By MALCOM FABIYI
If Nigerians choose to do so, by the International Day of Literacy on September 8, 2012 we can collectively ensure that Nigeria’s educational system will be firmly placed on a path to recovery. All that is needed is the removal of four words from our constitution, just four words!
There has been a steady erosion of the Nigerian educational system for the last 4 decades.
Standards have fallen, and access to education is being priced out of the reach of the ordinary Nigerian. The public school system which has served our nation creditably, and to which majority of Nigerians born before 1990 owe their education is in rapid decline.
At the core of the rot in the Nigerian Educational Systems is the inadequacy of funding for education. Adequate funding will pay for excellent teachers, support the building of schools, fund the stocking of libraries with relevant and topical books, and cover tuition fees for students. The decay will be accelerated if the Nigerian educational system suffers reduced funding or the complete elimination of funding.
Article 18 of the 1999 constitution details the educational objectives of the Nigerian nation. It is a brief section and it says inter alia:
18 (3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide
18 (3) (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education
18 (3) (b) free secondary education
18 (3) (c) free university education and
18 (3) (d) free adult literacy program
The problems in the Nigerian educational sector are caused by the single discretionary clause in Article 18 (3) which says “Government shall as and when practicable.” This clause allows Governments to opt out of funding education or to reduce education related funding by simply claiming it is not “practicable” to do so.
Whatever our political views are, all Nigerians should be united in the belief that the adequate funding of public education should not be left to the whims or caprices of politicians whose children do not attend the public school system and whose priorities begin and end with the feathering of their own nests. To guarantee the future of our nation and our children we must enshrine the principle of education rights in the Nigerian constitution and charge our elected officials to enforce that task.
The discretionary clause “as and when practicable” needs to be removed from the constitution and Article 18 (3) should be amended to read “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and to this end Government shall provide (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education (b) free secondary education (c) free university education and (d) free adult literacy program.”
It is within our power to make this happen. We can finally put our National and State assembles to work for the Nigerian people by agitating for this constitutional amendment to be made immediately. Education is fundamental to the eradication of ignorance and poverty, and essential for National development.
This is what we must do:
1. Table a demand for a constitutional amendment to the National Assembly
2. Develop a coalition of institutions, organizations and agencies committed to education access rights in Nigeria
3. Generate 1 million signatures from Nigerians in support of a constitutional amendment to guarantee educational funding and free education at all levels
4. Join the Save Education in Nigeria Today (SENT) movement on Facebook, start your own allied group and participate in the signature drive effort
5. Occupy, Organize & Mobilize until the goal is achieved.