Government’s failure to offer free, functional UBE: Private schools bridging the gap, By Olajide Olanipekun

Posted by News Express | 5 August 2019 | 943 times

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•Olajide Olanipekun Esq.

The Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 provides for compulsory, free universal basic education for all children of primary and junior secondary school age in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Act derives its power from section 18 (3) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which provides thus:

18(3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as when practicable provide (italics mine) free, compulsory and universal primary education.

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) was introduced by the Federal Government in 1999, with the main aim of providing free, universal and basic education for every Nigerian child between ages of 6 and 15. The scheme earmarked children between age 3-5 for the early children care and development education.

Children between the ages of 6 and 11 were to undergo the primary school education while those between the ages of 12 and 14+ were to undertake the Junior Secondary School education. This aspect of UBE connotes the very foundation of education, which all other levels of education are built upon.

The free aspect of the scheme refers to the need of every child to have access to education, regardless of the financial status of the parents or guardians.

Section 15 of the Childs Right Act 2003 also provides for free, compulsory and universal primary education. Section 15 (6) of the Act criminalised failure of parents and Guardians to give a child or ward under their free compulsory basic education and terms of imprisonment or/and fine are provided for therein.

Also, section 17 of the Child Rights Law 2006 also provides for free, compulsory and universal basic education of a child, while sub-section 6 of the law criminalised refusal to give a child free and compulsory basic education. Section 17 (1) of this law makes it the duty of the Oyo State Government to provide such education.

The above shows the intention of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through legal framework to provide universal basic education for our children. But the snag in the law is the part I italicised above: as when practicable. And the decision of the Supreme Court, the apex court of Nigeria, concerning free education for the citizens is that government cannot be compelled to ensure that, but has duty to provide when it is practicable.

The stark reality in the country today is that there is no free, compulsory universal basic education in Nigeria. The education being provided by the government could be tagged Free and Non-functional Basic Education. And the reality is pathetic and sad. Or how could one describe lack of both physical infrastructure and instructional materials in our public secondary schools, when the government is claiming there is Free Education?

Free education goes beyond non-payment of school fees. There should be adequate provision of physical infrastructures and instructional materials for the schools to be functional, as it was done during the then Western Region Free Education under Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola. They were premiers of Western Region between 1954 and 1965; and briefly during the Second Republic in Oyo State under Chief James Ajibola Ige, the then governor of the old Oyo State between 1979 and 1983.  

The long incursion of the military into the politics of Nigeria between 1983 and 1999 put paid to any semblance of free education.

Private educational institutions to the rescue

During the interregnum of the military in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigeria witnessed massive establishment of privately-owned educational institutions. Today, Nigeria can only boast of functional education be it primary or secondary school only through private schools who are churning out, year in, year out sets of well-tutored children to give hope of better future for the country.

I am not saying pupils that attend government-owned private education facilities are not brilliant or have glorious future, there are some good public primary and secondary schools in the country with few outstanding products, but they are more exceptions than the rule. I am very sure none of our political leaders and even parents will send their children to the same primary school they attended in Nigeria. That’s the sad reality.

The inability and failure of Nigerian government to provide functional, free and compulsory universal basic education led to the privately-owned educational institutions to come to the rescue, to bridge the gap. I sincerely believe the intervention of the privately owned institution is welcome and a blessing to the country. However, what should be learnt from the successes of the privately-owned educational institutions is the outstanding management acumen of the owners, which made them cynosure because they do not have the kind of money our government is spending on the non-functional educational facilities of the nation. 

The result is better imagined if privately-owned educational institutions have access to adequate funding.


I wish to congratulate the founder and the management of Best Legacy International Nursery & Primary School, Awe, for a good job they are carrying out in the school. Managing a school successfully close to three decades is not by any standard a feat that could be achieved without utmost dedication, perseverance and discipline.

While urging the school to keep up the good work of creating best legacy for generations yet unborn, I wish to say that the sky is just the starting point, as the Best Legacy group of schools will soon become the toast of the international community, having already carved a niche for itself in Nigeria. 

Being excerpt of a speech delivered by Olajide Olanipekun Esq., during the 24th End of Year and Prize-giving day of Best Legacy International Nursery and Primary School, Awe, Oyo State.  

Source: News Express

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