11 August 2009

Nigeria: 'Girl-Child Education, Key to UBE Attainment'


Lagos — As the country intensifies efforts towards attaining the Universal Basic Education, Chairman of Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Bashir Balarebe, in this interview by Reuben Buhari, said the goal would not be achieved without educating the girl-child.

As chairman of the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), how are you working towards achieving your objectives?

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme involves primary and junior secondary education. Its activities revolve around ensuring conducive atmosphere for learning through the provision of additional classrooms, chairs and toilet facilities. It also involves establishing new schools, providing writing materials, uniforms, among others.

Writing materials are essential because effective teaching and learning cannot take place without them. Some of these requirements have become a kind of impediment to our children's education because some parents cannot afford them. Now that government is providing them, parents have no excuse not to send their children to school. And when you come to the teachers, they are well taken care of, in terms of prompt payment of salaries. Government has also increased their salarirs through the new Teacher's Salary Scheme being implemented across the country. The commitment and the political will are there; even the physical allocation is there. UNESCO recommended only 20-25 percent and Kaduna State is devoting at least 27 percent of its budgetary allocation to education, which is over and above the UNESCO provision.

Early marriage among girls, especially in the north has placed serious challenges to the growth of girl-child education. How worried are you about this?

I am very worried about the issue of girl-child education. We have just attended a seminar where we discussed very elaborately about the issue. Girl-child education is a very serious issue, which has to be addressed or faced squarely; otherwise, there would be a problem with the UBE programme. This is because the percentage of the girls in the entire country is about 40-60. So if you ignore 40 percent out of the UBE, you cannot achieve the objectives of the programme. To achieve the UBE objectively, you have to involve everybody that is why the state government and other stakeholders are doing their best to ensure that there is public enlightenment on the need to educate the girl-child.

The Sambo administration has distributed free text books and uniforms to pupils in primary schools, but some schools are yet to get theirs, which has generated a lot of distrust among parents. What is the problem?

The issue of textbooks and uniforms is something that has to be done in phases. It cannot be done at a go. We have over one million children in our public schools, so you cannot provide them with these items at once. We have done phases one and two; phase three will involve seven schools per local government area. The contractor in charge of the uniforms is still making them and text-books have been provided and they are there in the stores waiting for us to get the full supply before we distribute them to the pupils. So, gradually the government will get to everybody, everywhere.

What form of financial support does the state government get from foreign bodies through SUBEB?

There were lots of contributions. They came in, especially to assist us to ensure that we achieve the objective of educating children in the state. They also provided the state with the capacity to implement some of its current educational programmes. The financial assistance was in form of grants and other means. They constructed 225 classrooms for the state. If you go round, you will see them. Some banks also assisted with classrooms, textbooks, writing materials and so on, because they discovered that government alone could not do it so. So, all hands must to be on deck for stakeholders to achieve maximum success.

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