There are times when you wonder what planet Nigerian legislators are on.
The Leader of of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was visited by the leaders of the National Association of Nigerians Students (NANS) in his office in Abuja on Friday. He said: “Education should be a right not a privilege, so we must ensure managers of our institutions are accountable, we are aware of fees students pay but don’t get to government purse. Nigerians can be assured that our committee on tertiary education would live up to its responsibilities.”
If education is a right not a privilege, then charging fees makes it not a right, but a privilege to those that can afford the fees. This right is recognised in the Nigerian Constitution: “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
“Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide
(a) free, compulsory and universal primary education;
(b) free secondary education;
(c) free university education;”
Where fees are charged, there are no “equal educational opportunities”. So Gbajabiamila can’t be talking about education as a right and not a privilege, while appearing to condone fees by only looking at ensuring that universities are accountable for how the fees are used.
Gbajabiamila, his committee on tertiary education, and his fellow legislators should concentrate, as the Constitution requires, on ensuring there free and adequate education at all levels for all Nigerians.