Our Dear President,
Let me begin by appreciating and praising the presidency, alongside the Presidential Task Force On Covid’19, for the tiredless efforts put in place in combating this deadly virus. I cannot let it slide that the presidency has done alot in a bid to fight this unseen enemy, that has weighed down even the giants in the world.
It is concern for my dear country and her state of affairs, that has brought my pen to the paper. It is my utmost desire that her values are being upheld.
Firstly, I would like to intimate you on that which most of us are already aware of; well, I cannot assume that “all” of us are aware. That is, the tolls of events since the beginning of the Covid’19 pandemic in Nigeria.
The index case of the virus was confirmed 27th February 2020, by 18th March there were already eight(8) confirmed cases in the country. I knew we were bound for a lockdown soon, which would have devastating effects on us as a country.
Even before the lockdown, there had been panic, which had of course started a rumbling of its own in the economy. There were hikings in prices of certain goods and artificial scarcity, making certain items inaccessible or neck-bending to the struggling-populace.
Then the lockdown began, I am not insensitive to the fact that it was a measure put in place by the government, to ensure the safety of its populace, in a bid to combat the virus.
However, the lockdown came and tilted the delicate balance of most lives and families. And, for many it might take years to recover, for some even a lifetime might not rectify the damage done.
Let me shed a practical light on what I mean, using these three theoretical cases;
1. A sole bread-winner of a family, who works daily jobs at construction sites in Lagos, to feed his family.
2. A widow, who fries “akara” at the roadside in Abuja, to ensure her children’s education and daily bread.
3. The orphaned student, at an Ogun state higher institution, struggling through school, who has to run a business that solely depends on patronage from other students, or holds a part-time job that has been the source of daily sustenance, upkeep and school fees.
It is nearly impossible for any of these three, to naturally not contemplate suicide. And, at least one out of these three, when pressed beyond measure, would give in to either suicide or social vices. Look at their lives, “Covid’19” has rudely cut off their livelihood. With the current hike in the prices of goods and services (which is another individual’s bid to survive this crisis), they may have also had to watch whatever life-savings they had gathered with tears, vanish. Now, they are faced with a blurry and vague future.
Dear President, statistically, the larger of those in public higher institutions, are those from low-income earning families. And with the recent turn of events, it has kept me wondering, what really is the fate of these ones, as everyone else try to scramble back to their feet Post-Covid’19?
How many of these ones would be put out of school, when schools suddenly re-open, to hurriedly catch up with lost time? And, least I forget, before the pandemic, some of these students and their families, were yet, to be able to put together their sessional registration fees.
Do you remember the aforementioned individuals? Case 1 and 2 could be parents of Children in Public Higher Institutions. Case 3, is a student himself, his business and source of livelihood is gone -collapsed alongside Covid’19- he may have even lost the roof over his head by now, and yet his academic future lies in jeopardy.
I ask, would it not be extreme torture to allow him drop out of school?
It is not only a loss to him, but to the nation. We would be losing not just a student from one of our institutions, we would be losing a bright entrepreneurial mind with the capacity of job-creation in the nearest future.
We would definitely be losing a next-generation leader, we would also be losing a patriotic citizen, because such an individual would lose hope in his country, and God so help us he doesn’t turn to corruption and social vices, because of all three cases, I feel he is more prone to that.
As I said at the beginning, that my concern goes to my dear country, that her values are upheld. One of the fundamental rights of an individual in Nigeria, is the right to education. The right to education, is a right of every human being, from childhood to end of life, without discrimination.
In 2018,at a Federal Executive Council meeting, this administration, said through the State Minister of Education “Various university Councils and Management should be able to fix what fees students should pay that is AFFORDABLE and ACCEPTABLE to the students” (speaking about Municipal charges of Federal universities) .
The fundamental right to education is at stake here, as the effects of the Covid’19 pandemic in Nigeria, is discriminating against the right, of low-income earning families, to education, as education is no longer AFFORDABLE nor the cost ACCEPTABLE to these ones.
The Nigerian constitution (1999) Section 18 “the government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels” also “the government shall promote science and technology, the government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end, the government shall as and when practicable provide free and compulsory universal primary education, FREE UNIVERSITY EDUCATION and free adult literacy programs”. What are we asking for? We are asking for EQUAL educational opportunity! We are asking for a-one-year of free education palliative for students in Public Higher Institutions . If not, a good number of students, from the low-income earning class are at risk of being put out of school Post-Covid’19. Educational opportunity, is then not equal for them but discriminatory against their social status.
Please your Excellency, we ask for just a year of free education, void of the municipal charges and other charges that make up the sessional registration fees, to enable these ones get back on their feet and ready to face the future again.
Remember, we are the Leaders of tomorrow. Let Nigeria invest in her tomorrow, Today.
Sunday Emmanuel Attah
Convener Palliative for Nigerian Students
+234 902 522 0932
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