BY: BISI DOSUMU
Decades ago, it was usually a subject on emphasis by many philosophers on their policies of education that it should be made free for all citizens in order to achieve an enlightened society and a virile nation. Famous among them include, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Awolowo, to mention a few.
In the recent times, a great number of Nigerian politicians used the word “Free Education” to canvass votes for them into elective position but, after getting there they forget. To some that claim to do it are still at a cost, practically at primary and secondary levels while the tertiary levels pay the cost of free education at lower levels as a result of excessive tuition fees.
Making history, Tuesday, 24th September, was the declaration by the Governor of Imo State, Nigeria, Rochas Owelle Okorocha that all the students of Imo State University, Owerri, indigenes and non-indigenes, would no longer have to pay any fee.
Governor Rochas reiterated his administration’s commitment to the promise of “Total Free Tuition” for students both indigenes and non-indigenes schooling in the Imo State University.
This declaration has however laid to rest every controversy trailing his free education programme in Imo State.
During the commissioning of a Students Recreation Park in the University premises in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the Governor stated again that “the best gift that could be given to a child is education” and that his administration remained committed to giving young people a better future by providing them opportunity to go to school at no cost.
Recall that towards the end of the year 2012, after announcing total free education in all the institutions including Primary and Secondary school, he slashed the fees of non-indigenes of the state attending the higher institutions by 50%. This policy was greeted with huge controversial statements from various people in the state, especially as regards the 20,000 Naira acceptance levies billed on the students and some other fees which people considered to have nullified the free education programme.
While addressing the students, Governor Okorochas said that henceforth, students of the institution, both indigenes and non-indigenes, would cease to pay tuition fees including the acceptance fees, law dinner and every other fees that were formerly levied on them. This was welcomed with a rousing cheers cascaded from the enthusiastic students from their stand.
However, there were exceptions to students benefit from the programme and some laid down rules for both students and lecturers in the free education policy.
The Street journal looks at this present policy in the state and its relevance to the nation at large.
More so, there are certain issues that should be considered for the implementation of this policy owning to the importance of education to national development. Amongst questions to be raised are:
1. How buoyant is Imo state to finance this programme?
2. Arising from 1 above is, how sustainable is the programme?
3. What are the expectations of the students after graduation?
4. In the Nigerian politics of non-continuation of project by the succeeding government, what hope would be for the students aspiring to earn education in the future?
These and many more are in the hearts of the indigenes of Imo State and Nigerians at large.