Did El-Rufai’s Child Go To School?

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Saturday letter2

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 had been lauded in a country where the citizens are used to public schools and other facility 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 enrollment for Nigerians who commended the feat. It was instead for then 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”.

Some have commended this and that is understandable in a country where the hospitals are not good enough for the political class, the schools are not good enough, the roads are not good enough in addition to their deplorable condition 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 enrollment binding on him as an obligation.

The faith of the governor in that particular school would not be misplaced especially when he has perfected plans to spend N195million on the same school in 2018. With this sum already guaranteed for upgrades, one can see why the endorsement is being made so boldly. I daresay if you 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 in overseas that are Nigerian leaders’ favorite. Lauding the enrollment 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.

But 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 N195m upgrades and renovation as reported by the media?

The social media jubilation and commendation is 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 titling of this piece regardless, the schooling of El Rufai’s son is not my concern in this piece. If Abubakar requests not to go today or tomorrow and his father obliges, good and fine. Rather, the titling 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, the children that are out-of-school are enough to populate some countries of the world. This is not only dangerous now but also later as these uneducated ones would grow into adults that later make the society.

El Rufai himself voiced this concern in his speech delivered to Northern Hibiscus, an NGO: “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 – where he wrote that he desired to educate his child in Nigeria so that he can tap from the network of alumni like he enjoyed in Barewa College – has become manifest in his younger child recently enrolled.

Away from the social media frenzy over the enrollment, Nigeria 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.

Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife