Every year, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) provides intervention funds to 36 states and the federal capital territory (FCT) to improve access to basic education in the country. Investigations carried out by independent journalists revealed that many public schools are in poor conditions while the funds meant to salvage the situation lies dormant. Students of these public schools learn in very harsh conditions and some of them have decided to give up attending school altogether.
Students in states such as Niger and Ogun have told investigating journalists that they have left school due to the poor condition of such schools. A boy who attend Tukura Primary School in Kontagora, Niger State, said he and his classmates sit on the bare floor to learn because their classrooms have no furniture. The infrastructural deficit in the school includes defaced walls, sagging and leaking roofs, absence of furniture, and lack of toilet facilities. “I am not happy coming to school anymore. We look dirty after school hours because we sit on the floor,” the boy said.
Nigeria has the most out-of-school children despite UBEC Act.
This is one of the many cases. As many public schools in Niger lack basic amenities, public schools in Ogun are also in the same state. At Asore Grammar School, students lamented lack of adequate teachers and basic infrastructure. At St. Peter’s Anglican Church Primary School in Oke Aro, primary six pupils were receiving lectures under a visibly weak building with different cracks. A report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 75 percent of children aged 7 to 14 years in Nigeria cannot read a simple sentence or solve basic math.
Also, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) data, Nigeria has an estimated 20.2 million out-of-school children and youth. This is not only the highest in Africa but also the third highest in the world. This is occurring despite the existence of the UBEC Act of 2004 which provides for compulsory free universal basic education for all children of primary and junior secondary school age in the country. UBEC estimated that 50 percent of public schools in the country lack basic furniture, forcing pupils to sit on the floor to take lessons.
Accessing UBEC funds has strict prerequisites.
To revamp basic education in the country, the federal government introduced an intervention fund for states in the country and the FCT. The fund is coordinated by UBEC. Hamid Bobboyi, UBEC’s executive secretary, said each state receives an average of N1.5 billion for funding of basic education from the commission every year. However, the initiative has been hindered by various issues including the non-provision of the matching grant required to access the fund by some states. “To access the fund, each state must also contribute an equivalent amount of the grant given by the federal government,” Sobodun Abdul-Hakeem Babatunde, a research associate at Eduplana, a civic-tech organization, told the press. “For instance, in 2021, the federal government contributed N946 million to each state. This means each state must also contribute N946 million, making it a total allocation of N1.89 billion for each state’s UBEC.”
He said that it is also a prerequisite that the previous year’s project must have attained 70 percent completion before accessing another fiscal year’s fund from UBEC. Zikora Ibeh, a policy and research analyst for Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said apart from providing counterpart funds, “states are also required to establish a state universal basic education board, develop state UBEC action plans, open a dedicated account with the CBN, and regularly publish progress and financial reports of projects undertaken under the UBEC initiative.” Ibeh, said the requirement for the counterpart funds is not only a financial obligation but also an indication of the state’s willingness to prioritize and invest in basic education.
Non-utilization of UBEC funds affecting basic education.
UBEC data in 2022 showed that from 2005 to 2021, the Federal Government has disbursed a total of N564,607,995,011 to the 36 states and the FCT under the initiative. Findings showed that Ogun and Niger states were among the states that failed to provide the matching grant required to access the funds within the period in spite of the condition of schools in both states. The UBEC data revealed that from 2005 to 2021, Niger did not access a total of N2,674,977,853 matching grant, while that of Ogun stood at N3,672,882,493. In 2022, Adamu Usman, chairman of UBEC’s governing board, accused state governments of abandoning their responsibility of funding basic education.