The American International School, Abuja, has suspended all academic activities till further notice. This follows our our exclusive story on Tuesday that the school was flouting a federal government directive that all private and public schools across the country remain shut for the period of the voter registration exercise.
In the story, NEXT noted that, "Although President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has kept millions of children at home to allow for voter registration in schools, the president's two children and those of other affluent citizens are attending school uninterrupted. The elite school these children attend, the American International School, Abuja, is in full session."
A volte face
The school's website finally announced the closure of the school yesterday in a message posted by Amy Uzoewulu, the director: "In compliance with the Nigerian Government's directive, AISA will reopen for preschool through Grade 8 on Tuesday, February 1, 2011."
A visit to the premises of the school yesterday found the place devoid of activities and under lock and key, guarded by a few security men at the gate.
A notice, boldly written on a yellow cardboard, in red and black ink, declared: ‘School is closed.' The reason for the closure was not stated, neither was the notice signed. The date of resumption was also not specified.
When our reporter spoke to an expatriate teacher in the primary section of the school on why the management had to close the school which opened for normal academic session on Monday, she replied: "Go and read NEXT newspaper of yesterday (Tuesday edition) and you will know why we have to close."
She also said she wasn't sure whether there was a new directive from the federal government directing the school to close down.
"There was serious problem here yesterday. TV people and some journalists came here to ask why the school is open. The management had to close the school yesterday afternoon," another source who pleaded anonymity said.
Not the president's children
However, the presidency has denied that the president's children were in school.
A statement by Ima Niboro, the presidential spokesman, yesterday said, "This is to correct reports in the media that President Goodluck Jonathan's children are currently attending school in disregard of the request by the Federal Ministry of Education and INEC that primary and secondary schools in the country should remain closed. This is false.
"The truth is that the president's children have not resumed school this year in compliance with the Federal Ministry of Education's directive. This fact can be easily verified," he said.
Mr. Niboro added that the president "is fully conscious of his duty and obligation to give exemplary leadership to the nation and he will always live up to this great responsibility."
Lagos schools reopen
In the meantime, some private schools in Lagos, under the membership of the Association of Private Educators in Nigeria (APEN), have reopened for Second Term. While some started classes on Monday, others resumed yesterday.
Femi Ogunsanya, chairperson of the association, confirmed this but refused to disclose the terms surrounding the decision of the schools to reopen.
The association had earlier called on the federal government to reverse the directive closing the schools. One of the schools, Chrisland Schools, sent a text message to parents confirming the reopening on Tuesday.
It read, ‘Dear Parents, we are glad to inform you that we are now resuming on Wednesday, 19th January. This came as a result of APEN's negotiations with government.'
Other member schools of APEN which have reopened to students since Monday include Oxbridge Tutorial College, GRA, Ikeja; Grange School, GRA Ikeja; Vivian Fowler Memorial College, Ikeja; Corona Schools, Lagos.
Mrs. Ogunsanya declined to make any formal statement on the schools' reopening until after some deliberations. "Please give us a few days and then we would make a formal statement to the press," she said.
Georgina Azike, head teacher, Chrisland School, Opebi, Ikeja, explained that the directive to reopen came from the managing director of the school after a meeting between delegates of the association and the Ministry of Education.
"They sent delegates to the government and received directive from the government to reopen," she said.
The spokesperson for the federal ministry of education, Abuja, Peter Obidiegwu, in a telephone interview, said that he didn't know of such a directive and could not confirm the position of the ministry without making further investigations.
A visit to some private schools which are not members of the association showed they have no plans to reopen before the date announced by the government. For instance, the principals of Tender Hearts Children School, Ikeja, and Bright Future Academy, Gbagada, said they knew nothing about the directive and their schools will remain closed.
Kenneth Gbagi, minister of state for education had on January 6 briefed journalists on the closure, stating that the directive applies to public and private schools in the country following a request by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to him, "we have directed all schools within the country, both private and public, to remain closed. Resumption date will now be on February 2011."