Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has said no society aspiring for advancement could afford to relegate the role of education in its affairs. He also endowed N20 million for infrastructural development and provision of teachings aids at the Federal Government College Okigwe, Imo State where he was yesterday invested as Grand Patron of the school’s alumni association.
Atiku, who was speaking at a public lecture of the Federal Government College Okigwe Old Boys Association on Saturday, noted that education was a necessary ingredient not only for developing human resources, but also a major tool for the exercise of freedom in modern societies.
Speaking on the theme of mentoring, the former Vice President noted that in the modern world, countries that lead in education are also ahead in other areas of development, including technological advancement, research, innovation and higher income levels.
According to the former Vice President, countries leading in education are also far ahead in life expectancy, maternal health and lower infant mortality.
He warned that countries that either reject or pay less attention to education normally find themselves far left behind in all aspects of human development and improvements.
The Turaki Adamawa, who is also the founder of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola, advised former students of the Federal Government College Okigwe to give back to society through investment in education.
He said they should help their former school irrespective of government investments in education, saying that their own initiative through scholarships, provision of books, laboratories, classrooms, infrastructure and other facilities could go a long way in boosting education.
Describing education as a collective responsibility, he reminded members of the Old Boys Association that as beneficiaries of public funded education, they had a duty in return to help the growth of this critical sector of national development.
Atiku said they should also act as interest groups or pressure groups to add their voices behind the efforts to reform and increase public investment in education.
However, he admitted that Alumni Associations could not be a substitute for government in the development and promotion of education, saying that education was mainly the responsibility of government to ensure the citizens were afforded the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills.
The former Vice President lamented that corruption was affecting the ability of Nigerian governments to meet the UNESCO set target for education.
Speaking as a private investor in education and a beneficiary of public education himself, Atiku Abubakar said he would like to see every Nigerian child have the same opportunity to acquire qualitative education.
He added however, that private schools should be seen as supplements and important players rather than a replacement for good quality and accessible public education.