Nigeria’s social media space had trending on Monday, the news that Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State enrolled his child in Capital School, Malali, Kaduna. A school established in 1952.
The move has been lauded as commendable in a country where the citizens are used to public schools and other facilities good enough for the masses as terrible as they ever get but never good enough for the children of the wealthy and political class who would rather use the international standard available overseas or the local recreation of those international standards in private institutions.
Seeing the boy, Abubakar El-Rufai, in his green nice-patterned uniform, seated on his father’s lap and about to enrol in a public school was beyond the enrolment for Nigerians who commended the feat. It was instead for them an endorsement of the educational system which his father presides over as the governor as being good enough for his own use. El Rufai seemed to say loudly to Nigerians, “this is good enough for me to use”.
The commendation is understandable in a country where the public facility including the hospitals are not good enough for the political class, the schools too are not good enough, the roads are not good enough both with their deplorable condition and the menace of the roads becoming kidnap hotspots.
Nothing the government ever provides in Nigeria would you find high-ranking officers in the same government using except it becomes inevitable and unavoidable. For El Rufai, it seems a promise to do so made the enrolment binding on him.
The faith of the governor in that particular school, Capital School, would not be misplaced especially when he has perfected plans to spend N195 million on the same school in 2018.
With this sum already guaranteed for upgrades, one can see why the endorsement of public education is being made so boldly. I daresay if citizens request a change of the school for another in the same Kaduna, it would never materialize.
Obviously, the school would receive an upgrade that brings it at par with those overseas that Nigerian leaders favorite instead of using public education. Lauding the enrolment move should come only in the light of being happy for the other kids who would benefit from the luck of being in the school El-Rufai chose for his child.
The truism is that the enrolment of El-Rufai’s son stops at Capital School, Kaduna. If there was a need to change schools today and perhaps opt for another school in the same Kaduna which is also a public facility. The problem would immediately arise of that school not having a N195-million renovation fund with which to upgrade to the standard the Governor’s son can benefit from.
Can El-Rufai choose another public school in that same Kaduna as a reflection of his trust in the system? A school this time with no N195-million upgrade and renovation as reported by the media.
The social media jubilation and commendation are a dance of illusion. It is amazing how one shot of a camera, one image uploaded online and one picture taken with such fanfare could rewrite the harsh reality of public education in Nigeria.
The title of this piece regardless, the schooling of El-Rufai’s son is not the concern of the piece. If Abubakar requests not to go today or tomorrow and his father obliges, good and fine. Rather, the title is to draw attention using the already created media frenzy to the much broader concerns of education reflected in the number of out-of-school children in the country amidst other concerns that incapacitate several from accessing education.
Statistically standing at 10.5million children, a lot of children are out-of-school enough to populate some countries of the world. This is not only dangerous now but also later as these uneducated ones would grow into the adults that later make the society.
El-Rufai himself voiced this concern at his speech delivered to Northern Hibiscus, saying, “We have the largest number of poor people in the world, most of them in northern Nigeria. Nigeria also has the largest number of out of school children, virtually all of them in Northern Nigeria."
The commendable efforts of the state government at encouraging education regardless, the condition still remains alarming and requires more efforts.
In El-Rufai’s recent action of enrolling his child in a public school, an action he has always desired as expressed in his memoir, 'The Accidental Public Servant'; that he desired to educate his child in Nigeria so that he can tap from the network of alumni he enjoyed in Barewa College has become manifest in his younger child recently enrolled.
Away from the social media frenzy over the enrollment, the Nigerian needs to increase the pressure for more Nigerian leaders to act similarly and perhaps more schools would benefit from the similar largesse that Capital School would soon enjoy.
Perhaps, in their so doing, picking public institutions and bringing it to taste, our political leaders would like El-Rufai benefit the children of the masses along with theirs if they do not again turn the institutions into an elitist establishment again blocking the children of the poor from accessing such a school.
The condition of public educational facility across Nigerian institutions at all levels is deplorable and the El-Rufai enrolment provides another chance to agitate against this deplorable condition and the need for more governmental efforts in the educational sector especially an increased budget in all states and at the federal level.
With N195 million reportedly committed already in 2018 to the school. A Nigerian needs to banish it from his mind that this is just any public school like the one they see often with the roofs open, windows not in place and teaching facility degraded along with poor staff quality.
Again, did El-Rufai’s child go to school today?
Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa writes from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. He can be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter @Koye_tolu