The discovery of ‘couples’ among the students of Sa’adu Zungur Model School in Bauchi came as a shock to many. An old, reputable primary school, it was named after the famous Bauchi-born political activist and writer, Malam Sa’adu Zungur. It has produced prominent individuals that have excelled in various fields.

 It was renovated by the immediate-past governor, Malam Isa Yuguda. Part of the school was temporarily occupied by the Department of Management Science of Bauchi State university Gadau before they relocated to their Bauchi permanent site. It was later structured to accommodate a Co-Educational Secondary School of Boys and Girls.

According to reports, some senior students, male and female, were said to have been conducting illegally arranged ‘mock marriages’ among themselves within the school, wherein male students would pay a certain amount of money, allegedly as low as N500, as dowry.

Classmates of the ‘grooms and brides’ also allegedly contribute money to purchase snacks for the ceremonies. Sources in the school revealed that although male and female students study in separate classes, the attention of the teachers was drawn to the ‘mock marriages’ only about a week ago. According to the sources, an SS2 student whose name was withheld organised a ‘wedding ceremony’ between him and his ‘wife’ who was also a senior student. Teachers’ attention was drawn when they heard the noise from the celebrations. They rushed to the venue and found out what was happening.

The matter was promptly reported to the school’s principal, Malam Ahmed Zailani who later informed the state Ministry of Education, leading to the instant closure of both the primary and secondary sections of the school.

When Daily Trust visited on Monday, some SS3 students were hanging around the school to enquire about their fate, as they were about to start writing exams. However, when asked about the issue, some of them denied the allegations against their colleagues.

“It’s all lies. The thing happened on Valentine’s Day when the boy was teased that the girl is his wife. They don’t even talk to each other, talk less of being husband and wife,” one of the students said.

However, a female SS2 student who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that there were indeed two ‘mock marriages’ in SS2A, and another class. The girl who is said to be in the same class and close to one of the ‘brides’ also confirmed that the ‘bride’ had indeed bought and shared candy to celebrate.

“When it was discovered, all the students in the two classes were punished by the school authorities. The first day we were punished, the two couples in the two classes were all present, but on the second day, the ‘bride’ in the other class was absent,” she said.

Parents vowed to take necessary action and provide the needed support.

Chairman of School Basic Management Committee (SBMC) of the school, Alhaji Muntari Abubakar, said there was a meeting with the members of the committee set up by the government and the school authorities and have presented their recommendations which was incorporated into its report. He accused some mischief-makers of blowing the issue out of proportion, which led to speculation.

“Yes, there was a ‘mock marriage’ by the students, which is just like all childhood drama where a boy or a girl can claim to be what he is not. A boy while playing may claim to be a king or an emir, but he is not. How can somebody claim to marry while there are steps? There must be involvement of the families of both parties as stipulated in Islam,” he said.

He however informed that they were worried because as parents, they don’t want their children to adopt a behaviour that is against the teachings of Islam and morals of their society. He therefore called on parents to avoid interfering in the administration of disciplinary measures on their wards in schools.

Findings by Daily Trust revealed that most of the students admitted in the school were transferred from private schools because their parents can no longer afford tuition due to economic challenges.

According to residents, the school was reputable and it’s students were well-behaved, until recently. “Some of them even hold hands openly and the girls will remove the school Hijab, bring out a long one to cover the school uniform and walk away with one of the boys on his bike or Keke NAPEP to God-knows-where. The teachers have been delaying the closing interval between the boys and the girls by about thirty minutes so that the boys will close when the girls would have dispersed, but some of the girls still hang around and wait for their male colleagues,” he said.

Following the discovery of the alleged mock marriages by some of the students, the state’s deputy governor and the commissioner of education, Engineer Nuhu Gidado ordered the immediate closure of the school. In a statement, he described the development as unfortunate and attributed it to growing moral decadence. He also set up a committee comprising of all directors in the state ministry of education, the school authority, teachers as well as the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) of the school, mandated to investigate the matter and come up with a detailed report.

Findings by Daily Trust showed that the committee had already held its maiden meeting with relevant stakeholders and the school management, though details are currently unavailable. School authorities also refused to comment when approached. The so-called couples also remain unidentified. Efforts to meet one of the female students, said to be very close to the ‘bride’, failed as she was said to have travelled out of town.

As it is now, the alleged scandal in Sa’adu Zungur might have opened a can of worms on what has been happening in public schools in the state. The school was later ordered to be reopened and normal activities resumed by Engineer Gidado, in a statement issued Wednesday.

The report in part read: “After formally receiving the report of the committee set up to investigate the alleged immoral behaviour in Sa’adu Zungur Model Primary and Secondary School, Bauchi today, the Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Nuhu Gidado, has directed for the school to reopen and normal academic activities to resume by tomorrow, Thursday, 16th March, 2017. The findings and recommendations in the committee’s report are currently being studied with a view to arriving at firm decisions and, thereon, applying same appropriately. All stakeholders will be advised accordingly in the next few days.”

The school authorities declined comment, and when Daily Trust visited the school after the re-opening, students trooping in wore sombre looks. When approached for comment on the re-opening of the school, they kept mute. Until a final decision is taken on the issue, all involved will be waiting with bated breath. Meanwhile, what is clear is that the atmosphere currently is not festive, and certainly not that of a honeymoon.

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