Nigeria Military School, Zaria, Celebrates 63 Years Of Training
Established since 1954, the Nigeria Military School recently won back its mandate to impart military training on students. Our correspondent looks at the issues and current state of the 63 -year-old school.
Apart from infrastructural decay, the Nigeria Military School, Zaria, has in the recent past been through a major challenge which has to do with the suspension of military training in the school.
As the only school mandated to imbue adolescents with the knowledge, skills and discipline of the military in Nigeria, this was akin to stripping it of its major function. The school had two major wings when it was established in 1954, the military and the academic; but has developed three others, the headquarters, boys battalion and administrative company for administrative convenience.
Members of the public who have wards and children of secondary school age usually prefer to send them to the school because of the military training it gives their wards to prepare them ahead of full military training or career in future.
This is because as the students are drilled in military fatigue and discipline at a very young and impressionable age, they adapt and conform easily when they decide to take up careers in the military either as cadets in the Nigeria Defense Academy or at the military depot.
But in 2011, the issue of exposing young children to military drills and the campaign against child soldiers came up and considering the age of the children, which is between 12 and 18, many felt that equipping the children with full military drills was akin to recruiting child soldiers and due to the pressure from concerned world bodies, the training was detached from the school curricula.
This is despite the fact that there are similar institutions in the United States of America, United Kingdom and other countries of the world.
The effect was that the major leverage the school had over other institutions and which made it the envy of all was taken away and this was akin to making the school lose its very soul.
An old boy of the school who preferred not to be named said, “this became worrisome because without the military training, the students cannot have the basic knowledge that usually helps them when they get to either the NDA or to the depots for full military career.”
This also reflected in the interest from the members of the public who were usually upbeat about having their children and wards in the school.
The Commandant of the school, Brigadier General Mukhtar Mohammed Bunza, in an interaction with our correspondent, said the suspension of the military aspect of the training meant that the students no longer go through training in arms handling or partake in drills such as marksmanship.
He said, “and as I told you earlier, the military training was suspended six years back, from 2011- 2016,_and when the Chief of Army Staff visited us last year, I told him the main problem, because the boys the bad. After the military training for six years, at the end of the day they will just go home like that. So when I presented the case before the COAS , he inquired about the cause and gave directive for immediate resuscitation of the military training school and by implication , the absorption of the boys at the academic years. So that was the greatest achievement I think we were able to record.”
For the four years between 2011 and 2016, the only difference between the NMS with other secondary school was the intense physical training that was retained in the curricula which was not sufficient for the necessary orientation and exposure to recondite military training.
Naturally, this affected the number and calibre of student intake in military facilities both at home and abroad as more of the students on graduation try to avoid the rigour and preferred to opt out of military career.
This also affected the image of the school as the one sure facility for preparing children ahead of a military career.
General Bunza said to give the school back its soul, he realized on assumption of office that something had to be done about it and he approached the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, on the issue.
He said to his surprise, the COAS quickly understood the implication of allowing the school continue like that and gave the go-ahead for the necessary contacts to be made so that the training would be restored.
The necessary contacts were made and in no time in 2016, the school restored and began the training, he said.
Mukhtar counts it as one the greatest milestones that the school achieved in recent times.
“The fact is that this is a government approved institution, there is no way you can accuse a government institution of involving in child soldering. It is a government approved institution, and again this institution was established in1954, it was in existence when we had the unfortunate Nigerian civil war, and these boys were trained on weapon handling, and were enlisted into army after graduation, but none was taken to the war front to fight on either side,’’ he said, while dismissing the allegation.
When our correspondent visited the school, it was observed that military and academic activities were going on full swing with students all decked in military camouflages.
Our correspondent observed that apart from the training and education in weapon handling, the students are made go to the bushes to train in marksmanship and the students are quite happy about it.
But the once vibrant and highly respected school did not just suffer in that regard. As an institution that has been there for the past 63 years, the structures and facilities got old and some of them started giving way due to both age and overuse.
The kitchen attached to each of the seven companies for instance had gone so bad that many said the environment was not convenient for feeding. The roof of the hostels was also bad that during the raining season, water dripped right into the rooms.
Even the staff quarters, where the bulk of the personnel and instructors that carry out the training are quartered were dilapidated.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the repairs required huge resources and unlike the conventional schools, the NMS could not raise funds by increasing the school fees or through the tasking of parents, as one of the edges it has over other schools is that the fees are highly subsidized and parents only pay a token to show commitment.
The school also pays allowances to all students even when they leave as they are still regarded as military personnel until they decide on their own to opt out of the military or when they take up full career in the military.
Our correspondent learnt that efforts are being made to upgrade and provide additional facilities in the school in order to create a conducive learning environment for the boys in the past. General Bunza, who said his vision is “to transform NMS into an enviable school in academic excellence and character is tackling some of the challenges.
Our correspondent observed among the many new projects that toilets for SS1 and SS2 have been constructed while the SS3 boys toilets have been renovated.
This is apart from the borehole and the generators provided to power the 15 boreholes within the school premises.
Interlocks were also placed at the car park, a landscaping of the general area was done while the Ogundeko Hall, NMS Quarter Guard and Main entrance gate were renovated.
Some of the challenges facing the school include the limited number of intake allowed per session. The school started with only 30 cadets but has ballooned to 1110 for the six sets from junior secondary school to the senior secondary school 3.
Each state and the federal capital territory is allowed only five slots per session and these are keenly contested for as more than 10,000 persons usually apply.
Our correspondent further gathered that the pressure by parents and others to see their wards gain admission has been sorted out by the transparent mode of assessment and admission based purely on merit such that those who fail to secure admission for their children and wards usually accept their fate without grumbling.
The paint factory has also been revived to generate revenue for the school. Our correspondent learnt that the paint produced from the factory has been used extensively for painting within the school environment.
Well-meaning groups and individuals also made contributions which led to the total renovation, modernization and equipping of the cookhouse and the seven Dining Halls of the various Companies by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. AG Olonisakin who is an Ex-Boy of 1973 set.
A computer laboratory was also donated by the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer Babachir David Lawal, who is also an Ex-Boy.
Our correspondent further learnt that the Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdulrahman Danbazau (rtd) equally assisted the school with the sum of N2 million towards renovation of the Library named after his father, a one time RSM of the school.
From Andrew Agbese, Kaduna
ENJOY FREE CONTENTS FROM US
IN YOUR EMAIL
Breaking News, Events, Music & More
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.