20 years of AUN Schools and Atiku's education Legacy, By Daniel Okereke – Premium Times

Yola will be aglow this weekend as the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Academy holds its 15th graduation and awards ceremony. The occasion will also coincide with the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Schools. 
The AUN Academy is the flagship of the AUN Schools. It comprises the Nigerian/British track and the Charter School (American Track). 
Attaining two decades will be considered a milestone for any institution under any circumstance, but this occasion is significant in many tangible ways. The AUN Schools offer the best insight in terms of content and context into the legacy and philosophy of the Founder, Adamawa’s most illustrious son, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Nigeria’s Vice President. The success of the AUN Schools also lends credence to the Atiku Abubakar legacy, encapsulated in cosmopolitanism, diversity, inclusion, uncompromising pursuit of excellence, global outlook, service to the local community and investment in the future of youths from Nigeria and Africa, irrespective of background.
The Principal of AUN Schools, Mrs. Nkem Uzowulu, said the students graduating on Saturday are worthy ambassadors, having distinguished themselves in character and learning. “At AUN Schools, we have built and sustained a reputation for academic excellence, discipline, high moral conduct, critical thinking, and respect for culture,” Mrs. Uzowulu stated. 
One recalls with a mix of nostalgia and abiding curiosity the lessons in “The Personal is Political,” the core theme in Carol Hanisch’s essay of the 70s, which became a motivational theme for the progressive student movement of that era. As a slogan, ‘The Personal is Political’ presumes a correlation between a person’s humble origins, struggles, beliefs, ideas, and the actions they take when they are  able to make an impact. As a belief, however, ‘The Personal is Political’ underscores the values and convictions that motivate a change-agent. 
At any given opportunity, thankful alumni of the American University of Nigeria School system in Yola take pride in pouring encomiums on Atiku Abubakar as ‘the gift that keeps giving’, a phrase expressed in appreciation of his generosity which made their education possible. There is also global recognition. At its 50th anniversary celebration in 2011, the United States National Peace Corps Association honoured Atiku Abubakar with the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award with the citation: “No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar,” For Atiku Abubakar, promoting education is the passion of his life, ‘The Personal is Political’ in his narrative, the single most motivational factor in a life he has dedicated to philanthropy. 
Explaining this philosophy to a global audience in the United Kingdom, Atiku Abubakar said:
“Education, I thought, would be my best gift to society. To some people trying to build a world-class university in Yola might seem irrational. To run the university, we had to provide access roads, provide our own water through boreholes, build, and run our own power plant, provide our own telephone and internet infrastructure, pay for a private security force, and so on.
You might wonder whether it would not be more cost-effective to use that money to provide scholarship funds for students to study elsewhere. With the money now being used to run our AUN power plant, construct our buildings, and pay our security force and the like, many more students could be sent here to study”. 
He reassured his audience of his commitment and readiness to develop his country “in deeper and more holistic ways” as it “would be counter-productive to facilitate the brain drain out of Africa.” 
“We need these bright young people in Africa. We need them to understand the problems in Africa. We need them to contribute towards Africa’s development. And we need them to be able to tell the stories of their accomplishments in the face of enormous odds”.
The seeds of Atiku Abubakar’s education philanthropy have been sown and watered in the AUN Schools. Every single student who passes through the AUN Schools system is on Atiku Abubakar’s scholarship; parents pay less than half of the total cost of their world-class education. Whether on full or partial scholarship, the system he has put in place offers opportunities to Nigerians and non-Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic, racial, or religious persuasion. Students from Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Niger, ivory Coast, Ghana, and Cameroon have benefited and continue to benefit from the educational opportunities provided through the AUN School system. 
The past twenty years have been an unbroken success story of young dreamers taking advantage of the excellent facilities and first-class learning infrastructure in the schools to realize their life ambitions. Through their testimonies, the Atiku Abubakar legacy lives. 
AUN’s Class of 2022 Valedictorian, Mr. Emmanuel Funsho Olakunle, was a full-scholarship student who hails from Oyo State. Ambitious but extremely humble, Emmanuel studied Natural and Environmental Sciences, majoring in Biomedical Science, as he wants to proceed to medical school to qualify as a Medical Doctor. As a member of the AUN Honour Society, Emmanuel volunteered to tutor pupils in neighbourhood Elementary and Secondary Schools in Yola, an experience he described as “mind-blowing.” Immaculata Onuigbo, from Enugu State, was the 2017 AUN Class Valedictorian. A graduate of Petroleum Chemistry, she was on full scholarship from the Shehu Yar’Adua Foundation, funded by Atiku Abubakar. The Foundation seeks out brilliant, ambitious, but indigent kids from all corners of Nigeria and provides them with the best available education up to the university level. In the words of another AUN Schools’ graduate, Ms. Aliya Usman Wuro-Chekke: “AUN has taught us, not through words alone, but through actions, that being in school is not just to study, but rather to empower oneself and others.” Ms. Aliyah Wuro-Chekke, a law graduate, was a member of the Honour Society; she and her brilliant siblings, all eight of them, come from the Wuro-Chekke community in Yola, and each graduated through the AUN Schools system with flying colours. The AUN educational Community is truly cosmopolitan, hospitable, and diverse, a true reflection of the personal outlook and modernistic philosophy of the Founder, Atiku Abubakar.
As a rule, Community Service is a compulsory requirement for all students in the AUN Schools – the University, and the Academy. Community service is a defining feature of the type of education directly influenced by Atiku Abubakar’s utilitarian vision and problem-solving approach to education; finding solutions to the challenges of the local community; and as a catalyst for national development. It is an education that is need-focused and relevant for human progress. For example, through the Students Empowered through Language, Literacy, and Arithmetic (STELLAR) project, students from the American University of Nigeria Schools have successfully intervened in local community schools through a combination of one-on-one, after-school tutoring, the creation and dissemination of reading materials, and the use of technology to enhance learning outcomes. AUN students authored more than 70 original children’s books in English, translated a dozen titles into Hausa, Fulfulde, Yoruba, Igbo, and other languages, and created a pilot-tutoring program using tablets along with free educational apps, storybooks, and videos. In due course, STELLAR was upgraded to the Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA), where at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency, AUN students, faculty, and staff doubled down to extend literacy and numeracy to 22,000 boys and girls from vulnerable communities in Adamawa State. In the last twenty years, students in the AUN Schools have volunteered over 35,000 hours in the local Yola and Jimeta Communities helping to raise literacy and numeracy standards, rebuilding and repainting dilapidated public school and healthcare buildings, and planting trees to protect the environment. The Feed and Read program for out-of-school children from the most vulnerable segments of the community has become a popular national program well-received by the locals. Atiku Abubakar is indeed the gift that keeps giving – especially in education. 
Not a man to grandstand on any issue, Atiku Abubakar is an unrelenting advocate for the cause of educating the youths and empowering them with life skills; he belongs to the elite caste of solution providers, men who match words with action. In August 2013, he sponsored an essay competition for students in higher institutions on the topic: ‘More Learning to More People: How can Nigeria be more innovative in bridging its literacy and skills gap?’ Winners were Kenechukwu Nneka and Lily Nwagbo (joint first prize) and Emeka Chigozie Ezekwesiri.
The AUN Schools are one of Nigeria’s leading full-boarding co-educational cradle-to-doctorate level institutions and by far the most prominent in the northern region. They include the Early Learning Center for formative ages, the elementary, the Charter School, the Academy to the prestigious American University of Nigeria, which has made its mark as Nigeria’s most technology-intensive tertiary institution. They draw students, teachers, staff, and volunteers from all the corners of Nigeria, the African Continent, and the Diaspora. Parents in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Ibadan, Kaduna, Uyo, and all regions of Nigeria feel comfortable sending their kids to the Schools because they are guaranteed academic excellence, qualitative residential life, and preparation to study abroad. The AUN Schools offer a globally themed education and prepare students to study in Nigeria and overseas. Students are prepared to write SAT 1 and 2 for those seeking admission into schools in the United States and Canada; the British Cambridge-administered International General Certification of Secondary Education (IJCSC), IELT, TOEFL, WASCE, NECO, and JAMB.

The AUN Schools are reputed for producing students who excel in academics in universities in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Asia. Experienced teachers, expatriates and Nigerian, with international leadership exposure, run the schools. 
The roll runs from the first three Principals – the Britons Mr. D.J. Hooper, Dr. D.E. Shaw, and Mr. Thompson to the charismatic, plain-speaking Ms. Krista McKee from Texas, the United States, to the incumbent, the longest serving head of the institution, Mrs. Uzowulu, a former Principal of Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos and an educational administrator par excellence. 
Why Atiku Abubakar invests enormous personal resources in this educational project represents his life philosophy and penchant for matching words with action. Atiku Abubakar is not satisfied with identifying problems. He provides the solution. He creates a pathway for others to offer solutions to societal problems. He gives young people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and become part of the tribe of problem solvers. Through the AUN Schools, Atiku Abubakar cements his place in history as Africa’s foremost supporter of education, youth innovation and empowerment. 
Daniel Okereke contributed this piece from Yola and can be reached at: danokereke@gmail.com 
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