Knocks, kudos as Ekiti, Kaduna float new policies

 Fayose

Fayose

Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai

Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai

Barely two weeks after Ekiti and Kaduna state governments initiated new education policies aimed at addressing the schooling needs of their young people, especially at the basic education level, reactions have continued to pour in regarding the merits and the demerits of the policies.

Expectedly, different commentators have either lashed out at the governments, or praised the steps they have taken depending of course, on what prism they see things through.

For instance, when words began to filter round Ekiti State about the government’s plan to “commercialise” education, the opposition party in the state- the All Progressives Congress (APC) was quick in urging Governor Ayodele Fayose, to preserve the greatest legacy the late Obafemi Awolowo bequeathed to the Yoruba people.

The party, without mincing words, described plans to commercialise basic education as a disservice to the memory of the late sage, adding that commercialisation of basic education would amount to a rape of the Nigerian Constitution, which guarantees free universal basic education from primary school to junior secondary school.

In a statement signed by the publicity secretary of the party, Taiwo Olatubosun, the APC lamented that by the decision, Fayose had marked himself out as the last bastion of conservative partisans insensitive to universal quest to acquire basic education.

He regretted that the governor had reduced all government engagements and governance itself as a concept that must be denominated in naira and kobo instead of playing a role that gave citizens hope to survive in a competitive world, where education is the vehicle for social and economic mobility.

Expectedly, the Special Assistant to the governor on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, in a statement refuted the APC’s claim, emphasising that the government had no plan to commercialise basic education in the state.

If the policy is finally approved, Ekiti is to rake in N393m from education levies. The policy will see students of public secondary schools in the state pay N1, 000 each per term as education development levy, while those in primary schools are to pay N500.

The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Jide Egunjobi, while shedding light on the development via a press release made public by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Idowu Adelusi, said there were 178, 263 students in the 879 public primary schools; 48, 960 in junior secondary schools and 55, 677 in senior secondary schools in the state. With the total number standing at 282, 900, the sum of N393, 739, 200 per term would be realised from this exercise.

Egunjobi said all stakeholders in the education sector, including parents and teachers, consented to the introduction of the education development levies at the recently concluded Ekiti State Education Summit.

Before now, secondary school students were paying N100 as PTA levy, N300 for extra lessons and N600 as examination fee, while primary school students were paying N100 as PTA levy, N300 for extra lessons and N200 as examination fee, making the amount N600 per term.”
“Apart from the Educational Development Levy of N1, 000, Egunjobi who reiterated the government’s commitment to the restoration of the state’s lost glory in the education sector added that secondary school students will pay N500 as PTA levy, N600 for examination, N300 for extra lessons, making N2, 400 per term, while it is proposed that primary school students will pay N100 as PTA levy, N100 for extra lessons, N100 for examination, making a total of N800 per term.

The Nasir El-Rufai-led government in Kaduna State recently unveiled a comprehensive free education policy for public primary and secondary schools across the state.

According to the government, the new policy is aimed at improving the fallen standard of education in the state and also to make basic education affordable and compulsory for children.

Speaking at the end of a three-day policy retreat for commissioners and other top government appointees, Governor El-Rufai, said that the policy has taken away the burden of tuition fees, school uniforms, feeding at the state boarding schools and primary schools as well as other sundry charges from parents every year.

The governor, who stated that the programme would cost the state government about N13.7b annually to sustain, warned that he would deal with any school head who charges any form of fees from parents.

While prominent lawyer and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Afe Babalola SAN, extolled Fayose over the new education policy, which he said was aimed at repositioning education in the state and restore its lost glory, the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Taiwo Soweto begs to disagree.

He also refuses to subscribe to the claim that Ekiti State was hitherto operating anything close to free education.

“The first point that must be made is that there was no free education at any time in the state as being claimed. All we had was the usual propaganda, which had no basis in reality. While actual tuition was cancelled, students were still charged PTA fees, examination fees and fees for extra lessons. This is the same pattern you have in every other states where governments claim to be implementing free education.

“So, we in the ERC do not believe there was any free and quality education policy whether in Ekiti, Osun, Imo or any other state, at any time. Be that as it may, the recent decision, following on the heels of a similar one by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, of a supposed people’s governor to now increase the hardship of poor working class parents, by introducing an education development levy is condemnable. There can be no sane justification for it. If the state wants to cite the excuse of cash crunch and revenue decline, then maybe someone needs to educate Governor Fayose and other governors who cite this ridiculous argument, that an economic crisis that manifests in such levels of cash crunch of state governments and even financial institutions pre-supposes that the mass of income-earners (civil servants) as well as artisans, market women, traders and unemployed who, were practically living from hand-to-mouth in the period of economic growth, are now so devastated financially that what they need to survive is a bailout in form of salary increase and not increasing their burden.”

The national coordinator, who deplored the fact that despite the so-called cash crunch, state governments including those owing civil servants and pensioners several months of salary, are spending millions of naira to buy rams for friends and political associates for the Sallah celebration. Meanwhile because of the dire economic situation and non-payment of salaries, most workers’ families will have an agonizing Sallah celebration.

“As for us in the ERC, this is not something the people of Ekiti should accept. Students and the working masses of Ekiti should take to the street to protest this policy. We must demand that the Governor and other political office holders cut their fat salaries and allowances as well as other perks that come with their position in order to free up some more resources to fund education. We must also demand that the state open its finances so the public can actually see what the financial situation of the state truly is,” he added.

“I think the increased charges will lead to the further collapse of education in Ekiti state. More pupils will drop out. Those who don’t will not be better off given the worsening condition of teaching facilities. Because of the financial burden, more pupils will be asked by their parents to hawk daily after classes in order to help raise the family income meaning they have no time to study. Performance of students from Ekiti states in examinations might nose-dive in the coming period as a result of this ill-thought policy of the Fayose administration

“As for Kaduna State, our position in the ERC is that this is not the first time that governments have claimed to be implementing free education. In fact, free education has become a slogan to hoodwink voters during election campaigns. Yet despite all these alleged free education policies, the condition of education continue to nose-dive, which shows that these free education policies are mere media propaganda.

For trustee of Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries (ZODML), Mrs. Ifeoma Esiri, Kaduna State’s new education policy would, without doubt, spur enrolment and increase access to learning.

She said if the policy was well implemented and monitored with emphasis on quality, then it would be of immense benefit to the people of the state.

Said she, “With regard to the Kaduna State’s education policy, it is clear that the free basic education policy will be an incentive for parents to send their children/wards to school. The question then is what quality of education will those children receive?

“If the governor has the political will to spend big on education and to eliminate waste as well as corruption, then his education policy will be successful and benefit the children there,” she stated

“On Ekiti, the development levy imposed by the state government is not necessarily a disincentive to the enrolment of children in schools. In the end, it behooves the parent to appraise the type of education that his/her child will get from being in a government school. Such parents would at that point decide whether it is worth the while to put their children there. The government must therefore make the necessary investments to ensure that children get a decent education especially as parents are being asked to make a contribution towards it.



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