At Wednesday’s plenary in the House of Representatives, Speaker Yakubu Dogara suspended a bill seeking to compel public officials to send their children to public schools, Punch reports.
Dogara dismissed the bill after discussion began on it, led by its sponsor, Mr Sergius Oseasochi Ogun of Esan West/Esan East federal constituency in Edo state. Ogun’s colleagues, including majority leader Femi Gbajabiamila, cited concerns with regards to possible breach of the right of citizens to choose their education as reasons to not let it pass. Mr Ogun is of the PDP.
Clearly dissatisfied, he threatened to embark on a road show to protest the suspension of his bill, to which Mr Dogara apparently quipped: “we wish you well”.
It feels like Nigeria’s education system is becoming more comatose. Many have observed that the decaying education in the country mostly affects children of those who cannot afford foreign education. It is common to find politicians and high ranking public servants posing with their children and wards on graduation days surrounded by the plush green and brick-wall environments of UK and US Universities. The frustration is so much that whenever a strike occurs (as is presently the case), a certain picture now about 5 years old is resurrected on social media as a rallying point.
However, a bill to restrict the children of public officials to public schools, while popular, is very problematic. That would appear an unconstitutional hindrance to the freedom to choose one’s source of education. While supporters of the bill approach it from the perspective of forcing the public officials into fixing the nation’s public education infrastructure, they may (hypothetically) choose to not do so. The consequence? More poorly educated children, which amounts to a greater burden and strain on the state’s resources.
Mr Sergius Ogun and others who put work into the bill will have to rework their good intentions. He is a lawyer and so should devise a stronger argument that will be supported by the constitution, while being forceful and pragmatic enough to win popular and legislative support. Nigeria’s public education needs urgent resuscitation; the attempts to proffer innovative solutions should not be discouraged by this (appropriate) setback.
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