Mixed feelings have continued to trail the recently promulgated Kogi Education Law which is set criminalises children roaming and hawking on the streets during school hours. This is as stakeholders criticised the government for lacking the moral right to enforce the law due to the level of decay
Govt: It’s now offence for child of school age not to be in school
Stakeholders: Govt needs to address decay in school system to enforce policy
Parents, who engage their children of school age in hawking during the school hours or refuse to enroll their children and wards in schools in Kogi State now risk jail terms or face stiff sanctions.
The state government a few weeks ago rolled out a policy in the education sector, tagged: Kogi Education Law,” in line with the provision of Section 9 of the Kogi Education Law, prohibiting and criminalising hawking by children during school hours.
The bill, which had been passed by the state House of Assembly and accented to by Governor Yahaya Bello, is part of efforts of the present administration to improve public school enrolment and ensure that all children of school age are removed from the streets to classrooms.
Going by the report or survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which indicates that the population of out-ofschool children in Nigeria had risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world, the Kogi education policy, according to the state government, is a welcome development.
According to UNICEF’s report, most of these children are in Northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, among others, especially where Boko Haram insurgency has disrupted the school system.
Worried by the staggering report, the Kogi State government has insisted that the state would no longer accept a situation where children of school age (male and female) are kept at home by their parents without the opportunity of attending school, or acquiring education.
The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Wemi Jones, who disclosed this during a stakeholders’ sensitisation meeting on the newly enacted Kogi State Education Law, said that it is now an offence in the state for a child of school age not to be in school or seen hawking during school hours.
According to the new law, as contained in Section 9 of the Kogi Education Law, “If any child is seen hawking or doing anything during school hours, that child shall be apprehended by the Special Marshals that will be put in place by the state government for that purpose.
The parents or guardians of such children, the Commissioner added, must be ready to offer reasons why the child is not in school, even as he hinted that the government was very serious about this policy.
Part of the law also foreclosed the proliferation of private schools, which he said, had become a source of concern and worry to the state government. Thus, Section 20 of the Kogi Education Law provides and stipulates the conditions for school establishment.
Under the law, schools that were already established but did not meet the stipulated conditions or requirements would be given ample time to process establishment, but henceforth any private school that seeks to operate in Kogi State must register with the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS).
With the new development, all illegal schools operating across the state would be shut down as stipulated by the new education law.
“We are going to be closing all illegal schools in the state as we have been empowered by Section 20, Sub-section 3 of the Kogi Education Law,” the Commissioner told the stakeholders at the meeting. He, therefore, advised all proprietors, principals, head teachers of schools and other relevant stakeholders to study the enacted Kogi Education Law, and align with it.
The new education law, according to the government, would put Kogi State education on the pedestal of acceptable global standard.
While presenting the law, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, who was represented by the Director Legal Practice, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Adeniyi Moraiyewa, said the law would go a long way to guide the activities of pre-primary, primary, and post-primary schools in the state. Towards implementation of the document or policy, he urged relevant stakeholders in the state’s education sector to thoroughly study the law and ensure its total compliance.
The government, however, said that efforts made in the past to bring about the education law had failed to materialise, noting that over 1,000 private schools were unregistered, while only 900 were registered with the state government. Meanwhile, this appeared to be a difficult period for owners or proprietors of unregistered private schools in the state as they will soon close shops, if the new education law that forbids private schools to operate without government’s approval becomes operational. Thus, as part of efforts to restore sanity into the state’s education sector, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, however, warned that all illegal schools operating in Kogi would be shut down as stipulated by the new education law. However, investigations by New Telegraph revealed also that out of over 4.000 public schools that spread across the state only 20 per cent are relatively equipped with relevant instructional materials and with a conducive learning environment. Majority of these poorly equipped schools, it was gathered, are located across the state capital and other urban centres in the state.
But, mixed reactions have continued to trail the new education law, which has been described by some stakeholders as not enforceable.
According to a social critic, Mr. Gabriel Enemali, who told New Telegraph that the law could not work, cited the current level of dilapidation and decay of the state’s school system as one of the reasons.
“In the first place the government wanted the children to go to school, whereas where are the teachers to teach the students in public schools, and where we have teachers they are not well remunerated or encouraged to work. Imagine a teacher with a wife and children receiving a percentage salary of about N7,000 at the end of the month; what will he do with such meagre amount, or what will that salary buy in present day Nigeria?
“Where are the attractions in the schools such as instructional materials and facilities, as well as an enabling school environment that will keep the teachers and students in school?
Where are the infrastructure and equipment in the laboratories? I think, on a serious note, we do not know exactly what we want with our educational system as a state.
Our policy makers are not in tune with reality at all.” “I want to challenge anyone to tell us about one public school that has computers at this technological age. We can all see the appalling level of dilapidated structures in schools everywhere we go. It is a shame to our so-called leader.
It is not all to make laws, but necessary facilities should be provided on ground in order to make such policies work since laws cannot work in isolation.” “In those good old days, we had a solid education foundation.
I mean our primary and secondary schools were of high standard in terms of facilities and quality teachers; we had adequate qualified teachers taking every school subject. We had structures and those variables that will keep us in school, but today all these are absent.”
Also, the Executive Director Conscience for Human Right and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki, who spoke through phone with New Telegraph, said that the law had failed on arrival, as there were nothing on ground to make it enforceable
He, however, recalled that there was already a law on Child Rights Act and a tribunal set up by the late Chief Judge of the state, Justice Nasir Ajana, taking care of cases child rights abuse.
Idris added: “However, the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, who are supposedly saddled with the affairs of children, have failed because there were no adequate sensitization and awareness programmes to tell the people, especially parents about the Child Rights Act. This of course, has already rendered the policy ineffective.”
According to him, the state government’s policy on the matter had already failed on arrival because it has not provided or established enough public schools with adequate teaching and learning facilities.
The state government, he pointed out, had also failed in providing free education for the children, saying: “Many of these children roaming and hawking in the streets are not happy with their situation because they are vulnerable to danger and can be abused.”
“But they just have to hawk to enable their parents to get these five to fifty naira to feed them.
Let the government provide free education in the state public schools and equip them with learning facilities then it can make this policy enforceable, but anything outside that, is unacceptable.”
New Telegraph findings also revealed that 88 per cent of children hawking around the streets of Lokoja, the state capital, are from parents working in the local government councils in the state, who have not been paid their full salary for several months.
It was also indicated that local government workers are more in number when compared with state civil servants, who receive their regular 100 per cent full salary every month.
Also reacting to the law, a father of four children, Mr. James Usman, lamented that his children had been out of school for the past two years as he could no longer afford to pay their school fees.
According to him, his salary as a local government council worker has always come in percentage.
He said: “I am entitled to N65,000 monthly, but what I get at the end of the month is in a staggering amount of N10,000 and at times N7,000. The highest I have received since this regime of parentage payment was N12,000. “When you remove the money for feeding out of the amount, you will be left with nothing.
Again, come to think of school fees. My family has already resolved that we should give more priority to feeding the children, pending when the situation improves at the local government council.”
A widow, Mrs. Sadiya Hassan, while expressing her frustration, said her daughter had to engage in hawking goods to enable them to feed because that is the only way for them, as she has no other income or help from anyone.
She, therefore, pleaded with the state government to make free education compulsory for their children like other states of the federation to enable her child to go to school.
With over 180,000 primary, secondary and high institutions in the state, the government, which vowed to tackle the problem of poor education delivery, in the 2021 budget allocated 20 per cent to the education sector.
This was as the Commissioner spoke of the readiness of the state government to partner the Federal Education Quality Assurance Service in ensuring quality education to the state as part of efforts to revamp the state’s education sector, which Governor Bello has made the number one priority of his administration.
Jones, who noted that the education bill had been passed by the state House of Assembly and accented to by the governor, recalled that the governor recently inaugurated a committee on Education For All Project (EDUFAP), which is designed to cater for the 285 public secondary schools in the state.
“EDUFAP will provide infrastructure, renovate the schools, equip laboratories and libraries, as well as provide manpower in schools, among others,” he said.
To tackle the issue of poor remuneration for teachers, he noted the state government had also approved a robust incentive welfare package that would boost the morale of teachers.
Another major challenge in the state’s schools is the problem of shortage of teachers in the school system.
It was learnt that the staff strength in the state’s basic education sub-sector as of December 2015, which stood at 23,466 staff, comprising teaching and nonteaching staff, according to the state chapter of Basic Education Staff Association of Nigeria (BESAN), however, reduced to 16,419 by 2020 due to deaths, retirements and the screening exercises by governments that placed many teachers on the “un-cleared list.”
According to the state chapter of Academic Staff Unions of Secondary School (ASUSS), the number of teachers in the secondary schools dropped from 9,000 in 2011 to a little above 3,000 in 2021, a development which has been described as a ‘serious problem’ in the education sector of the state.
Towards this end, it said many public schools had turned to individuals or the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for help.
“These individuals or PTA have, in turn employed teachers as either part-time or temporary contract with the salary responsibilities handled by the individual or PTA; just to fill in the gap since the government refused to recruit teachers.