Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has recalled how his father was jailed for failing to send him to school.
Atiku, who said his father later embraced the idea of education, noted that despite his humble background he enjoyed quality education free of charge.
The former vice-president stated this while delivering a speech at the Baze University Graduation ceremony in Abuja on Friday.
In his speech titled, ‘Solving Nigeria’s Education Challenges’, Atiku said when he was young, anytime he came back from primary school, he would take his neighbour’s cattle to the bush for rearing in exchange for grains that he gave to his grandparents to feed the household.
“I was a schoolboy and a herds-boy, and I fed my family,” he said.
Atiku added, “When I was 11 years old, my father drowned and died while crossing a river in the neighbourhood. He was not up to 40 years. Being an only child, I was raised by my maternal grandparents. I remember, sometimes we could barely afford one meal a day.
“Despite my difficult background, I went to school for free, in fact, I was paid to go to school. Initially, my father did not buy the idea of me going to school, for which he had to go to jail. I furthered my education to other tertiary institutions. I was the Students Union President at the School of Hygiene, Kano.
“My journey to education is different from yours. Your parents may have paid tuition fees for your education, but you did not have to rear cattle for food. However, both you and I got educated eventually. The paths may be different; nonetheless the destination remains the same. Let us help others to reach their destination too.”
Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 election, said without education, he might not have gone this far in life.
He told the graduating students that they should use their education and privilege to help others.
He further argued that both boys and girls must have equal access to education.
He added, “Societies are transformed when girls and women are educated. We see this all over the world. When women are educated, families are smaller and healthier. When women are educated, more children go to school.
“Let me repeat that very important fact. More children go to school when women are educated, infant and child mortality is reduced and national economic growth increases.”
He gave the current male illiteracy rate in Nigeria as 29 per cent and female illiteracy rate at 48 per cent.
He added, “All of these challenges are doubling every 21 years. What do I mean by that? Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Our total population is doubling every 21 years. In just 21 years there will be twice as many Nigerians as there are today.”
The former vice-president said Nigerians must dedicate themselves to a better use of technology, to increasing access for all to cutting edge educational technology and using it effectively to improve performance at all levels of education in Nigeria.