Ife Adebayo: Economic development: Access to Free Basic Education is non-negotiable (Y! Politico)

by Ife Adebayo

Ife Adebayo

Come 2015, we must vote in a government that is serious about education, a government with laid down plans and procedures for implementing workable policies in the education sector.

The most common definition of literacy defines literacy rate as the number of adults aged 15 and over that can read and write. Research and studies have shown that countries with a high literacy rate are more likely to have a faster and more efficient economic development than countries with a low literacy rate.

The importance of having a literate population in a technology driven world cannot be over-emphasized and the first step towards creating a literate population is in ensuring every child has access to basic primary education. A UNESCO estimate of 2010 says the numbers of Nigerians that can read and write are 61% of the population. This estimate clearly explains why we have a large chunk of Nigerians who are not employable; this explains why we have many touts, child street beggars and why the rate of insecurity in the nation is on the rise.

In 2004, the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act was introduced in Nigeria; the act stipulates that every Nigerian child shall have a right to free, compulsory, mandatory and quality education up to junior secondary three or its equivalent. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Vision Statement opines that after nine years of uninterrupted education every Nigerian child should have obtained suitable levels of skills for basic numeracy, communication and management of life skills therefore making every citizen employable, valuable to himself/herself and able to contribute to economic growth.

The UBE Act since its inception has been fully implemented by the states governed by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). On the party’ website, its manifesto on education clearly states that “we believe that education is a fundamental right of every citizen. If the State expects full service and complete loyalty from every citizen, then the state is duty-bound to educate every citizen to the limit of his ability, so that he can also serve the state to the limit of his competence”.

Dr Amaele S. of the department of Education Foundations of the University of Ilorin stated in his paper titled ‘Free Education in Nigeria: Reality and Implications’ that “Nigeria as a nation has not practiced “free education” since the history of Western education started in 1842. Rather, at one time or the other, programmes have been introduced which abolished the payment of school fees, in part or in full at one particular level or the other. The removal of school fees or other related levies does not make education free because there are still other constraints to the child’s access to education”. Some of these constraints include the payment of levies and lack of access to books and writing materials.

In all ACN states, pupils and students do not have to make any payments to get access to primary and secondary education. This ACN policy has increased enrolment rates in schools, improved attendance of classes by pupils and students and also greatly reduced dropout rates. However, many other states, especially the states governed by the People’s Democratic Party have only paid lip service to free basic education for their residents; most of these states practice a shoddy and shady version of the UBE Act. The states claim to be implementing free education but still charge students and pupils PTA fees, fees for uniforms, enrolment fees and several other fees in various shady names.

These fees have led largely to many children in these states either not attending school at all or dropping out of school. Many parents who cannot afford the payment of these fees have either kept their children and wards at home or sent them into the streets to hawk. Many others have sent their kids over to the houses of the rich as domestic servants and receive payments for the services rendered.

In 2012 the Action Congress of Nigeria through a statement released by its National Publicity Secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed called for “an emergency action, a ‘Marshall Plan’ of sorts, to uplift the declining – or fully declined – standard of education in Nigeria, saying education is key to the development of any society”. The PDP led Federal Government of course ignored this call.

The importance of free and quality basic education to the development of any nation cannot be over stated, the Action Congress of Nigeria is the only party in Nigeria that has shown true commitment to this vision. In today’s ever changing world we need to educate our children in order to be able to compete on the global stage. To achieve this, we cannot continue to be governed by a government that only pays lip service to the education of its citizens. Come 2015, we must vote in a government that is serious about education, a government with laid down plans and procedures for implementing workable policies in the education sector. A focus on education is essential for sustainable economic growth.

Acquiring Literacy is an empowering process, enabling millions to enjoy access to knowledge and information which broadens horizons, increases opportunities and creates alternatives for building a better life” – Kofi Anan, former Secretary General of the United Nations.


Ife Adebayo is an IT Consultant with work experience in Germany, United Kingdom and Nigeria. He currently runs his own IT firm in Lagos, Nigeria. He is an ardent believer in the Nigerian project and encourages all Nigerians to become actively involved in making Nigeria a better place. A registered member of the Action Congress of Nigeria, he was an active member of the UK branch of the party, holding the post of Youth Leader for the year 2010/2011.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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