By Tomiwa Akinbamire & Eze Godfrey
Tensions are escalating as parents and teachers join forces to express their growing apprehensions over the bill that recommends a fine of N50,000 to parents who default in providing their children with primary and secondary school education.
The Senate passed, for the first reading, the bill titled “Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004, Section 2,” recommended by Senator Orji Kalu.
The bill states that every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory, and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
The act further noted that a parent who contravenes the earlier prescription should be liable, on the first conviction, to be reprimanded.
The Senate, in its amendment of the bill, proposed N50,000 fines, instead of the N5,000 previously stated in the Act.
Reacting, a parent, Mr Stephen Oisuegbehien, condemned the bill, questioning what the government had done to ensure the provision of affordable quality education for the citizens.
He urged the government to lead the charge in providing affordable education, underlining that this approach would motivate parents to fulfill their responsibilities.
Mr Oisuegbehien proposed that creating a conducive learning environment, offering free education, or subsidizing school fees would be more efficacious than resorting to punitive measures.
A teacher, Rev. Aladejedi Segun, criticized the proposed ₦50,000 fine for parents who fail to enroll their children in school, deeming it an unjust method.
While stressing the importance of education for every child and family, however, he argued that the government should prioritize making education affordable for both low-income and affluent families.
Another parent, Mr Collins Ifeanyi, said that the government should focus on the youth who are graduates without a job, instead of dragging and forcing pupils to school without assurance of good education.
Mrs Safurat Ibrahim and Mrs Bosede Akinola said the government must find ways to address bad school structures, kidnapping of students, and attacks on schools before dragging parents to court.
“The government has failed in its responsibilities of providing safe, affordable, and quality education for our children. Many of us pay huge money to private schools. The lawmakers should focus on important things rather than culminating issues for parents,” Mrs. Akinola stated.
Mr Micheal Mba and Mr Kingsley Tochukwu also questioned why the government would send parents to jail when many public school structures are dilapidated.
They pleaded with the government to speed up development of public schools, which are an important foundation for a child.
Tochukwu lamented that the current state of the Nigerian education sector has made many people lose hope in Nigeria’s academic system.
However, Princess Adejumoke Niyi-Temijana stated that “the policy put forth by the Senate is commendable, as it aims to upgrade the education system to meet established standards, increase accessibility, and reduce costs for parents.”