By Editorial Board
THE mandatory free education programme of Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s administration in Kaduna State is a laudable initiative that should be encouraged and even emulated by all other states yet to see the need for such investment.
Generally, the Northern part of Nigeria is well-known to be dis-advantaged in education. Successive administrations over the years exhibited a lack of concern, even poor vision by de-emphasising education. Any leader who would transform that part of Nigeria especially must start with education and El-Rufai’s appreciation of this task with his action deserves commendation as well as all the support possible.
In an attempt to promote equity in the polity, such unproductive ideas as “Federal Character” and “quota system,” were introduced into Nigeria’s education system and also enshrined in the constitution. That, notwithstanding, a huge gap still exists between the North and the South and how to close that yawning gap remains a major challenge, which only a leader with vision can tackle.
Against that backdrop, El-Rufai’s initiative should set a pace first for governments in the entire North to emulate, make education a priority and ensure the region lays the foundation for a brighter future. It is, also, an idea that should be bought into by the whole of Nigeria. It is a very expensive but extremely worthy investment to note.
To ensure that no child is left out, El-Rufai also warned that anyone whose school-age child is found hawking or loitering will be arrested together with the child. He said his government has decided to declare an emergency in the education sector and also introduce free feeding and uniforms for students, noting that the sector is his administration’s priority. The governor was emphatic that “no child of school age should be seen on the streets hawking during school hours.”
Interestingly, the Kano State Government had introduced free and compulsory education in 2013 under Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and incumbent governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the other day, reaffirmed that the free and compulsory education policy of the Kano State Government remains part of the effort to improve the literacy level in the state. He added that the focus is “to reduce a lot of social menace in the society often caused by the lack of education.” It may be basic but this is a significant step towards development and prosperity for all.
That illiteracy is a disease which destroys the fabric of modern society is not in doubt. There is, therefore, an urgent need to pull Nigeria, all parts of it, out of the cesspit of ignorance, poverty, and disease that go with lack of education. Arguably, most of the social unrest and criminality plaguing the nation today are attributable to poor education.
The challenge now is for the programme in both the Kaduna and Kano states to be sustained while the government put the necessary machinery in motion to ensure the success of the initiatives.
First and foremost, the authorities should have accurate statistics of all the children in their states. That may entail embarking on the enumeration of the citizens at home or at school to obtain a reliable database as accurate statistics is critical to the programme’s success.
The scheme should also cover primary and secondary school levels which both constitute the foundation upon which life is built. Those in tertiary institutions could eventually benefit through scholarships and bursary. Because a lot of money is involved, the governments should know the exact number of people they are catering for but students from neighbouring states who may flock into Kano and Kaduna schools to take advantage of the programme need not be turned back. With data and planning, the governments should be able to handle such without creating unnecessary tension.
Governments of the Northern states should of necessity embark on a massive public enlightenment programme to sensitise the people, make them embrace education as a means of improving their lives and eliminate ingrained social-cultural prejudices against what is wrongly derided as ‘western’ education.
Most importantly, to sustain the programme, an enabling law must be passed so that it is not left to the whims of succeeding or a new administration. Education is the key to Nigeria’s prosperity and peace. And all hands must be on the plough.
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