One of the major policy proclamation made by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje after securing his second mandate in office is the declaration of Free and Compulsory Education Policy in the state. Subsequently, strings of measures were introduced aimed at exploring ways of implementing the policy with a view to confronting the various problems weighing against functioning of the sector.
With unadventurously estimated over three million out-of-school children currently wandering the streets in all the 44 local government areas of the state, some for the fact that their parents either lack the financial ability to send their children to school or are disinclined to western education, the governor believes the policy could relive a big financial pain from the side of parents and ensure quality education in a free education society.
A more elaborate Ganduje administration’s commitment in this regard indicates that it will make basic and post basic education free to all citizens of Kano state. Also, People With Disabilities (PWDs) will enjoy free education up to university level. To make it effective, the governor set up a Free and Compulsory Education Committee to look into ways of vigorous implementation of the policy in the state.
While taking his campaign to rally for support for the programme, Ganduje has been reaching out to relevant stakeholders as part of effort to ensuring genuine human development in the state. Already, the British High Commission, through the Department for International Development (DFID), has signaled its intention to partner with the state government toward the successful implementation of the policy, while the French, Saudi Arabian and the United Arab Emirate Embassies in Nigeria have appreciated the Ganduje initiative and their readiness to key into it.
And in line with its avowed promise to live up to his words of providing free and compulsory education and encourage girl-child education and integration of Tsangaya/Almajiri education system, the state government is also organizing a two-day stakeholders Summit on Free Education to enhance sustainable socio-economic development in the state.
Government is also encompassing post basic education into the policy with a view to giving more opportunity to the pupils that annually churn out from our primary schools and particularly for the girl child in compliance with the approved Kano State Girls Child Education Policy (KNGEP).
The political will and courage by Ganduje to holistically pursue the implementation of the policy is a clear deviation from the norm where the policy does not go beyond mere declaration and using it by others as a platform to siphon public funds. This is because apart from financial issues that prove to be part of the greatest challenges in the implementation of free primary education in Nigeria, operating the policy had been very hard for government at all levels since it is a matter of political convenience rather than planned education development. Therefore, when the framework document is eventually produced by the state Committee on Free and Compulsory Education, using the relevant legal and legislative measures, the policy will be strengthened for effective implementation.
This can be clearly typified when the previous government, few months to the expiration of its mandate and inconsiderate of the necessary financial and policy implications, declared free education at all levels: primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state and voting the largest share of the sectorial allocation. As pompous as the policy, that administration consigned all the levels of education to the background, while giving prominence only to the issue of foreign scholarship. That trend impacted on the education sector in the state so much that while grappling with the reality, the Ganduje administration continues to invest in the sector while still offsetting the debt of over N4 billion on that foreign and local scholarship scheme.
Even as it is pursuing the free education policy, government massive infrastructure development projects in the last four years in the sector, accessing the counterpart funding of about N2 billion, which enabled massive rehabilitation of classroom blocks building of libraries, sinking boreholes, provision of pupils’ furniture and instructional materials, establishment of the Education Promotion Committee (EPC) which rehabilitated blocks of classrooms, provision of 3-seater desks and various instructional materials, raising the morale of teachers through prompt payment of salaries and capacity building that saw the certification of more than 30, 000 teachers as part of sustained commitment to revitalize the basic education sub-sector for improved leaning outcomes, the Ganduje administration stands a better chance of pacesetter in the introduction and implementation of free education for its citizens.
It is also expected that the free education policy will succeed when the Kano Education Trust Fund Law (KETFUND) comes into effect. The law, which is aimed at achieving equitable and inclusive access to quality education for all in accordance with Education 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), could be one of the remedies for the series of challenges bedeviling the education sector in the state such as poor teacher quality, congestion in classrooms and inadequate teaching and learning materials.
Part of the legal and legislative aspect of the policy include prosecuting deviating parents. The state government is working with the Kano Emirate Council to come up with a bill that will be sent to the state House of Assembly in that regard to ensuring that all school age children go to school and therefore, any parent of child who beg on the streets instead of going to school will be arrested and parent prosecuted.
The policy will also go a long way in ending the menace of begging in the state in particular and the North in general. Since most of these beggars are said to be pouring from neigbouring states and countries, Governor Ganduje has expressed his readiness to send a memo to the Northern Governors’ Forum on ways to fight the social problem.
In line with this, Governor Ganduje has ordered all the five Emirs in the state to take inventory of parents who do not cooperate and refuse to register their children in schools and forward same to the government for taking further and necessary actions against those who do not cooperate for punishment.
Parents, therefore, have an important role to play in this regard. The free education policy may not make sense if parents, guardians and care givers fail to support the policy. Every child should be given the opportunity to attend school because education makes people brighter every day and improves the way if life.
In conclusion, as Governor Ganduje convenes the Free Education Summit, it is hoped that the relevant stakeholders will fully discuss modalities for the implementation of the policy on free basic and post basic education which are the stages that dictate how prepared students are for tertiary or university education.
Garba is the immediate past commissioner for Information, Youth, Sports and Culture, Kano state
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