At the 11th quarterly meeting of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) management with the executive chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards, SUBEBs, the supervising minister of education, Nyesom Wike, lamented state governments’ refusal to access the federal government’s UBE intervention funds. Statistics from UBEC show that, between 2005 and 2013, out of N238.53 billion available, only N190.53 billion was actually accessed by state governments for the development of education. From 2011, there has been a steady decline in the number of states that deem the education sector important enough for them to access the funds.
If Nigeria were a country where performance matters in election to high office, the number of states accessing the funds would have been increasing steadily as the election year 2015 approaches. Why should available funds that would help propel states’ quest for improvement in the education sector lie fallow for many years? Education is fundamental to the growth and development of any society. It is the sector on which we hinge our future as a nation and as a people. But the sector has been bedevilled by problems ranging from lack of physical infrastructure and learning materials to poor quality of teachers and general lack of funding and functional curiculla.
Some state governments have complained that the conditions attached to accessing the UBE funds are too stringent for them to bother, but there are indications that some states have not accounted for previous funds, which is a condition for continued access and use. The states must note that, in the first place, it is their responsibilty to provide free, compulsory and universal basic education, at least from primary to junior secondary school, for their citizens. They have no right to now squander funds for intervention in a sector they are neglecting. Besides, it is not right that the federal and state governments continue to bicker and shift blames while the deterioration of the education sector continues.
We look forward to the release of the report of this year’s Nigerian Economic Summit, which focus was on education, in the hope that its recommendations will be implemented. Acknowledging the sector’s importance in re-positioning Nigeria to become a major player in the global economy, the summit had a goal to influence and determine what the future of Nigerian education should be. Perhaps when the issue of funding for the sector arises, the contentious matter of the UBEC funds will be thoroughly discussed and meaningful recommendations that would ease access made. Still, with much of the education sector in dire straits, and more than N40 billion unutilised funds, state governments must put in some more effort towards accessing the funds. (Leadership)