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Mathew Oluwaseun
University of Ilorin (Unilorin)
Mechanical Engineering
500Level, Nigeria.

Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has announced free education for secondary school students in the state to improve performance and access, drawing encomiums from less privileged parents and pressure groups.

Fintiri made the announcement while receiving members of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) led by its gubernatorial candidate for the 2019 general elections, Sen. Abdul-Azeez Nyako, who paid him a solidarity visit in his office at Government House Yola.

The governor said the policy, which would come into effect in September, was meant to give children from poor families unfettered access to educational opportunities, noting that the administration was also committed to improving quality of public schools to enable them compete with their private counterparts.

“As from September, parents would no longer pay school fees. Our plan is to make sure that government schools can compete with private schools in quality of education in the state.

“We are also going to recover all school lands encroached on by some people,” Fintiri maintained. Student receive 3 square meals free of charge daily unlike before.

In addition, Governor Fintiri said his administration has revived feeding of boarding school students in nine pilot schools and would soon cover all the 65 boarding schools in the state.

Parents pay between N1,000 and N1,500 per term for day students as fees, directly to the schools; the money was said to be utilized by managements for day-to-day administration, while boarding students pay around of N4,500 as fees which included Education Development Levy (EDL), sports levy, feeding and PTA.

A substantial amount of the money is kept with the principal for procurement of learning materials, furniture maintenance, logistics and so on, it was gathered.

Meanwhile, stakeholders interviewed expressed appreciation for the governor’s decision to abolish school fees as well as re-introduce free feeding of boarding students.

They said the policy would increase enrolment and reduce the number of students dropping out of school due to financial constraints.

However, some of the parents expressed fear that government may not provide enough subvention to schools, suggesting that the fees be maintained as running cost while government funds major projects.

A teacher, who spoke but wants to be anonymous, said some principals were not happy with the free education policy because they wouldn’t want to lose control of school finances, citing example with his school which realizes about N2 million every term from fees.

“The school where I teach collects about N2 million every term from fees while new students are made to bring chalk, hoes, brooms at the beginning of every session. So, the school does not buy all these items and some students sit on the floor because there are no chairs. Then what is the principal doing with the fees?,” the teacher alleged.

The Acting Executive Secretary, Post Primary Schools Management Board, Maryam Abubakar, said feeding had commenced in nine schools. The board has disbursed funds released by the government, and is closely monitoring the process to ensure accountability.

“We went to the schools on inspection and found out that students are being fed successfully. We have confidence that this government will sustain its commitment to education. We have so far started with nine schools and will soon cover all,” she said.

Abubakar noted that principals used the school fees for day-to-day expenses including furniture repairs, buying first aid drugs and provision of emergency medical care for students, but that with the declaration of free education, government was prepared to provide funding for schools.

Some students interviewed at General Murtala Ramat College and Government Girls College in Yola expressed delight over the return of school feeding, saying for the first time in several years, they had tea and bread as breakfast and sometimes ate lunch and dinner with beef.

The Dean, Faculty of Environmental Science, Nasarawa State University Keffi, Professor Nasiru Medugu Idris, said abolishing school fees is a welcome development especially as insurgency has destabilized the state in recent years.

He said while the free education concept is good, government should put it at the back of her mind that the level of out-of-school children is at an alarming rate, and the high infrastructure deficit and decay due to neglect by previous governments.

He said, “His Excellency should look at the quality of the teaching staff in our schools today and the enabling environment for our children to study. The state government should also look at the products that are coming out of our primary schools today because the pupils that graduate from this level feed the secondary schools and that’s where the foundation is.”

He said since the programme would commence by September, stocktaking of the entire inventory of both primary and secondary schools should be the first priority on the ‘needs and wants’ of each school.

Also, the dean noted, government should prioritize the provision of basic learning materials to schools that were destroyed during the period of insurgency especially in the northern part of the state.

He stated that reviving of feeding programme would help students to stay sharp, adding that government should involve host communities in the provision of nutritious food to schools to encourage sense of ownership and boost food security.

Professor Idris further said that special schools should be constructed to take care of disabled children.

Regarding encroachment of school lands by individuals, government should constitute a special committee that will look into the matter and proffer sustainable solutions, he suggested.

“To improve learning, the most qualified teachers should be employed,” he said, thus, the need for government to carry out staff verification exercise in both primary and secondary schools to ascertain the quality of education teachers are imparting on the children in preparing them for the future.

When contacted, the state chairman of the Parent and Teacher Association (PTA), Lawan Kanuri, said “We are very happy with abolishing of school fees, this is the kind of government we need. Adamawa used to be at the forefront in education but the school system was destroyed. But I want to call on Governor Fintiri to retain the PTA levy because it is used to recruit auxiliary staff and support the schools in many ways.

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