Education is at the heart of both personal and community development; its mission is to enable each of us, without exception, to develop all our talents to the full and to realise our creative potential, including responsibility for our own lives and achievement of our personal aims. – UNESCO, 1996.
To realise this United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) objective, the Federal Government in 1999 set up the Universal Basic Education (UBE), that introduced the nine-year basic education programme.
The major objective of the programme is to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) coordinates the implementation of the programmes.
Some of its basic features include: Free formal basic education; compulsory, uninterrupted nine years of primary and junior secondary school education; introduction of rudiments of computer literacy, as well as appropriate continuous teacher professional development.
Provision of funds for the implementation of the UBE programme is between the federal and state governments. Regrettably, over the years, the states reneged on the payments of counterparts funds for the programme. To redress this, the Federal Government in the first quarter of 2019, announced that it would deduct from source, part of the last tranche of the Paris Club refund from states that have not been able to access their matching grants from UBEC to enable them catch up on the programme.
In 2018, the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, said that the Federal Government paid in N71.292 billion directly to the commission being the outstanding counterpart funds.
According to Bobboyi, the Federal Government will deduct the entire outstanding counterpart funds against all states of the federation from their Paris Club refund.
Bobboyi explained that the practice was that the state governments would provide the counterpart funds to enable them access their matching grants already provided by the Federal Government.
“There is a new development and the Federal Government has given us a schedule of these states. The total amount the Federal Government is going to pay and remit directly to the commission is N71. 292bn.
“So, UBEC in disbursing the funds will put the counterpart funds along with the matching grants and disburse to states if they meet the conditions. So, the issue of funds not accessed in UBEC will soon come to an end at least for 2018, which is a good thing,’’ he said.
In March, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, said the deduction had become necessary because government was unhappy that in spite of huge financial investment, the state of basic education system, infrastructure and otherwise, were not encouraging.
Adamu said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had spent over N350 billion on its interventions in public basic education system in the last four years.
“In the last four years of the Buhari administration, Federal Government’s funding of basic education has increased significantly, in spite low earnings from oil prices.
“In 2015, matching and non-conditional grants disbursements to 15 states of the federation and the FCT amounted to N68.4 billion. In 2016, grants disbursements to 29 states and the FCT was about N77 billion.
“In 2017, the Federal Government provided N95 billion to 24 states and the FCT, and another N109 billion to 20 states and the FCT. The disbursements over the four-year period totaling about N350 billion were for matching grants, educational imbalance fund, special educational fund, good performance fund, instructional materials funds.
“The funds were also spent on Teacher Professional Development fund as well as UBEC Implementation and Monitoring funds across the geo-political zones,” Adamu said.
The minister said that corruption and lack of political will, among other reasons, were responsible for most states’ inability to provide counterpart funds to enable them access the matching grant provided by the Federal Government.
According to the minister, if this attitude of deliberate refusal on the part of states to provide counterpart funding for basic education continued, the Federal government would have no choice but to sustain its strategy of deducting counterpart funds of states from source.
Documents obtained from UBEC showed a list of 32 states and FCT as well as the amounts to be deducted at source from the Paris Club refund, in line with funds not accessed as follows.
Abia N2.330 billion; Akwa Ibom- N2.703 billion; Anambra N2.268 billion; Bauchi N2.269 billion; Bayelsa N4.187 billion; Benue N3.311 billion and Borno N982 million.
Others are: Cross River N984.82million; Delta N982.555million; Ebonyi N3.33billion; Edo N3. 05billion ; Ekiti N3.372billion ; Enugu State N1.099billion; Gombe State N982.555million and Imo- N3.31billion.
The rest are: Jigawa N982.555 million; Kaduna State N2.269 billion ; Kano State N2.269 billion; Katsina State N2.269 billion; Kebbi N982.555 million ; Kogi N982.555 million ; Lagos State N982.555 million ; Nasarawa State N2.703billion ; Niger N2.273billion; Ogun N5.139billion ; Ondo State N2.268billion; Oyo State N982,555million ; Plateau N4.187billion ; Rivers N982.555 million; Sokoto State N982,555 million ; Yobe N2.616billion ; Zamfara N2.268billion and FCT N982.555million.
The total amount added up to N71. 292billion, but four states are not on the list- Adamawa, Kwara, Osun and Taraba.
The document also showed that N131.248billion was disbursed to the 36 states and the FCT as UBE matching grants to support basic education delivery at the states and local government levels between 2015 and 2018.
In spite of the challenges, Bobboyi said that progress had been made by states in accessing their matching grants from UBEC, adding that previously there would be stacks of money in the commission waiting to be accessed.
According to him, in the last few years, states had made efforts to ensure they pay their counterpart funds in order to access the matching grants provided by the Federal Government.
Though primary education is free and compulsory in Nigeria, a document released by UNICEF, showed that about 10.5 million children, aged five to 14 years, are not in school.
Only 61 per cent of six years to 11years regularly attend primary school, and only 35.6 per cent of children aged three to five years receive early childhood education.
According to the document, the picture is even bleaker in the North, with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent. States in the North-East and North-West have female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 per cent and 47.3 per cent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school. UNICEF says education deprivation in Northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage formal education, especially for girls.
UBE was introduced to upscale the level of education in the country. Stakeholders want the Federal Government to sustain any policy that would compel state governments to timely pay their counterpart funds.
They say that accessing UBE funds through prompt payment of counterpart funds by states and the FCT would enable UBEC achieve its mandate.
Abudulaziz writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.