UBE: The Way Forward

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Book Review

Titles: (i) Universal Basic Education:

Grassroot Perspective (152 pages)

(ii) Primary Education Control And Development Policy in Nigeria (56 pages)

Author:     Sam Nsitem Obisike, Jp

Reviewer:  Jacob Obinna

Publishers: Wellington Publishing Company,PHC.

For more than a decade now, the authors in Nigeria have been trapped in a cycle of distress due to the ruthless profiteering activities of pirates. The situation is not helped by the lack of relevant copyright laws, absence of political will and inadequate legislations against such infringement. Worse still, the indigenous publishers are not protected by government’s policies which tend to encourage preference for use of foreign textbooks over their local counterparts in schools.

Inspite of this unfavourable situation, the indigenous authors have refused to budge. They have rather continued to publish books to complement government’s efforts towards enthroning qualitative education in the country. One of such authors is a seasoned educationist in Rivers State, Sir Sam Nsitem Obisike who launched two books recently on the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in Nigeria. Titled “Universal Basic Education Grassroot Perspective and Primary Education Control and Development Policy in Nigeria”, the books give the reader an insight into the UBE and primary education programmes in the country which the author refers to as Nigeria’s first attempt at effective administration of primary education in Nigeria, starting  with the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) launched by the Federal Government on September 8, 1976. This programme, among other things was to redress education imbalance and provide equal access to education for all Nigerian children.

Unfortunately, many factors led to the collapse of the UPE programme. These included inadequate planning, poor projection of pupil’s enrolment, lack of a careful coordinating, supervising and monitoring agency, recruitment of poorly trained teachers, insufficient and inadequate classrooms and lack of appropriate legislations to back up the scheme.

As at 1996, the nation’s education statistics showed that 1.9 million school age children were not enrolled into primary schools while as at 2000,  estimated over 20 million Nigerian school age children were not in school. Since then, the figures have been on the increase.

This sad state of affairs and the vision of the federal government on the importance of education as a vital instrument for positive development led to the launch of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) on 30th September, 1999 to replace the UPE. This new education programme is to provide for Nigerian children, the foundation for sustainable life long learning with emphasis on reading, writing and numeracy skills. It also covers a wide variety of formal and non-formal education activities and programmes designed to provide functional literacy.

The first book, Universal Basic Education: Grassroot Perspective, which has 152 pages is divided into ten chapters. It serves as a veritable tool for effective implementation of the UBE programme to avoid the pitfalls that characterised the UPE system.

Chapter one focuses on the meaning and scope of UBE, failure of UPE, importance of UBE and the various international agreements which Nigeria is signatory to, such as the New Dechi 1992 which the E-G countries agreed to,  in order to reduce the incidence of literacy, and the  Amman Re-affirmation of 1995 that confirms everyone’s commitment to the Jontein Declaration.

Others include: The Durban (1988) African States Commitment to Basic Education and the OAU Decade of Education of Africa which have influenced the formation of education policies in the country.

Chapter two dwels on management of the education sector in Nigeria before UBE and future prospects, while chapter three is a review of past efforts by various governments.

Chapters four to ten are basically issues bordering on funding and empowerment of UBE at the local government level, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of UBE as well as continuous teaching and strategies for administration of UBE at the LGAs and implementation of guidelines. The author concludes the book with the assertion that “No sacrifice will be considered too great in ensuring the sustainability and success of UBE”.

The second book, “Primary Education Control and Development Policy in Nigeria” has seven chapters and discusses wide range of issues on historical background of primary education in Nigeria. Chapter one highlights some of the laws and efforts made at bringing formal education to the doorstep of every Nigerian such as the 1882 Education Ordinance for British colonies which applied to the Lagos colony, 1887 Second Education Ordinance with reference to  colony and protectorate of Nigeria which corrected some of the ills and became the foundation upon which future educational ordinances in Nigeria were built.

Chapter two deals with school mapping and micro planning with the aim of making education more relevant to the needs of the local communities in a developing country like Nigeria, while chapter three focuses on concept of leadership and change in primary schools and organizations which dates back to the colonial era. Chapter four dwells on supervision and evaluation strategies for UBE programme, and various attempts made in the past to increase the literacy rate in Nigeria.

The attempts, as analysed by the author,  include the 1955 Comprehensive Education Laws of Western Nigeria, 1957 UPE Programme of Eastern  Region, UPE of 1976 and the present UBE programme of the federal government. These programmes were aimed at equipping individuals with knowledge, skills and attitudes which will enable them live meaningful and fulfilling lives, contribute to the development of society and derive maximum social, economic and cultural benefits from the society.

Chapters five to seven give an indepth overview of important issues of primary education and the community, effective management of primary education in Nigeria, and offers solutions to the myriads of problems besetting UBE programme in Nigeria.

The author concludes the book with the view that the UBE is yet another giant step at giving Nigerians equal opportunity to education and to increase the literacy level of every Nigerian child.

Going by the robust and statistical presentation of the issues in the various chapters of the two books, it is obvious that the UBE programme is well analysed and treated by the author which makes the books a veritable tool for the UBE teachers, pupils administrators of the programme and other educational institutions in the country especially at a time like this when the country is once again trying to reviewing its education sector.