By Christian ABURIME
Universally, education plays a crucial role in modern society for several reasons.
These include empowerment and personal development, economic growth and development, reduction of poverty and inequality, enhanced civic participation, promotion of social cohesion and tolerance, innovation and technological advancement, cultural preservation and global interconnectedness, among others.
No wonder, legendary Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As great minds tend to think alike, iconic Nigerian legends such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo also once extolled the value of education.
Dr. Azikiwe was known to have said that “We must make education compulsory and free for all children in Nigeria. This is the only way to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
On his part, Chief Awolowo, the then premier of old Western Region, once declared, “I do not want the children of my drivers to be drivers to my children, and neither do I want the children of my cooks to be cooks to my children. Nevertheless, I want free access to education for all.”
All the foregoing quotable words, spoken decades ago, remain as potent today as they were then, especially in a country like Nigeria where economic challenges weigh heavily on families’ shoulders.
In fact, Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR, can be said to be thinking like Azikiwe and Awolowo today. With the recent abolition of tuition fees and levies in public schools in Anambra State by Governor Soludo, we are witnessing a revolutionary step towards another free education era, which is highly commendable.
Nigeria, like many developing countries, grapples with economic challenges that make it difficult for families to make ends meet. The burden on households is multifaceted, from putting food on the table to providing shelter and healthcare. Amid these financial constraints, education often becomes a secondary concern, viewed as an unaffordable luxury rather than an indispensable right.
Governor Soludo indeed understands this conundrum and that is why his serial educational reforms and interventions underscore the urgent need to invest in the education of our children.
Thus the governor’s recent proclamation to abolish tuition fees and indiscriminate levies in state government-run public schools up to Junior Secondary School 3 levels is a welcome development.
Before now, while students in all state-run public schools up to JSS 3 have been enjoying free tuition, they were still burdened with lots of levies. But the state government has abolished all tuition and levies, while high levies in SSS1 to SSS2 have been significantly reduced to a maximum of N5, 000 to serve as supplementing affected schools’ running costs.
What all the foregoing developments imply is that the Anambra State government is easing and balancing financial burdens on both students and schools at the same time. As the government supports the schools to keep running, implementing tuition-free education lightens the financial burdens on parents and guardians by providing them with the breathing space needed to allocate resources to other critical areas of their lives.
Imagine a family with up to five or six children in school and the economic relief of being free from paying sundry fees and levies on all the pupils. Sometimes, some poor or overburdened families do withdraw some of their children from school, retaining one or two and placing the withdrawn ones on a queue for later education or diversion to trade apprenticeship due to financial challenges.
But with Governor Soludo’s abolition of fees and levies, every child in Anambra State can have equal access to tuition-free education. The positive impact will also lead to increased household income. With reduced educational expenses, families can redirect funds towards investments in income-generating activities, thereby bolstering the overall economic productivity of the state.
And just as prioritizing education generally helps Anambra State in nurturing a future skilled workforce capable of driving innovation and progress, investing in education at an early stage reduces long-term social costs associated with poverty, unemployment and crime. It is a preventive measure that ultimately saves the state resources.
In all, education is a cornerstone of modern society, underpinning economic prosperity, social harmony, and personal fulfillment. It is a powerful force for positive change, shaping the future of individuals, communities, and nations alike.
But free education is a greater game-changer. Governor Soludo’s decision to abolish tuition fees and levies in public schools in Anambra State not only lifts the financial burdens on parents and guardians, but also paves the way for a more prosperous, inclusive and economically viable state that we envision.