Senate Passes Bill to Send Parents to Jail for Not Sending Children to School

Written by Benjamin Adewumi

The Senate has passed for first reading a bill that seeks to amend the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004, to increase the penalties for parents who fail to provide their children with primary and secondary school education.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Orji Kalu, also proposes free meals for every child in the country, as part of the government’s efforts to ensure universal access to quality education.

According to the bill, every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age. It also states that every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary school education and junior secondary school education by sending the child to primary and junior secondary schools.

The bill further states that stakeholders in education in a local government area shall ensure that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child performs the duty imposed on him under the act.

The bill stipulates that a parent who contravenes the provisions of the act shall be liable, on the first conviction, to be reprimanded. On a second conviction, a fine of N20,000 or imprisonment for a term of one month or both; and on subsequent conviction, to a fine of N50,000 or imprisonment for a term of two months or both.

The bill also increases the fines for persons who receive or obtain any fee contrary to the provisions of the act, from N10,000 to N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of three months or both.

The bill aims to address the challenges of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), stands at 10.5 million as of 2020.

Reacting to the bill, the Programme Coordinator for Basic Education at Reform Education, Nigeria, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, told Saturday PUNCH that while the bill is commendable, there is a need to investigate the additional charges by public schools across the country that discourage parents from enrolling their children.

He said: “We welcome any initiative that will promote access to quality education for every Nigerian child. However, we are concerned about the implementation and enforcement of this bill. How will the government ensure that every child is registered and attends school regularly? How will the government monitor and sanction the parents who default? How will the government provide free meals for every child without compromising on quality and nutrition? These are some of the questions that need to be answered before this bill becomes law.”

He added: “We also urge the government to look into the issue of hidden fees and levies that public schools charge parents for various services and materials. These fees are often not affordable for many poor families and they discourage them from sending their children to school. The government should ensure that public education is truly free and accessible for all.”

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