40 million children at risk of poor educational foundation

by | January 11, 2017 10:25 am

…as UBEC, SUBEBs under perform

Nigeria’s population estimated to be 140 million in 2006 by the National Population Commission has swelled to 183 million in the last decade according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

What this means is that Africa’s largest economy has added over 40 million Nigerians between ages 0 and 11 without incremental addition of public educational facilities.  Given the deteriorating state of most public basic education schools, about 50 percent of these children would miss out on adequate early educational foundation.

Now, the Universal Basic Education is meant to provide ‘free’ tuition for children between ages 5 – 12 backed by 20 percent of the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue as counterpart funding to all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for its implementation. This policy has been stalled by management of some State Universal Basic Education Boards.

A communiqué issued by Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) at the end of its 16th Quarterly meeting held in October 2016, highlighted the challenges the UBE policy faces, among which were ineffective funds management, the continued management of Junior Secondary Schools by some state Ministries of Education.

“As at 31st December 2015, Matching Grant amounting to N35 billion remained un-accessed by the States. From January to September 2016, the sum of N28 billion as matching grant to States had accrued to the Commission and would mature by the end of the year. So far, only Borno and Nasarawa States have paid their counterpart contribution to access the fund” the communiqué wrote.

Disbursement of grants to states is dependent on the provision of 50 percent counterpart funds. UBEC may withhold further disbursement to a state if it is not satisfied that funds earlier disbursed had been judiciously utilised.

“We are not putting the pupils at the centre of the UBE policy implementation. The funds rarely get to their destination due to financial leakages. This is partly because most of it ends up being used to enlarge and beautify the permanent secretary’s office. However, when you visit some UBE schools, they have no tables and study under trees,” said Folasade Adefisayo, principal consultant/CEO at Lead Learning, an education management consultancy.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2016 education data showed total enrolment into the UBE programme dropped by one million pupils to 23.1 million in 2014 from 24.2 million in 2013.

Analysts have attributed this drop in enrolment to a number of factors, including a lack of coordination between the Federal Government and States, misappropriation of UBE funds and a lack of confidence in the program by some parents who now prefer private schools to public schools because of falling standards. Others include the worsening economic realities parents face making it necessary for them to have children hawk various items on the streets and the insurgency in the northeast.

BusinessDay’s visit to some UBE schools revealed mixed outcomes. Whilst some UBE schools have received appreciable upgrade in infrastructure: new classrooms, new study desks and chairs amongst others, are in dire need of government intervention.

At some of these public schools, the pupils looked unkempt. In none of the schools visited were there functional Information Communication Technology (ICT) facilities.

 “The UBE should produce citizens of tomorrow. The present generation of children are digital natives because they were born at a time when ICT is everywhere. The new form of illiteracy is ICT-illiteracy and the UBE is promoting this new form of illiteracy,” said Muyiwa Bamgbose, chief strategic officer at Educational Advancement Centre, Ibadan.

To assess the efficiency and performance of the UBE school system, the Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) project, an international consultative forum in collaboration with the Federal Government measured pupils’ performance in three domains of knowledge: literacy (English language), numeracy (mathematics) and life skills (social studies, health education, basic science, home economics, etc.) across some states of the federation.

The mean percent scores on the literacy, numeracy and life skills tests were 25.1 per cent, 32.2 percent and 32.6 percent respectively.

Although, performance was generally poor, pupils were less competent in English language skills and displayed relative more understanding of tasks in mathematics and life skills. In general, pupils were found to have poor writing skills.

“The most blatant failure is the infrastructural weaknesses that abound in the lack of quality and quantum of human and material resources made available by state and federal governments. The quality of inputs would naturally determine the quality of output that is graduated into tertiary education and industry,” explained James Kayode Makinde, emeritus president/vice chancellor, Babcock University.

Another major challenge to the successful implementation of the UBE Scheme is lack of proper planning on the part of the government.

One of the factors responsible for the improper planning is faulty census exercise. Almost all the census exercises carried out so far in Nigeria, either before independence or after, have been marred with massive irregularities.

Tags: , ,