Ensuring Access to Education for All Nigerian Children by Femi Falana

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The constitutional provision for free and compulsory education in Nigeria, as outlined in Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution, has long been a promise yet to be fully realized. The provision’s use of “as and when practicable” allowed the ruling class to determine when education would be accessible to every Nigerian citizen. To address this, the human rights community has pushed for change, leading to the ratification of the United Nations Child’s Rights Convention in 2001, the enactment of the Child’s Rights Act in 2003, and the subsequent Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act in 2004.

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While these laws were adopted and enacted by all 36 states in Nigeria, they are often disregarded in practice. As of 2022, UNICEF reported that 18.5 million children were out of school in Nigeria, with that number increasing due to abductions in the northern part of the country.

In light of the International Day of the Girl Child, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to provide compulsory free education for girls across the country. This was prompted by UNICEF’s revelation that 60% of the out-of-school children were girls. The legislator behind this resolution emphasized the importance of investing in girls’ education and their leadership.

Around the same time, the Senate proposed a bill recommending fines of N50,000 to parents who failed to provide primary and secondary school education for their children. However, this seems to overlook existing legislation. The Child’s Rights Act, 2003, and the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004, have already made education free and compulsory for Nigerian children from primary to junior secondary school.

Moreover, the judgments of the Ecowas Court and the Federal High Court have directed the Federal Government to ensure free and compulsory education for every Nigerian child, which has not been enforced.

The joint responsibility of the Federal, State, and Local Governments should be to ensure every Nigerian child has the opportunity for free and compulsory education. It’s also essential to acknowledge the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019, which guarantees free education up to senior secondary school for people with disabilities.

Addressing the high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria should focus on enforcing existing laws and ensuring proper allocation and utilization of funds. Rather than further penalizing parents, the National Assembly should address the issue of state governments’ failure to contribute to the Universal Basic Education Fund, as required by the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act. Urgent constitutional amendments are needed to empower the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source the counterpart funds owed by state governments to the Universal Basic Education Fund.

By Naija247news
By Naija247newshttps://www.naija247news.com/
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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