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Abigail Anaba: Before we talk about the 10.5 million out of school children

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Abigail Anaba: Before we talk about the 10.5 million out of school children

by Abigail Anaba

Before We talk About The 10.5 million  out of school children…

On 30th September 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo flagged off the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Program –  Nigeria’s strategy for the achievement of Education for All (EFA) and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). On 26th May 2004, President Obasanjo signed the bill into law following its passage by the National Assembly. The Bill recommends that every child is entitled to 9 years free and compulsory education hence the 9-3-4 education policy.

Primary Education is in the concurrent list/residual list, keeping it in the purview of the State/Local Governments. That means that most of what happens in each state as far as primary education is concerned is a result of the efforts of the State and Local governments. If classrooms are dilapidated, teachers are unpaid, students are failing in tests/exams, blame the State/Local Governments.

However, with the UBEC Act, the Federal Government decided to intervene in the provision of basic education with 2% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund. This is a great idea as 75% of Nigerian children depend on publicly funded primary education.

To benefit from the funding, each state is expected to among other things:

  • Replicate the UBEC Act at the State Level and set up a State Universal Education Board
  • Provide Matching grant to Federal Government intervention funds
  • Draw up State UBEC Action Plans
  • Establish adequate mechanisms for programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The matching grant is 50% of the matching fund. In other words, States should provide a little above 426 million Naira as, let’s say, collateral for the grant.

The UBEC act also requires that the matching fund be used in, among other things, construction of classroom /furniture; procurement of textbooks, instructional materials and teacher professional development

In 2012, the matching grant provided by the Federal Government to all states was N852,936,713.92.

As shown in the table below, many states are slow in picking up their matching grants. In fact, only Bauchi, Kano and Rivers state have assessed their 2012 matching grants completely. Some states, such as Ebonyi, Imo, Nasarawa, Ondo and Plateau have over N2Billion in grants sitting in the Central Bank coffers.

UBEC infographic

The question then is: Why are State Governments not assessing these funds? UBEC says one of the reasons is that State Governments cannot provide matching funds. In a country where budgets are proposed in billions and trillions, should providing a matching fund of less than 500 million be a big issue? For instance, in 2013, Lagos State budgeted N64.343billion to education, Anambra State budgeted N10.224 billion and Yobe State N16.43 billion. Now, here’s the thing: UBEC is not insisting that states expend the matching fund on education. All they are saying is show us the fund and we will give you the grant. Again, UBEC is not going to ask, what did you do with your 426 Million, they are simply going to ask: what did you do with the money we gave you?

Could it then be that it is because State Governments do not want to be accountable to the Federal Government for how they use the funds? UBEC claims another reason states are not assessing the funds as and when due is that they are not able to account for funds they have already assessed.

Hear the former minister of education, Obiageli Ezekwesili: “When the UBE was inaugurated to increase access to basic education, there was a demand for more teachers in all states of the federation. The Federal Government responded to the challenges by providing funds for recruiting more qualified teachers. At the end, some state governors used the funds for the electioneering in 2007.”

Interestingly, the UBEC act provides that the UBE Commission recover funds that are misused, misapplied or diverted by State Governments through “appropriate means including suspension or outright stoppage of grants”. How though does it help the education system when funds are stopped? Does it not seem that there is something fundamentally wrong with the UBEC Act?

Or perhaps, the State governors feel the grant is too small. In the land of billions, millions must be pocket change. What then can N852 million do to a State’s education system?

  1. It can build over 170 block of 6 classrooms at the inflated cost of N5 Million/block
  2. It can provide 85,200 free text books/notebooks at the rate of nN10,000/student
  3. It can train 42,600 teachers on modern teaching methodologies at N20,000/teacher
  4. It can pay 1,420 teacher’s salaries at 600,000/annum
  5. It can provide 170,500 students school uniforms at the inflated price of N5,000/uniform

I am therefore, tempted to agree with the conspiracy theorists that the biggest problem with Nigeria’s education system is that we have a group of leaders who think they benefit more by keeping the generality of the people uneducated.

An uneducated populace ensures that elections are rigged and the government can get away with anything because the people in general do not know their rights. An uneducated populace ensures that corruption thrives and stupidity lives in high places. An uneducated populace will remain distracted by issues bordering on religion, ethnicity and tribalism. An uneducated populace is easy to manipulate. Little wonder then, that Nelson Mandela says education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Would it then be wrong to conclude that the Nigerian Government is not ready for change?

Before we talk about the 10.5million out of school children, can we provide qualitative education for the 60% who are?

– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Anabagail

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