Many policymakers in Nigeria, whenever engaged in a discourse on education in Nigeria, do assert with the echelon of confidence, that the right to education is an enjoyable fundamental right in Nigeria. Indeed, there exists many substantive legal provisions that accord the right to education an enjoyable fundamental right status in Nigeria, such as the provisions of article 17 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and the non-justiciable, but legally-persuasive provisions of section 18 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution. Notwithstanding the existence of the laudable substantive provisions on the protection of the right to education, the reality on ground is that the right to education is far from being an enjoyable fundamental right in Nigeria. Although it is believed by many Nigerian policymakers and the Nigerian citizenry at large that the enjoyment of the right to education exists in reality by virtue of its inclusion in statute books protecting fundamental rights; actually, the enjoyment of the right to education can only become feasible in Nigeria, when Nigerian policymakers and all stakeholders in the Nigerian justice system begin to regard the right to education, not as a fundamental right that is on equal footing with other fundamental rights so to speak, but as a right which enjoyment to a great extent determines the enjoyment of other fundamental rights guaranteed under the law.
Reason for stance taken
The high cost of acquiring formal education in Nigeria has made a mockery of the right to education in Nigeria. It does not serve any utilitarian benefit having the right to education embedded in the dead letters of Nigerian statute books, when a vast majority of the Nigerian citizenry who are willing to enrol into institutions of higher learning are denied the opportunity of living their dream in that regard because of the high cost of acquiring formal education in Nigeria. It is no news that many Nigerians live below poverty line. Consequently, the dreams of many of our compatriots to become literate are killed because of insufficiency of funds to meet with the high cost of enrolling into institutions of learning. In other words, for the right to education to be an enjoyable right, a reasonable sizeable number of those willing to acquire formal education should not be denied that opportunity because of the high cost of acquiring same.
In the same vein, many poor but determined Nigerians who are enrolled in institutions of learning do become frustrated while embarking on their studies occasioned by lack of funds to meet the financial demands of their academic career. It does not make any sense for education to be touted to be free by virtue of waiver of tuition and other sister fees by the government of the day, whereas the cost of acquiring educational materials is high and not within the reach of many students. In other words, while education is touted to be free, acquiring the facilities needed for one to be educated in the true sense of it, as opposed to one asserting to be educated by virtue of possessing a certificate of academic qualification, is expensive in Nigeria.
Lack of attention accorded the educational sector by policymakers in Nigeria does affect the manner in which Nigerian citizens acquire formal education. Many institutions of learning in Nigeria are in dearth of basic infrastructures needed to create a conducive environment for students to learn. Of much concern is the fact that Nigeria is economically viable to take care of the infrastructural needs of most of her institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, the dream of having institutions of learning with adequate and updated infrastructural amenities is yet to become feasible due to the activities of a few but powerful individuals in the Nigerian society, who sabotage the wishes of a vast majority of the citizenry yearning for a regime of well-equipped institutions of learning because of the pecuniary benefits they make from diverting funds meant for the infrastructural development of institutions of learning into their coffers. Consequently, members of the academia who are disenchanted with the manner in which many Nigerian institutions of learning are handled by policymakers in Nigeria, do embark on industrial actions occasionally, to press home their demand for better treatment of institutions of learning, thereby giving rise to what has become the incessant closure of institutions of learning in Nigeria in the form of industrial action.
One cannot be deemed to be educated in the true sense of it when one is conversant only with the theoretical aspect of one’s field of intellectual endeavour. Right to education does not connote one going through an institution of learning, without acquiring practical knowledge of one’s chosen career. This has been one of the banes of intellectual empowerment of Nigerian students. The failure of many Nigerian graduates of institutions of higher learning to live up to the expectation of the society by executing tasks associated with their professed intellectual field, does not mean that such graduates are intellectual mediocre. It only goes to justify the saying that one cannot give what one does not have. In other words Nigerian graduates of institutions of learning should not be expected to perform magic by embarking on practical oriented intellectual endeavours, when most of such graduates were only exposed to the theoretical aspect of their profession.
Nigerians cannot be deemed to be enjoying the right to education when many Nigerians institutions of learning are not Internet compliant. In an era where the world has long become a global village with the attendant reliance on information gotten from other parts of the world, powered by the Internet, it sounds strange to note that many Nigerian institutions of learning are lagging behind in the use of Internet facilities for intellectual acquisition. Right to education cannot be deemed to be existing, when citizens are denied the basic access to intellectually-inspiring pieces of information that will help place such citizens on a par with their contemporaries from other parts of the globe who are opportune to have unrestrained access to educationally-useful pieces of information. Agreed, many Nigerian citizens are becoming exposed to the usage of the Internet of late. Nevertheless, resort to Internet in intellectual empowerment of Nigerian students is yet to be embraced by many and this development denies many Nigerian students the full enjoyment of their right to education.
The way forward
A state of emergency should be declared in the educational sector by government at all tiers in Nigeria. A special committee should be set up by the Nigerian government, made up of men of proven integrity, who are to oversee the judicious management of the funds meant for the running of institutions of learning in Nigeria. This becomes imperative considering that the funds budgeted for the administration of Nigerian institutions of learning are reasonably enough to take care of the needs of such institutions, if well managed. The judicious management of the funds for the administration of institutions of learning in Nigeria will help ensure that there are basic infrastructural amenities to help students acquire practical knowledge in the course of their academic sojourn in institutions of learning. Consequently, once the malaise of corruption bedevilling the management of funds for the administration of institutions of learning in Nigeria is addressed, most other factors giving rise to the failure of the right of education to be enjoyed in Nigeria shall be taken care of.
Devoid of nurturing any intention of committing the fallacy of hasty generalization, there is no gainsaying that many Nigerians are intellectually-inspiring fellows. The achievements of Nigerians in many fields of intellectual endeavours lend credence to this fact. Names like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie, are only infinitesimal when compared with the teeming army of potentially viable intellects harboured by the Nigerian clime. Nevertheless, many Nigerians are dying unsung, because the socio-economic realities of our time make it difficult for the realisation of the fundamental right to education to become a reality. What is to be done is that policymakers at all levels, as well as all lovers of education in the Nigerian nation, should all work hand-in-hand in addressing areas of perceived shortcomings in the realization and enjoyment of the right to education in Nigeria.