Free Secondary Education the way to go for Northern Nigeria

Free Secondary Education the way to go for Northern Nigeria

On March 3, I read a piece of news which has given me great joy, in the midst of all the bad news coming out of Northern Nigeria. The governors of Northern Nigeria have decided to abolish school fees in secondary schools across the region.

I remember back in the year 2000, while serving as Vice President, I convened the Northern Education Summit, at which far reaching recommendations were made. As the highest ranking elected leader form the northern states, I saw it as my responsibility to preach the message of improved access to education, especially in my immediate region, where I knew a major educational gap existed. I also believed that improving access to education was key to the revival of the economy of the region.

Unfortunately, all the states except two or three failed to make any reasonable move towards implementations of those recommendations. Because state governments are directly responsible for secondary education (with very important roles in primary education too), it would have been easier to drive a regional education renaissance from the state within the region, but the efforts of the summit and subsequent lobbying from my office could not convince the states. I was very disappointed.

I am very happy at this moment that the northern states have finally decided to do what is right, and hope that more states join in this effort. I have always advocated free education at primary and secondary levels, and believe the state should dedicate resources to funding both levels of education, even if it can’t do anything else. If we can properly build the primary and secondary foundations, our children will be able to make informed vocational or tertiary education decisions.

Now that these states have taken the big step forward in providing free secondary education, there is equally a need for expansion of facilities to cope with the growing number of pupils wishing to enter secondary schools. The states also have to actively recruit students by making a dedicated push for adoption in the local communities. State governments need to partner with local district heads, women (mothers and women leaders), market leaders, religious leaders and influential members of communities, to encourage more young people to attend school. If parents need to receive incentives to release their children to go to school, and this is the only option on the table, I believe no price is too high. I believe however, that sensitisation would work better than cash incentives.

The job of getting more of our children to school is not that of the state alone. But the state needs to see the community as stakeholders, and actively partner with them to drive the message of education. I remember in my father’s time, he had to be arrested and locked up for refusing to let me attend school. That extreme measure may not have been needed, if there was active community organising and sensitisation before the scheme was flagged off.

On a final, and very important note, the Northern states must ensure that girl children receive a priority access to secondary school education. We must remember that when we train a girl, we train a community. Educated women are more likely to raise a more educated community, improve family economics and lead economic renaissance from the grassroots. The economic outlook of the general region and Nigeria as a whole will improve if more of our women are given access to education.

As I have always said, education gave me everything; whatever you do, get an education.

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10 Comments on "Free Secondary Education the way to go for Northern Nigeria"

  • You have done your best Sir. Let see what would happen now

  • It is a good news to know that northern governors have taken this bold step to provide free secondary school education. I hope that decision was taken with good intentions; not just political for the purposes of ensuring that their party wins the 2015 elections.

    However, as welcome as the idea is, emphasis should be placed on provision of infrasturucture and learning tools for all schools with each state of the region.

  • yusuf Abdullahi says

    Allah yakama da Alkhairi

  • Booba Futúr says

    Sir, you should know by now that nothing in life is free. Based on that, offering anything for free is actually detrimental either to he who offers, or he that accepts it. Parents will be more concerned with their kid’s education, and will want to be involved or keep tabs on how it’s faring, when they know that they struggled, even if it’s for a five hundred naira quarterly fee, to send their wards to school. While free education sounds like a wonderful thing to offer to all, I hold the opinion that nothing in life is free. Even the righteous paid a price of sacrifice to get to where they are.

  • Well constructed viewpoint or essay which deserves a very big round of applause. I didn’t know that our amiable ex-VP knows the importance of primary and secondary education when he established American university instead of emulating his ‘cousin’ Rochas Okorocha by building ‘free and fair’ secondary school. It’s not late anyway,sir you can still do it. Build primary and secondary schools where your numerous privileged grandchildren and other less privileged children of our country men and women can attend free of charge. I rest my case

  • Ayokunl(TURAYA) says

    Beautiful write up sir, am of the opinion that free Education in the Northern Nigeria is long overdue, it is not at any rate a belated development. we thank God that the Northern elites have changed their mentalities on this matter. I seriously formerly think that the global nomenclature christened the North over the years on Education was a calculated attempt to maintain the ‘rankadede’ status quo but now am beginning to have a rethink.

    Sir, if all the indigent pupils in the North had been accorded this gesture from onset, no child or children would have embraced the ‘almanjiri’ religious misplacement. I feel so devastated whenever I see these children on the streets of Kano, I always look at myself and say a word of prayers to God on behalf the late sage who gave me the opportunity to be Educated freely as a little Yoruba boy from a remote ondo village. I always say to myself that am not in any way better than these poor kids only for the timely and erudite vision of a sophisticated leader in person of chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo.

    Now that we are having leaders from the North who are radically changing from relegating this children to the background of poverty to enhancing a brighter future for them, then I will say here that this is a welcome development, nothing can be more iconic than this brilliant position. Nothing stops the Northern children of today from standing shoulder to shoulder with their Southern counterpart when we discuss academics….. we just need to get it right.

    Ayo lives in Lagos.

  • sirOscie.......... says

    LET’S PRAY IT WORKS PROPERLY AND THAT THE NORTHERN CHILDREN TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF IT.I PERSONALLY WHICH IT CAN BE SUSTAINED BY THE STATE GOVERNMENT BECAUSE THE CONDITION OF OUR GOVERNMENT SCHOOL ARE NOTHING TO RIDE HOME ABOUT AND THE TEACHERS ARE EQUALLY NOT AVAILABLE AND THE ONE AVAILABLE ARE NOT QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB, SO I WILL SUGGEST THAT THE FEES SHOULD BE SUBSIDIZED FIRST BEFORE FULLY MAKING IT FREE FOR ALL, SO THAT IT WILL GIVE THE GOVERNMENT TIME TO PUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE IN PLACE AND TRAIN QUALIFIED TEACHERS TO DO THE JOB.

  • Habiba Mohammed says

    This is a good gesture!

    There are other fees apart from school fees that stop children, especially girls from going to school, these are hidden fees that includes:
    Registration fees,
    Exam fees
    Broom fees
    Chalk fees
    Security fees(in some cases)
    Etc.

    I work for and with girls in Zaria to ensure enrollment and retention of girls in secondary schools.

    Poor performance of children discourages parents from sending their children to school. Reason for this can be trace back to lack of teaching materials, professional teachers and even conducive atmosphere for learning to take place!

    We still need government and philanthropys assistant to have ‘Education for all’.

    Thank you.

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