Long walk to achieving UBE goals
Except the authorities at federal, state and local government levels, as well as the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) critically assess their mandates on the implementation of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in all the states across the country, and create a modification plan, the high rate of crime, disorderliness, poverty, illiteracy, sicknesses and diseases might persist.
This is because, according to observers of the sector, regulators and managers of the UBE programmes, in the country are not possibly living up to their mandates as a lot of Nigerian kids cannot still access the UBE many years after its launch.
Not only that, going by the happenings in the society, they also perceive that implementers of the programme are not anything close to achieving the UBE goals, which include ensuring unfettered access to nine years of formal basic education; providing free UBE for every Nigerian child of school age; reducing drastically the incidence of drop-out from the formal school system; and ensuring the acquisition of appropriate levels of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning.
The law that established UBE Act presupposes that every child that completes basic education should at least have adequate level of literacy, and also be able to decipher on what is good and bad, but that is not so in the contemporary education scene in Nigeria, as high rate of crime and unemployment, poor quality of candidates seeking admissions into higher institutions of learning, among other societal ills, are indicators that Nigeria is not achieving the objectives of UBE.
The 2004 act that established the UBE declares the right of a child to compulsory and free universal basic education, which is a nine-year programme. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo launched it in 1999 to among others eradicate illiteracy, poverty and ignorance, and place Nigeria on the path of socio-economic progress. It was also envisaged that the UBE would aid in the achievement of Education for All (EFA) goal, as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but all that hope had evaporated with little or no realisation.
Even with the enactment of the UBE Act in 2004, which birthed the establishment of the UBEC with the mandate to, through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), coordinate the implementation of the UBE programmes, the present state of basic education in the country is still appalling.
This has however, prompted stakeholders to caution that the continuous neglect of the sector, will not only jeopardise the socio-economic future of the country, but will also continue to mar developmental efforts, as well as intervention projects.
According to the Deputy Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Mr. Timothy Adewale, “If we neglect basic education, we are all going to pay for it. The experience of the brainwashed BokoHaram child suicide bombers attests to this. Research shows that most of the persons that go into crime are from broken homes or persons without responsible upbringing. When a child that is supposed to be in school is hawking bread, why will she not be impregnated. Who takes care of the impregnated girl and the eventual baby to be born? The baby perhaps eventually finds his way into crime and terrorises us all or becomes a political thug, so we all pay.
“Quality basic education makes it possible for a child to develop and grow up to be someone who can read and write and can also communicate. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised for a complete human being. One of the benefits is that such a child can fit into the society as he or she develops. For example, the child can read and understand instructions on foods, beverages and drugs, read signs and instructions in public places like airport, bus stops, traffic directions, street signs, and can communicate.
He continued, “If you consider the above benefits which are just some of the benefits, you will see why basic education should not just be free but compulsory for every child as anything short of this is to dehumanise the child and such a child will be denied of an essential training he/she needs to survive as a person.
“A child with a quality basic education will possess sufficient minimum aptitude to analyse information and data to know what to believe to some extent. It may be difficult to brainwash such a child into violence, terrorism or to sexually exploit such a child.”
Noting that basic education stimulates and accelerates national development, political consciousness and national integration, Adewale expressed, “Most of us learn patriotism not from the universities but from primary school. For instance, respecting the national flag, upholding social responsibilities and duties as a citizen, foster national unity. You get to know that there is really no difference between Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba as we all played together, became best of friend regardless of tribe or religion. We learn to accommodate each other. Whether a friend is a Muslim or Christian does not matter.
These are the qualities that basic education stimulates in the child.
“No nation can survive without providing an avenue like basic education where children learn the rudiment of living together and working together for the prosperity of the nation. As a matter of fact, most values, behaviours and attitudes for responsible citizenship are cultivated in basic school. It is also a good avenue for so many skills that could benefit a country to be developed.”
On poor basic education being responsible for high rate of unemployment, he said, “The truth is that some of the graduates are not employable. You rarely learn how to read and communicate well in the university but you learn this from the foundation, the basic schools. So, once the foundation is dead what do you expect? Who will employ someone who cannot communicate and write good English, or does not know basic etiquettes required.”
He therefore, challenged, regulators of UBE programme to give due attention to the UBEC Act, urging states to domesticate it and strictly enforce it not just by words of mouth but by their actions. Basic education teachers’ welfare and package, he said, must be improved. “People need to be orientated to see the need to make all children go to school, and when needed negligent parents or guardians punished. The basic education throughout Nigeria should indeed and in truth be uniform, qualitative and functional.”
Validating Adewale’s view, Director, Research and Innovation Office, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Wellington Oyibo, said basic education is a fundamental need, which everyone should have because that is where the foundation is laid.
According to him, quality basic education helps in reducing poverty; boosts economic growth; increases income and also increases a person’s chances of living a healthy and productive life, even in disease prevention. He said a literate person can read drugs prescription and be able to administer the right dosage, thus government and all concerned including the regulators must therefore begin to refocus attention on how best to implement UBE in Nigeria owing to its vast benefit to mankind and the nation.
He said, “Also quality in basic learning is very imperative to avoid a situation where those who have gone through it will still be struggling to read or write as obtainable in the contemporary Nigeria. So it is a foundation… not everybody needs to go to the university in the first place, so if one acquires quality basic education, he/she should be able to communicate effectively. He/she can go into business or pursue an enterprise successfully.
“It is very dangerous to have large number of people in the society who do not know what to do, due to poor or lack of basic education, but with quality basic education, people can live responsibly and manage their affairs efficiently. The way UBE is structured, it gives learners the capacity to pursue their dreams and transact whatever business they choose to. It gives them the opportunity to grasp the unfolding realities in their field, through short certificate courses. One who has quality basic education should be able to undertake short certificate courses in entrepreneurial, commerce or accounting. The good thing about basic education is that it is universal. The United Nations declared it as a right.”
Stating that quality basic education waters the ground for acquiring new knowledge particularly now that the world is talking about knowledge based economy, Oyibo said, “It makes further learning easier, and makes one unlimited in their endeavour. When the quality of learning is high, you can build on it and it makes other level of learning to be a little easier, you have created interest in learning and the level of attention becomes higher. In those days people with standard six goes to teach. If the foundation is well laid, those who had quality basic learning have what it takes to stand and engage in fruitful enterprises.”
Citing the narratives in the labour market, he expressed, “What happens in the labour market today is a clear indication that basic learning is still poor. In the past you can engage primary six pupils or JSS3 students in an enterprise. They can work as a receptionist and be able to manage information and business affairs very well. For those that want to proceed to senior secondary education and then higher education, transition becomes easier for them. They don’t struggle to comprehend and communicate in English language unlike what we have today.”
The professor and consultant medical parasitologist further explained that the foundation for good communication is built up from the basic level, as that is where lexis, structures, English grammar tenses, among others are taught.
Oyibo also stated that in the United States (US), Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is being promoted at the basic level, with the intent of producing new set of people who thinks in a new way. “This is because they are aware that if the foundation is not strong the structure will definitely be weak.”
He therefore urged government and all regulators UBE, to go back to the drawing board and plan on how to deliver a quality universal basic education with strong strategy to implementation, as that will help this country a great deal.
Also, in the view of the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Taiwo Soweto, poor implementation of basic education is responsible for increasingly fewer numbers of products of secondary schools making credits in five subjects.”
“This collapse of quality education at secondary school level is no doubt the outcome of the policy of underfunding and education privatization pursued by successive governments over the last three decades which saw a boom in establishment of private schools many without any real facility nor quality teachers, a variety of which is beginning to manifest at the tertiary education levels today.”
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