10 November 2012

Nigeria: Prioritising Education to 'Subsidise' Corruption


The discourse continues and begins this week from the office of the Minster of Education. Like the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Education is a very large ministry with several parastatals and agencies.

It is the ministry that coordinates the implementation of the National Policy on Education from basic through post-basic and tertiary levels of the system. Given the enormous task of propelling the education sector, the schedules of a Minister of Education is better imagined.

The decision, recently, by the Minister of Education Professor Rukayyatu Rufa'i to attend the matriculation ceremony of one of the new federal universities only suggests how less busy the minster must have been in the office. As a professor from the university, the minister knows better that matriculation is purely an internal university affair.

There is nothing so special about it. There is more for the minster to do in attending to crucial issues of an ailing sector than travelling from Abuja only to witness, as a Special Guest of Honour, the matriculation of two hundred and seventy students at the Federal University Kashere, Gombe State. Even if her presence were to fulfill some political obligations, the minster had the option of sending able representative from the ministry to deliver her singular message that the bill establishing nine new federal universities has been passed by the National Assembly and now awaits President Goodluck Jonathan's assent.

Coming back to the mainstream of the discourse that began last week on this page, it is sad to note that the priority given to education in the 2013 budget does not, as usual, include grants from the World Bank as well as financial aids received from international donor agencies including UNESCO, UNICEF, etc. With interventions from these agencies in addition to other funds from Non-Governmental and philanthropic organizations, one finds it difficult to understand why the state of education in the country had remained so pathetic.

Readers who want to find out how these un-budgeted funds are audited are advised to direct their SMS' to the Federal Ministry of Finance or to the Auditor-General of the Federation and not the column's telephone number on top of this page. Unless the legislature compels the executive to capture some of these foreign interventions in budget proposals, the prioritization of education in appropriation bills shall remain a means to "subsidizing" corruption in Nigeria.

Education is on the concurrent list as provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many states of the federation have not shown enough concern in their efforts to improve the state of education particularly at the basic level of the system. Sometime in 2011, the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Dr. Ahmed Modibbo disclosed that over N35billion counterpart funds for the basic education sub-sector was lying idle then at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Dr. Modibbo explained that the figure represented the total amount of un-accessed matching grants that accumulated since 2005. Many states failed to access the funds because of their refusal to contribute their counterpart aspect of the finance. The law establishing UBEC requires a state government to contribute not less than 50 percent of the Federal Government's matching grant as counterpart before it can benefit from the FGN/UBE fund.

Other states were unable to access the UBE funds because of their failure to account for past allocations. Section 9(g) of the UBE Act provides that states must account for every sum of money received as such will be the basis for further disbursement. Over the years, the education sector has been plagued by corruption. In 2007, the independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) recovered N2.3 billion misappropriated by various State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) across the country. The recovered sums from the SUBEBs were either embezzled or diverted to projects other than those of the UBE in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.

It is amazing that state governments at any point would leave such huge UBE funds idle when, in their domains, basic education is decaying. In addition to several other indicators in the sector, the large number of unqualified teachers has remained a critical challenge to the system. The Executive Secretary of UBEC while presenting reports on some of the Commission's activities to the Minister of State for Education Nyesom Wike in April 2012 disclosed that more than 80% of teachers in Sokoto State were not qualified to teach; adding that such was the situation in most states in the Northwest region of the country.

It is regrettable that six years after the 2006 deadline, the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) is yet to rid the teaching profession of unqualified teachers. Part of the problem is, arguably, the untimely ditching of the TC II.

A renowned educationist and university administrator, Professor Adamu Baike, once remarked that the scrapping of Teachers' Colleges was a mistake because the training of Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) holders is not compatible with what is expected of them at the primary schools. While Teachers colleges prepare their graduates to teach nearly all subjects at the primary school level, the NCE programme prepares teachers in only two school subjects.

The discourse continues from this point and concludes next week insha Allahu. May Allah (SWT) guide educational administrators and policy makers in Nigeria towards giving education the genuine attention and support it deserves; ridding the sector of corrupt practices and tendencies amin.

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