By Felix Khanoba
From Abia all the way to Zamfara state and across the country, large numbers of schools neglected by state governments and often in pathetic condition appear in almost every corner.
Yet, over the past 15 years, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) spent billions trying to fix the nation’s basic education sector through disbursement of funds to the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as part of its statutory intervention programmes.
Between 2015 to 2019 alone, the Commission disbursed over N350 billion on intervention lines ranging from marching grant to special education fund, education imbalance fund to teachers professional development fund, among others.
While many have lauded the interventions as a right step in the right direction to help state governments overcome basic educational challenges, such contributions have sometimes come under fire following the appalling state of most public primary and junior secondary schools in the country.
The increasing numbers of children not in school and those in schools but are failing to ‘get education’ as a result of a poor learning environment are often identified by critics as the glaring weak points of the intervention scheme considering the quantum of financial resources that has been pumped into the sector.
But primary and secondary school education fall under the purview of states and local governments, which make the role of UBEC- a Federal Government body as a ‘mere supporter’ in basic education delivery.
While many states have leveraged on UBEC’s intervention to reposition their basic education sector, the brazen display of near apathy to such gesture by some others and the seeming insincerity in managing such funds by some State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) continued to rub off negatively on the well-thought out UBEC scheme.
From Edo to Zamfara, Kwara to Benue state, among others, several cases now abound in courts where some top SUBEBs officials (former) and contractors are being prosecuted over alleged misappropriation of money earmarked for basic education delivery. Such corrupt practices affect in no little way UBEC intervention programmes.
Mr Bello Kagara, UBEC’s Director, Social Mobilization, who gave a holistic overview of the Federal Government’s intervention in the basic education sector through UBEC, recently, said the Commission’s intervention comes in the form of assisting states with funds, technical support and initiation of programmes which states are expected to replicate on a larger scale within their domains.
Kagara, in a paper presented at a capacity building workshop for Education Correspondents Association of Nigeria (ECAN) in Abuja on Thursday, said as at 30 June, 2020, the total statutory releases by the Federal Government as matching grant stood at N503,124,325,426.01 out of which a total sum of N449,908,595,996.07 was disbursed to 36 states and FCT.
He said a balance of N 53,215,729,429.98 which represent 22.75 per cent of the released marching grant is yet to be accessed by some beneficiary states over failure to meet relevant conditions.
On the Special Education Fund, which is meant to support special programmes for mentally and physically challenged pupils in public schools and other private providers of basic education, Kagara said over N18 billion has so far been released by the Federal Government to support the scheme.
“From 2005 to June 2020, the Commission received the sum of N18, 660,499,215.00 as Special Education Fund which was allocated to states on an equal basis. Within the same period, the sum of N15, 172,688,398.51 was disbursed to states as a Special Education Fund.
“The sum of N3, 487,810,816.49is the total un-accessed Special Education.
“This component is meant to support special programmes for mentally and physically challenged pupils in public schools and other private providers of basic education. The private providers are those that do not charge fees,” he said.
The Teacher Professional Development (TPD) Fund designed by the Commission for training and re-training of teachers and education has also seen the disbursement of massive amounts of money.
“The Commission has so far received the sum of N80,875,223,889.05 as Teacher Professional Development Fund which was allocated to states on equality basis. Within the same period, the sum of N48, 632,392,895.86 was disbursed to states while the sum of N32,242,830,993.19 is the total of un-accessed,” Kagara revealed.
Other intervention programmes of UBEC like the distribution of instructional materials, the School Based Management Committee (SBMC) scheme, among others, continue to gulp a reasonable chunk of the nation’s resources year in year out.
“The Commission has commenced the implementation of the SBMC-SIP with a view to enhancing access equity and quality in basic education delivery in Nigeria. The initiative is a tool for reducing the challenge of out-of-school children in Nigeria and most importantly engendering community participation in support of Basic Education Delivery.
“Under the programme, the commission disburses grants directly to communities through the SBMCs that initiated Self-Help School Improvement Project. A total of N2.7 billion has been disbursed to 2,585 communities nationwide in this regard,” the Director of Social Mobilisation said.
Many stakeholders, however, believe that despite the massive impact brought about by UBEC interventions, only a serious commitment to education development on part of the state governments will see to the end of the nation’s education woes.