Solving Nigeria’s Basic Education Crisis Through Open Government Strategies

Kufana Primary School, one of the PS’ to be rehabilitated with NGN 38 m by Kad SUBEB

In 2015, the UNESCO estimated that over 65 million Nigerians were illiterates, with adult literacy rate at 57.9% (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010). One of the major factors responsible for this has remained the continual rise in the number of out-of-schoolchildren in the country. Since many adults could not access basic education at childhood, the possibility of acquiring such while grown is exceedingly contracted. In the light of this, the UNICEF’s 2014 estimate of Nigeria having 10.5 million of the cumulative global 20 million out-of-school children, should be of great concern to the country, requiring a high-level sense of national urgency.

As part of the strategies to rollback the rising number of out-of-schoolchildren in Nigeria, in 2004, the Universal Basic Education Act was signed into law establishing the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The Commission’s mandate is to improve the enrollment of school children and reduce the current dropout rates. As a step-down measure, states created their own Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB). In furtherance, the Commission provides basic education funding to SUBEB, mainly through annual interventions. Despite this, many of the basic education challenges in the country have not been addressed. In the midst of these difficulties has been contracted open government in the management of UBEC funds by SUBEBs, which has occasioned an enabling environment for corruption to thrive. Such corruption has jeopardized a conducive learning atmosphere for Nigerian children.

Following the foregoing, and as a countermeasure toward the open government deficit, with support from MacArthur Foundation, Connected Development [CODE] kicked-off a project in Kaduna State (as a pilot in the country) to mobilize the public for effective oversight on the implementation of UBEC funds in the state through enhanced citizen’s participation. Starting with four focal LGAs in the state, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of School Monitoring Teams (SMTs) which comprises of Community Based Associations/Organizations (CBA/O), Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) and the School Based Monitoring Committees (SBMC) to conduct high quality tracking of the UBEC spending in 70 schools within a span of 3 years. The project was launched on 14 September 2017 in Kaduna through a stakeholders meeting with over 80 participants in attendance.

A group photo after the stakeholders meeting

Furthermore, from 3 – 5 October 2017, Follow The Money team was in Kaduna over the next activity of the project, which were trainings for the SMTs on tracking UBEC spending strategies (for two days), and Kaduna SUBEB (Kad-SUBEB) on data collection and analysis (for one day). With all the participants wholly in attendance, the SMTs’ training went on smoothly and was hands-on following our level of preparedness which manifested through critical documents we made available to the participants. They included report templates to provide feedback after visiting project sites; list of projects, amounts and contractors to monitor; bills of quantities (BoQs) etc. It was the first time the SMTs saw such documents.

Group photo at the end of SMTs training

In a similar manner, first, during the Focused Group Discussion with the SMTs, it was clear that they have not been carried along on needs assessment across schools to feed the UBE action plan of the state, that is sent to UBEC annually, for intervention access. Secondly, the SMTs have not been useful in project monitoring across schools because they lack key project and financial data. While we noted these issues, the SMTs were taken through the set of projects they would track. The training for Kad-SUBEB officials took place on the last day, featuring knowledge transfer on data collection tools and methods, routine monitoring data and data process management, using MS. Excel for data analysis etc.

Lessons learnt from the trainings encompass, first, the SUBEB training should have been for two days. This will be corrected in the second round of training in the second year of the project. Secondly, the session which featured a group work for SMTs to examine the BoQs should have been facilitated by an engineer that understands the technical terms used on the documents. This was partly addressed by the re-iteration that the tracking should be a collaborative effort. So while SMTs are stepping down the training in their communities, trips to project sites for monitoring should include a community-based engineer for effective tracking using the BoQs.

Thanks to Kaduna SUBEB for all the data earlier provided to us which lubricated the project and most especially the SMTs training. The data encompass the list of successful bidders for the state’s 2014 UBE action plan which is currently being implemented, as well as the BoQs of selected projects. Tune In for other approaching activities of the project, which include town hall meetings across the selected LGAs on the school projects’ implementation. By the end of this month, Follow The Money radio will be live in Kaduna, detailing the progress of the project and enhancing citizen engagement in UBEC spending implementation.. Ultimately, join us here, https://ifollowthemoney.mn.co for conversations and development on the progress of the project.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Governance Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.