By Billy Graham Abel Yola
A legal practitioner, Everistus Odo, said in 2017, Legal Defence and Assistance Project LEDAP obtained a judgment from Federal High court which affirms that by enacting the UBE Act, the National Assembly has made the right to free and compulsory primary and junior secondary education contained in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution an enforceable or justifiable right in Nigeria.
According to Odo, the above judgment affirms that every Nigerian child has the constitutional right to free and quality basic education and the Federal and State governments have constitutional mandates to provide adequate funds to ensure its realisation.
Odo said several Nigerian parents are already disobeying the law by failing to take their wards to school and if the law is fully implemented, many of them risk time in jail for breaking the law.
Everistus made the remarks while addressing education stakeholders and community leaders at a training for education officials and community leaders on the education rights of children, held in Yola, Adamawa state.
Odo pointed out that, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) in partnership with Malala Fund has organised the training to call on the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders in the Education sector, to renew their efforts toward ensuring that Nigerian child has access to free and basic education, as enshrined in the constitution of the country.
He said, based on the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, many parents and stakeholders in education in Nigeria may soon land in jail if they continue to deny their wards access to education which contravenes the constitution of the country.
According to the legal practitioner, the government and communities must work hand-in-hand toward bringing into reality the constitutional provisions for free and compulsory education for Nigerian children.
He stresses that the training was designed to mobilise all stakeholders towards enforcing the right of every child in the country to free and compulsory education as enshrined in the Universal Basic Education Act and to ensure that state governments take appropriate action to promote free and quality basic education for all, especially the girl-child.
He further stressed that the meeting seeks to review the current state of basic education in Adamawa state, build ideas and draw up possible strategies to improve the implementation of the right to basic education in the State.
Delivering his keynote address at the event, Everistus Odo said that, Section 2 (4) of the Nigerian constitution states, “A parent who contravenes section 2 (2) of this Act commits an offense and is liable-(a) on a first conviction, to be reprimanded;(b)on a second conviction, to a fine of N2,000:00 or imprisonment for a term of 1 month or to both; and Section 3 (1) states that the services provided in public primary and junior secondary schools shall be free of charge and that A person who receives or obtains any fee contrary to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N10,000:00 or imprisonment for a term of 3 months or to both.”
Odo said, there has been a detailed history of constitutional provisions for the right to a free and compulsory basic education in Nigeria but it has not been implemented at so many levels.
“The basic goal of the program is to first create awareness on the right to education and of course, for stakeholders to also understand that the law has created a right to education and that we all have duties to impose on the government and relevant stakeholders including parents, teachers and other actors in the education system to ensure that this fight to adequately provide education for the benefits of our children must be guarded and protected.
“The law itself has made the provision very clear that any parent that fails to send their children to school ought to be punished and it is only logical those who send children away from school deserve to be punished also. And school officials who collect fees should also be punished.
“This is an all-embracing responsibility for all of us. The Parents Teachers Association (PTA) must also be up and doing.
“In a situation where the government made beautiful provisions for schooling for children, the PTA should not be seen as working contrary to the system by imposing fees that lead to sending the child away from school.
“The problem with Nigeria is that education has not been prioritised. We may never have the funds to do everything at the same time, but a government that understands that education is the mother of so many other things will be able to give education the priority it deserves,” Odo maintains.
Speaking at the occasion, Jamila Suleiman, a guest lecturer at the event stressed the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to achieving a free basic education in Nigeria. Jamila said, “What we intend to archive is to sensitise people on the responsibilities they have as community members towards archiving qualitative education and how they can make their contributions towards promoting qualitative education in the state, so it is not about just leaving the issue of education to the school management or to the state government but to drive home the point that community members have a role to play in the actualisation of free basic education for the Nigerian child as enshrined in our constitution.
“We are insisting that monitoring and evaluation should be a key component in enhancing the quality of education in our country. The maintenance of infrastructure in schools, the welfare, and quality of the teacher must also be looked into, the nature of the curriculum that is been taught, and also very important they can ensure that funding comes into school.
“And we want all participants to know that every child in Nigeria has the right to basic education and to know, that there are legal sanctions attached to not sending your child to school, and that community members can expose whatever needs to be fixed in schools within their communities.”
Some of the participants at the event aired their views to Daily Sun, saying they have been challenged to work as important stakeholders in achieving the goal of basic free education for all Nigerians.
Julius Finba, a staff of the Adamawa State Universal Basic Education (ADSUBEB) said, “There has been a vacuum in the educational sector. The sector lacks facilities, lacks personnel as so many teaching staff have either retired over the years or are dead but these people have not been replaced.
“Sometimes we feel handicapped because there are so many learners enrolling into schools but no teachers, especially in the rural areas to teach, that is a challenge that must be overcome.
“These problems can be addressed by recruiting and sending qualified teachers to the rural areas.”
Another participant, John Manabete speaking on his experience at the training said, “The training is all about promoting the right to education looking at the (2004) UBE act which makes primary education compulsory for every Nigerian child. So we are here basically to promote this and to advocate that more need to be done.
“First of all, we talked about the concentration of teachers in urban areas at the detriment of the rural areas. The government could do well providing special incentives to those that are posted to the rural areas.”
A participant at the event said, the important issue here is the worrying state of our education in our country and how everyone must be involved in making good and quality education a reality for all.
“Frankly speaking, the issue of education in Adamawa state has been squarely tackled by the current governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. He has done almost more than half of the things that should be done, what is now left is for everyone to contribute their quota towards its wholistic implementation. “
The training is in line with the project titled promoting basic education rights of the girl child in Nigeria’ which is aimed at ensuring that state governments take appropriate action to promote free and quality basic education for all, especially the girl child. The project is located in Adamawa, Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano States.
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