The management of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) recently lamented that the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were not coming forth with their counterpart funds that will enable them to access the annual matching grant to develop their basic education. This is a recurring issue that must be addressed urgently so that the objectives of the agency are not derailed. The Secretary of the Commission, Hamid Bobbiyi, said the agency expressed worry that about N110 billion of the intervention funds had not been utilised by the states during the 2021 financial year. He bemoaned that the amount is still lying idle at the coffers of the state Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBS).
Arising from the foregoing, the agency has earmarked N2billion for the ongoing national personnel audit of all basic education institutions across the country. The personnel audit exercise, which has commenced in the 17 states in the South and will end on June 25, while that of the states in the North and FCT will kick off on July 4, and end on July 23, 2022. During the exercise, enumerators will visit all basic education institutions in the country. This includes all approved public and private schools, as well as unapproved but registered and unregistered institutions. The survey will afford the enumerators the opportunity to collect necessary data on schools and personnel that will assist in effective planning towards expanding access to quality education and promoting gender parity at basic and other levels of our education system. However, it is sad that many states are not accessing UBEC’s funds because they refused to pay the required counterpart funding. It is paradoxical that billions of UBEC’s funds are unutilised annually while many primary and secondary schools are lacking basic infrastructure.
It has, therefore, become expedient for the management of UBEC to, as a matter of urgency, review the modalities for accessing the funds by the states, the primary beneficiaries. It is also necessary for the agency to critically examine the factors responsible for the seeming inability of the states to pay their counterpart funds and address them forthwith. If the conditions set for accessing the funds are stringent, this is the time to holistically review them and make the funds to be easily accessible. At the same time, we urge the states to utilise the window offered by UBEC and do the needful.
The allegations of corruption at UBEC should be thoroughly investigated and the culprits brought to book by the government. It is possible that the reported corruption and undue politicisation of UBEC Funds might explain why most of the states are not meeting up with their counterpart funding. Whatever may be the reason for the poor utilisation of the fund, UBEC should be alive to its duties and run the agency transparently and efficiently.
The duty of UBEC, among others, is to uphold the ideals of promoting basic quality education in such a way that it will be flexible and accessible to all for the purpose of producing competent manpower for national development. Unfortunately, Nigeria is currently not measuring up to the standards needed for education at the foundational levels.
In pursuant of the lofty objectives of the National Development Plan and subsequent long-term plans, the Federal Government enacted Act 16 known as ‘Education National Minimum Standard Institution (Amendment) Act 1985, and Act 9, known as ‘Education National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions (Amendment) Act 1993. These Acts and other Acts empower UBEC and other relevant education agencies to ensure that basic education is not encumbered by inadequate funding.
Nothing should be done to vitiate the noble goal. The state governments should see themselves as partners in progress in ensuring that basic education is accessible and affordable. In a knowledge-driven world, Nigerian children should be acquainted with the necessary skills to have a meaningful future. Since the moulding of our future leaders starts at the basic education level, everything humanly possible must be done for them to have unrestricted access to uninterrupted nine years of free and compulsory schooling. All the 36 state governors must be part of the vision to ensure that every Nigerian child has access to good basic education.