The Former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, has called on Nigerian leaders to make education at the basic and secondary levels free and compulsory.
Okojie was speaking in Abuja on Friday at the launch of the Thomas Agnes Christianah Okojie (TACO) Charity Foundation, named after his parents and wife.
The event also featured the inaugural edition of the Julius Okojie lecture series titled:’ The Future of the Nations university System’.
He said that Nigerian leaders owe every Nigerian child free primary and secondary education to enable than occupy their spaces in their daily living.
He expressed displeasure with the state of primary education as pupils still learn under the tree during one of his tour to schools around the country.
The former NUC executive secretary said students studying under the tree would eventually be half-baked, which according to him is not good for the country’s growth and development.
He explained that basic and secondary education was not made free because it lacked the appropriate structure.
“Local, State and Federal Government structure are not working. Federal Government is still doing basic education when it is the function of local government, secondary schools for states and federal government still doing it.
”Having worked through the public service, I know that a girl who has no education does not have a space in this country. So I have been promoting that crusade informally using my family house at Uromi, in Edo state.
”I have decided it will be the headquarters of the foundation. Education is the least you can give to kids and there is so much work to do in this country.
”I have always preached free primary and secondary education but we are not doing it. Universities could go on strike every day, there is no where in the world that you don’t have that.
”So that has propelled me.I want to devote full time to the education of the girl child, make borehole for institutions that don’t have, checking the health condition of people in the villages because my child is a doctor,” he said.
Speaking on the thrust of the foundation, Okojie said his father-Thomas Okojie, a crusader of education, lost his life when trying to upgrade his educational status.
”On Sept. 9, 1960, I had passed an entrance to the college not very far from Uromi, in Eruwa and my father decided to take me there to sleep over so I don’t get late for the exam.
“When my father was returning to Uromi, he didn’t make it. He had an accident and died with one of my cousins and I was so distressed. I saw my mother in widowhood and it really hurt me.
”So been the son of a widow and I have always have sympathy for widows. I was also interested in girl-child education because I have four sisters, so the problems were on me,” he added.
The Guest Speaker, Prof. Desireé Guobadia, in her presentation called for reconsideration of Higher School Certificate (HSC) programmes, saying the maturity the HSC gave was missing in the integration of students into higher institutions.
Guobadia said that the certificate would provide much needed training platforms for student to get more maturity.
She also said that the numbers of higher institutions was insufficient to cater for the admission need of Nigerians.
She charged government to begin to address the task and flaws needed for proper planning of policies to strengthen the country’s education sector.
”Government is not lacking in ideas, the problem has always been the will to implement recommendation.
”I want to emphasise the place of proper planning for students enrolment and also following proper budgeting,” she said.
She identified the place of aligning education goals with national goal and policies, saying the 6-3-3-4 system of education should lead to acquisition of knowledge and skills to make room for those not proceeding to higher institutions.
She, however, called for more efforts in providing employment opportunities for post secondary school graduates in the country.
On his part, the Acting executive secretary of NUC, Chris Maiyaki extolled the role of Okojie in shaping the university system.
Maiyaki commended Okojie for his tutelage to him in particular and other members of staff of the commission for 10 years saying that gains from his wealth of knowledge for quality and excellence could not be overemphasised.
He, therefore, said that the commission would continue to engage stakeholders to take education sector to a greater height.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Board of Trustee of the foundation, Vallery Okojie said the project would be sustained through fund raising from the board and other foundations who share the same values.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the foundation had saw about 70 students through to university level, providing for girl-child education and as well render social services for the people.(NAN)