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Success Of Sapele And The Case Of A Not So Free Education

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After the viral video of the little Success flooded the social media, it was a tragi-comedy to see this girl of about six years but already wise beyond her years, angry that she was asked to leave school because she didn’t pay examination fees. It was warming to see her passion that she would rather be flogged than sent out of school. The way her story exploded and the good fortunes that have been hurled her way, her parents must have thought back to that day that they decided to name her “Success”.

For a period, we all reacted emotionally; laughed, sang her praises, we located her and her family and raised a fund (without the hassle of a GoFundMe account) to pay her outstanding. Nigerians can be super. Anyway, now that the euphoria has settled, let’s call out once again the rot in the education sector. Let’s do a little deep dive on the subject because I don’t understand what kind of Devil is plaguing our educational system. It must be a legion because we have a fund that was set up to ensure there is free education, and not just free education but basic school resources. What we see in the name of provision of education has been a cancer to our eyes. The school was a government-funded school with UBEC funds at its disposal, so why was she paying for anything when the school was to be providing free education!  This scheme is monitored by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and has made it “free”, “compulsory” and a right of every child.

If not for the story of this aptly named child, it seemed that her state governor was not aware that the educational system had issues. It was as a result of the efforts of Nigerians that the government woke up. When are we going to get out of this? And the government behaved true-to-type when the governor, chairman of sapele local government area, the leader, Sapele Fifth Legislative Arm, majority leader of the House, chief press secretary to Sapele LGA chairman and a host of others all hustled, congregated and paid a social visit to the parents of Success. I mean, do they know how many “Successes’’ there are out there?? How many children have been sent home because of bogus, illegal demands especially from a public school thereby truncating a dream or leading them down an uncertain path.

In addition, the law stipulates a 9-year formal schooling, adult literacy and non-formal education, skill acquisition programs, and the education of special groups such as nomads and migrants, girl child and women, Almajiri (street children), and disabled people; something is grossly wrong. Despite an Act  that is clear (a very short and straight forward Act, we have the highest number of out of school kids that belong to the groups enumerated above and there has been no state of emergency in this sector; well, apart from a half-hearted not properly thought out pronouncement that parents of children not in school will be prosecuted or face the law, something like that. I couldn’t do the mental mathematics as to how many parents that would be!

Section 3(1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004, states, “the services provided in public primary and junior secondary schools shall be free of charge.” I think this incident has brought it to the fore that the education in these schools is not free and that people have been at the mercy of shylock school principals. I’m not impressed that the Commissioner of Education suspended the principal of the school. Was the commissioner saying he wasn’t aware what was going on in the schools under him? If the answer is yes, then he too should be suspended then for not overseeing the schools under his watch properly. The Next Level is accountability. People must be held accountable down the line and not just scape goats!!!

Next is Subsection (2) states that a person who receives or obtains any fee contrary to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding

NI0,000:00 or imprisonment for a term of 3 months or to both. A “committee” should be set up to hear the woes of the other “Successes”

Then the government ordered the renovation of the school. Like really??? So, it could be done? In the long run, may this be a case of “dey go flog tire.”

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