“We are all gathered here this morning to witness the launching of Gani Fawehinmi’s new book People’s Right To Free Education At All Levels.
It is not my place to review this book: this is a task reserved for literary critics, one of whom I am not. But after a careful study of the book, I feel able to say, in all seriousness and truth, that PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO FREE EDUCATION AT ALL LEVELS is not only extremely readable and instructive, but also a very timely and telling contribution to a long-drawn debate on a great national and ideological issue which now appears to be approaching the happy climax of unanimous acceptability.
I strongly commend this book to every Nigerian, indeed to anyone m the so-called under-developed countries, who wants to take part in the debate on, or who merely desires to educate himself as to, why education at all levels should be free to all.
The author, Mr. Gani Fawehinmi deserves to be warmly congratulated for the industry and diligence which he has put into researching for and writing this valuable book.
As is well-known, Gani is a brilliant and busy advocate as well as a jurist of growing reputation. That he is able to MAKE THE TIME, I repeat MAKE THE TIME, in the midst of his exacting and crowded professional activities, to write a scholarly and thoughtful book like this, should be an object lesson to all those young people who work for only about 8 hours a day, and still complain of lack of time to devote to study and creative sidelines.
Says Napoleon: ‘Three hours’ sleep is enough for any man’.
The trouble with many of our youths is that they sleep too much; play too much; and indulge too much in idle chatter and gossip.
In is connection, my advice to every educated young Nigerian is that he should take each day as a sacred unit which must not be misused or dissipated, and see to it that, out of the 24 hours available to him, he spends at least 8 concentrated hours on work, plus at least 8 hours in serious study, creative leisure and self-development. Eight hours are enough for feeding, relaxation, and sleep.
On an occasion like this, when the platform is People’s Right To Free Education At All Levels it is appropriate to say a few words on some of the weightier aspens of the Compulsory Universal Primary Education which the Federal Military Government has decided to introduce in the near future.
The inalienability of free education as a fundamental human right, and the economic, political, and other advantages which are accruable from education for all our citizens have been fully and competently dealt with by Gani. I do not, therefore, want to take any of your time to restate these points.
But there are three important aspects of this matter which I would like to take this opportunity to stress.
The first is that, whatever may be our beliefs, predilections or ideological orientation in the matter, once we accept Compulsory Universal Primary Education as a necessary national policy and are desirous of raising the standard and quality of teachers and teaching in all our primary schools, we must, as wise and practical people, realise that free education at the other two levels (that is, secondary and post-secondary levels) ipso facto becomes an inevitable and indispensable prerequisite of the successful launching and operation of the CUPE.
In this connection, having regard to the experience acquired from elsewhere and, in particular, from the preparations for and operation of free primary education in the Western State during the past 20 years; and, in any case having regard to the need to raise the quality of teachers and the standard of instruction in all our primary schools, I am assuming, among other things, (i) that only teachers not below Grade II would be allowed to teach, in future, in all our primary schools; (ii) that candidates for a two-year teacher training course would only be those who have already gone through a Secondary Grammar or Secondary Technical course and have passed the School Certificate Examinations; (iii) That about 60,000 additional teachers (that is double our present rate of annual output of teachers and three times the number of annual passes in the West African School Certificate Examinations) of the requisite qualifications would be required on the introduction of the CUPE scheme; (iv) that the headmasters of every primary school would be a university graduate in education, or holder of National Certificate of Education; and (v) that, to ensure, as much as possible, a uniform quality among the products of all our Secondary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges, only university graduates in education, or holders of National Certificate of Education will be allowed to teach in any of our Secondary Grammar and Secondary Technical Schools, and Teacher Training Colleges, throughout the country.
If Nigeria sincerely intends, firmly and consistently, to tread the path of economic development, it must seek deliberately to reduce the number of people working in the agricultural sector as well as modernise the means and improve the terms of employment in this sector; it must also, simultaneously, provide sufficient employment of the opportunities in the manufacturing and services sectors for the labour force displaced from the farms; and, in order to ensure efficient performances in all the sectors of the economy, it must also educate and train the reduced labour force in the primary sector as well as the released labour force which is being absorbed into the secondary and tertiary sectors.
All these can only be done by embarking on Free Education at all levels NOW.
We have told ourselves, again and again, that we are a people in a hurry. Indeed we are. And, thank goodness, that we have the manpower and natural resources to accomplish, in the economic-development race, such shining records as have been set by Japan and the USSR.
In other words, it is within our power to transform this dear land of ours into a developed country within the next twenty-five years at the most.
However, we must not be deceived. Unless we introduce free education at all levels NOW, this great objective would elude us: The majority of our people would, in spite of our oil boom, continue to wallow in abject peasantry and poverty; and, at the turn of the century, we would probably still be numbered among the most poverty-stricken of the under- developed nations of the world.
Full text of the address delivered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the launching ceremony of Mr. Gani Fawehinmi’s new book, entitled ‘People’s Right To Free Education At All Levels’, which took place at Ondo Town Hall on Saturday, 27thJuly, 1974, at 11.00 a.m.