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Five Decades of Free Universal Primary or Basic Education in Nigeria and the Challenges of Sustainability

Five Decades of Free Universal Primary or Basic Education in Nigeria and the Challenges of Sustainability

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Published by: oluosokoya on Nov 23, 2012
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Five Decades of free Universal Primary/Basic Education in Nigeriaand the Challenges of SustainabilityByDR. ISRAEL OPEOLU OSOKOYA(Associate Professor of Education)Dept. of Teacher Education,University of Ibadan,Ibadan.A Public Lecture Delivered at the 10
th
Professor KosemaniMemorial Annual Lecture, University of Port-Harcourt, RiversState
 –
Nigeria on 30
th
October, 2012
 
 
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INTRODUCTION
Traditionally primary or basic education means the type of education, in quality and conceptthat is given in the first level of education. (UNICEF 1993, Osokoya 2011). The concept of firstlevel of education varies from country to country. In some countries of the world the first levelof education is of 6, 7, 8 or 9 years duration. In western Nigeria for example, the first level of education was of 8 years duration prior to 1955 when it was reduced to six years. In EasternRegion of the country, it remained 8-years until 1976, while the Northern Regional Governmentmaintained a 7-year primary education until 1976. Between 1976 and 1992 however, the scopeof first level of education in Nigeria as a nation was 6 years but this was later expanded to 9years when basic education included the first three years of secondary school education.Education at all levels is of great importance to every nation, developing, developed or under-developed and thus attracts considerable attention over the ages. No doubt, at the family,community, state, and federal government levels, education is discussed, planned andprocessed. Education makes a person for it has a great influence on one
’s values and attitudes.Studies have shown that man’s attitudes, habits; values are gradually acq
uired over timethrough his or her education. No wonder, the United Nations Scientific and CulturalOrganization (UNESCO) once observed that since wars begin in the minds of men it is also in theminds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed. This illustrates the great potentialsof education for transforming the individual and the society.
A constant assessment of a country’s e
ducational programme is considered necessary if thenation is to develop and make progress economically, socially, politically and technologically.This is probably why studies on free universal education particularly at the foundation levelbecame very popular in the last half-century as more and more western colonies gainedpolitical independence. In fact, free universal basic education had become central to the overallproject of planned socio-economic development, modernization and democratization of theThird World nations.This lecture examines the ups and downs in the process of free universal primary/basiceducation i
n the context of Nigeria’s chequered political history and in the light of its
 
 
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geographical, social and political complexity. It also assessed the extent of success andproblems in the free universal basic education. In addition it offers suggestions for possiblesustainable paths to support future policy options,
THE EARLY YEARS.
The system of education in Nigeria before the early free universal primary educationprogrammes had been well documented by notable African Scholars as well as historians of education. (Fafunwa 1974, Obanya 1992 and 2002, Ojerinde 1998, Okoro 2000, Osokoya 1987,1989, 2001 and 2002; Tahir 2001, Yoloye 1993). Geographically, Nigeria can be convenientlydivided into two vegetational zones, namely; the equatorial forest (south) and the tropicalgrassland north. The two zones had two broad types of educational process and pre-colonialexperience. In addition, they were two distinct protectorates of the British administrationbefore the unification of the country in 1914. Furthermore, they were administerededucationally in two different departments by the colonial government for one and half decades after unification of the nation as it was only in July 1929 that the northern andsouthern education departments were merged by ERJ Hussey the then Director of Education; Itis not surprising to observe therefore that five decades after attaining political independence,the north and south Nigeria remained distinct socio-cultural, economic and political zones.In the pre-colonial era, the northern zone was the home of a Flourishing Islamic empire. Islamand Islamic education had developed in the area right from the 14
th
century. Islamic scholarsfrom Bornu in the east and Mali and Songhai in the west spread the religion in the zone.Between 1452 and 1463, Yakubu the king of Kano has encouraged the spread of Islam. Theimmigration of the Fulani from Mali during this early period made a mark in the development of Islamic religion and education in the northern zone. Islamic education got its biggest boost inearly 19
th
century with the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio. Thus with the arrival of the westernmissionaries and the introduction of western education in Nigeria the Northern Emirs resisted

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