankwaso and his NNPP. Recent polls by at least two credible pollsters indicate that at a minimum, this election cycle would likely be a three-horse race, which could go all the way to the second round of voting. If it’s not statistically significant to be reflected in your article on this topic, I thought I’d bring it to your attention. Several variables line up to lend credence to the three-horse race prediction; to know; Technology, demographics, and length of campaign period (5 months; had lasted about 2-3 months in the past). I bet this election cycle would be different from what we have seen in the last 24 years. Dale Emmanuel Bagaiya