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Parents face jail term under new education bill

In a notable legislative development, the Nigerian Senate has approved a bill for its first reading, which proposes a fine of N50,000 or jail term imposed on parents who fail to ensure their children receive primary and secondary school education.

The bill also introduces a provision for free meals for all children throughout the country.

The legislation, put forth by Senator Orji Kalu under the title ‘Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004, Section 2,’ establishes that it is the responsibility of every government in Nigeria to furnish free, mandatory, and universal basic education to every child of primary and junior secondary school age.

Furthermore, the act specifies, “Every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary and junior secondary school education by endeavouring to send the child to primary and junior secondary schools.” It places the onus on education stakeholders in a local government area to ensure that every parent or guardian fulfils this obligation as delineated in Section 2(2) of the Act.

The legislation stipulates that parents who contravene the aforementioned provisions shall face consequences. On the first conviction, a parent will be reprimanded. On a second conviction, they may be liable to pay a fine of N2,000 or face imprisonment for one month, or possibly both. Subsequent convictions could lead to a fine of N5,000 imprisonment for two months, or both.

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Notably, the Senate has recommended amending the fines, suggesting a substantial increase. The amendment suggests a fine of N50,000 in place of the previous N5,000 as stated in the Act.

The amendment further entails changes to the fines imposed for various violations, such as “Section (4) (b) of the Principal Act,” which sees the fine raised from N2,000 to N20,000. Similarly, “Section (4) (c) of the Principal Act” is amended to replace N5,000 with N50,000, and “Section 3(2) of the Principal Act” is modified to replace N10,000 with N100,000.

The bill also asserts that anyone who collects fees contrary to the provisions outlined in Section 1 of this section commits an offence and, upon conviction, may be subjected to a fine not exceeding N10,000, imprisonment for three months, or both.

The proposed legislation emphasizes the importance of every parent ensuring their child receives full-time education tailored to their age, ability, and aptitude through regular school attendance. The Senate’s proposal, if enacted, would increase the fine to N100,000 from the initial N10,000 for violations of this provision.

Reacting to these legislative developments, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, the Programme Coordinator for Basic Education at Reform Education, Nigeria, approved the lawmakers’ efforts. However, he emphasized the need to investigate additional charges imposed by public schools nationwide.

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