The Dailytrust of 18th August 2016 carried a headline: ” Kaduna State Extends Free Compulsory Education To Secondary Schools”. Similarly, the Tribune Newspaper of 10th August 2016 piqued” REFUSE TO SEND YOUR CHILD TO SCHOOL, FACE THE LAW —EL-EL-RUFA’I. These news reportage shows that, Governor El-rufa’i of Kaduna State resolved not only to make education at the first and second tiers free but compulsory in the State. His determination must have been triggered by aspirations of Sustainable Development Goals and other basic universal goals.
Very long ago, the successive military as well as civilian regimes made similar laws with identical threats on erring parents and kids. These types of efforts were not restricted to Kaduna State alone, there were regional effort by the northern state governments, pan cultural and religious associations like; Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF), Northern Elders Forum, and other minor groups. Countless committees were formed and many conferences staged to finding a lasting solution to problems of refusal by parents to enroll kids in schools in Northern Nigeria. International bodies like UNESCO and UNICEF partnered with local NGOS and communities to find solutions to this matter in Northern Nigeria.
All efforts by governments and other interested parties yielded very little impact because of cultural mores and religious beliefs of Northerners. If a cultural more doesn’t constitute a cog in the wheel of progress, some religious believes will. Culture and religion in Northern Nigeria are sometimes accorded priority than scientific discoveries or constitutional provisos. Some examples of these behavours were rejection of polio vaccines and marrying out female kids below the globally accepted standard of 18yrs. For religious reasons, the same people prefer sending their kids to informal religious schools in far off climes under the tutelage of some unregistered teachers.
Ordinarily,affordability and scarcity of education facilities ought to be the major concern, but Northern Nigeria being a clime of the flying elephants, that isn’t the case. The problem is reluctance by parents to send kids to schools despite pealing off school fees and provision of incentives like free meal and uniform. Surprisingly, they all know that there is little or nothing one can do without education. And education is the route to achieving one’s mission in life.
With a myriad of problems enumerated herein, how possible it is for Mr. El-rufa’i to live up to his threat of jailing parents who crossed the lines? It is true that over 97% of the kids not attending schools in Kaduna State are kids brought through the ALMAJIRI SYSTEM of education from other states and informally handed to their teachers. How can he arrest their parents who are living in other States without similar laws? It is hard to know the exact number of kids not in school, but no doubt they are more than a million. How large is the law enforcement team that can carry out his order effectively? What is his overall strategy on how to force their parents who live in far places and without any means of communication to come and return their kids to States that don’t have these laws?
This statement lacks every spec of reality and sincerity. Mr. El-rufa’i is only interested in remaking the headlines of major dailies in Nigeria. Every Tom, Dick and Harry know that the problem is mostly caused by the Almajiri System. Why not make bold and kill the system first? After that,address the problems of instructional materials and infrastructures in the two layers of educ a. Thereafter, he should look into welfare, and further training of teachers. That will provide a solid foundation for a qualitative not quantitative education in the State.
Me thinks, you can force a horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink water. It’s clear that what is not accepted willingly cannot make sense if force is used to create its acceptance. We are all aware that only an insignificant part learning takes place in school, most of it takes place at home; who will compliment that essential part of the home front? Unwilling parents and guidance or who?
I am still struggling to even cite where it is stated in Nigeria’s constitution that ignorance or illiteracy is a punishable crime. People can decide to enjoy ignorance,that will even reduce the burden placed on government in educating them. Let government provide qualitative education to the willing, not invest a dime in arresting and prosecuting the unwilling.
Let’s try as much as possible to keep politics far off education, if we truly want to turn around the education sub-sector in Kaduna and Nigeria at large.