Remarks by the founder of the American University of Nigeria, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. at the 2017 Founder’s Day Celebration held at the Main Campus of the American University of Nigeria Yola, on Saturday, November 25, 2017.
It is that time of the year, every year since the establishment of the American University of Nigeria that I go into this emotional trance while listening to the sonorous voices and fabulous rendition of Happy Birthday songs for me by the pupils of the AUN Elementary School. I have struggled, quite a bit, to hold back tears of joy, as I get tremendously humbled by the wonderful gesture of love and appreciation from these children. I cannot thank you enough for such profound display of gratitude with demonstrable talents and skills.
Every time I step into the campus of the American University of Nigeria to attend this and other functions, I tend to have a different and more optimistic view about the future of our country. When I encounter our very creative students demonstrating their knowledge, skills and talents, my confidence soar and my faith in the future of Nigeria becomes a lot stronger.
Let me therefore take this opportunity to commend the parents of these children, for trusting us with the task of shaping them, in character and in learning, for the enormous task ahead of their generation.
I will also commend the teachers of these little children in particular, and the general body of staff and faculty of the American University of Nigeria for the selfless services they render, while doing their daily jobs here, for the future of our country and that of humanity in general. The performances of these young pupils of our elementary school and the various exploits and achievements recorded by the alums of the American University of Nigeria across various industries worldwide are some of the reasons for the establishment of these institutions.
We may have made substantial impact on our students, which spreads widely into our community in Yola and the wider global spheres, but there is a lot more to be achieved and conquered. Our overall impact on our immediate environment is still a very tiny sparkle in a great sea of darkness. Our penetration rate is still a fraction of a percentage of the actual need. It is here that our challenges as well as our opportunities reside.
It is quite challenging moving around Yola every day and seeing so many children out of the school system. Even those that managed to be captured in the educational system tend to be poorly served and at the risk of dropping out the next moment. The overall enrolment figures for our schools, impressive as it looks, pales into insignificance when compared against the army of school drop outs in our community.
This challenge is also paradoxically an opportunity for our educational community to dig deep into our knowledge boxes and come up with strategies to capture all these out of school children back to the classrooms. Your effort with the Feed and Read program is impressive but not enough. It merely illuminates the way forward and highlights part of the reason for the huge number of school dropouts in our region. A great majority of our out-of-school children are not in this situation because of insurgency, even though that contributed to it most significantly in a certain percentage of the population. Poverty and the struggle for daily leaving has been the guiltiest contributor to the countless number of school drop-outs in our country.
Perhaps the solution to all of this might be found in addressing the deplorable level of poverty in our society. While we battle to conquer poverty, one good point to start is NOT to make access to education a function of the economic standing of a child’s parentage. That was our cases in the beginning. That was how and why members of my generation with appetite to study were educated to their highest possible levels regardless of the economic fortunes of their families.
Our task as a development University is to shred this record and find creative ways of working with our community and governments to root out this terrible situation. As you take on this important responsibility, let me assure you, Madam President, and the entire AUN educational community, that I will intensify my support to the University and its educational mission.
Let me take this moment to thank, most profoundly, Mr. Joe Parkinson, our Keynote Speaker, who delivered a wonderful and thought provoking speech this afternoon. We appreciate your swift acceptance of our invitation to come over to Yola to deliver this speech for us at a very short notice. We will forever remain most grateful to you.
Once again, Madam President, Mr. Chairman and members of the AUN Board of Trustees, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you very much for being so generous with your birthday greetings and for listening to me.