President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja urged state governors to “enforce very vigorously” free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
A resolute enforcement of free and compulsory education in the country would mean parents failing to enroll their children in school up to junior secondary school, would be arrested and prosecuted as provided by law.
Under the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, it is criminal for parents to fail to send their children to minimum of JSS3.
Section 2(2) of the law says, “Every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his – (a) primary school education; and (b) junior secondary school education, by endeavouring to send the child to primary and junior secondary schools.”
Section 4 of the same law says, "A parent who contravenes section 2 (2) of this Act commits an offence and is liable- (a) on first conviction, to be reprimanded; (b) on second conviction, to a fine of N2,000 or imprisonment for a term of 1 month or to both; and (c) on subsequent conviction, to a fme of N5,000 or imprisonment for a term of 2 months or to both.”
The law derives its stipulations from the constitutional provision for free education for all children in Nigeria.
President Buhari’s remark came months after the education minister, Adamu Adamu, repeatedly warned that the government would begin to prosecute defaulting parents in a bid to reverse the country’s embarrassing huge number of out-of-school children.
Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. The Univeral Basic Education Commission announced in October 2018 that 13.2 million children were not in schools as they should be.
Despite the high numbers, some state governments have yet to take advantage of billions of naira in counterpart funding provided by the federal government for free basic education.
In March, Mr Adamu said parents were “frustrating” the government’s efforts to reverse the shocking figures.
Speaking on matching grant and other intervention funds for basic education in Nigeria, the minister said N350 billion had been expended on the sub-sector by the Buhari administration in four years, while the preceding government spent N360 billion in six years.
“In the six years preceding the Buhari Administration, between 2009 and 2014, the federal government spent about N360 billion worth of intervention on Basic Education covering textbooks, teacher professional development, construction of classrooms and library resources among others."
Inaugurating the National Economic Council (NEC) at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, President Buhari reminded the governors that providing free and compulsory education is a constitutional provision.
"Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education,” presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina quoted the president as saying.
"Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
"It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.
"This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum.
"If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves," the President said in his 24-paragraph speech at the inaugural session of NEC.
The president told the governors that successes in the four key areas of education, security, health, and agriculture would go a long in lifting Nigerians out poverty and securing the future for sustainable growth and development.
The president also urged the governors to pay special attention to security, health, and agriculture in the next four years of this administration.
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