Solving Nigeria’s Basic Education Crisis Through Open Government Strategies

Chambers Umezulike October 13, 2017 1

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.

The Denouement of Primary Export Dependence – Nigeria’s Economic Recession

Chambers Umezulike February 10, 2017 0

Photo Credit: post-nigeria.com

According to Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by 0.36% in the Quarter(Q) 1 of 2016, the first negative growth in many years. Successive contractions in Q2 and Q3 of the same year by 2.1% and 2.24%, respectively, officially chaperoned Nigeria into an economic recession. Even before the country’s general elections in March 2015, the country had already started encountering a considerable number of pre-recession prodromes such as wages crisis, Foreign Exchange (FOREX) scarcity, compressing governmental revenues and domestic savings, rising inflation, job losses, a depreciating national currency, depleting foreign reserves, escalating poverty, while the country’s capital market started losing billions of Naira.

These prodromes gradually worsened in succeeding months after the Muhammadu Buhari led administration came into office in May 2015. Between Q4 of 2015 and Q3 of last year, inflation rose from 9.5 to 18.3%. Similarly, unemployment grew from 10.4 to 13.9%; Naira depreciated at the contemporaneous market by around 100%, from around 225 to 450 while it remained officially pegged at 305 per US$1. For the latter, last year, the country’s Central Bank adopted a partial flexible exchange rate regime and consequently, the feeble national currency has been valued at the aforementioned rate upward. Through this, South Africa overtook and undertook Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy in dollar terms. In addition, foreign reserves depleted from US$29 billion to 25 billion.

As a primary export dependent country, Nigeria has been an unblushing subject of international oil prices’ oscillations. Its current economic crisis is an echolalia of the early 1980s scenario which subsequently led to the country’s adoption of the Structural Adjustment Program to circumvent the economic crisis. The 1980s economic crisis frustrated economic growth in the country even till the 1990s. Between 1981 and 1985 in the country’s 2nd Republic, crude oil prices fell by 25% to US$30 per barrel from US$40. As a result, the economy went into a recession as FOREX earnings remained at US$52.78 million, away from the estimated $79.449. External debt rose to Naira 17.3 billion from an estimate of 3.7 billion. By 1985, Nigeria’s external reserves had run close to a level that could hardly finance more than one and half month import bills.

Similarly, after the sudden crash in global oil prices from $112 per barrel in the Q4 of 2014 to $43 per barrel in the Q2 quarter of 2016, the country experienced reduced FOREX earnings and governmental revenues. This then affected most sectors of the economy. Oil revenues constitute 90% of the country’s FOREX earnings (2013 estimate) and around 80% of sources of government’s revenues. Previous efforts to diversify sources of these earnings such as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th National Development Plans and other economic regimes of successive leadership since the country’s 4th Republic have achieved contracted results.

In addition, through several apocalyptic economic tactics, the country’s topical administration also contributed to the recession, albeit they are in the process of commissioning an economic blueprint to contain it. First, from Q3 of 2015, its indecisiveness on devaluing the Naira to reduce the pressure on it skyrocketed the black market premium and incentivised arbitrage. Secondly, over the inability of the administration to keep paying oil marketers in foreign currencies so as to import refined crude into the country because of FOREX scarcity, the administration was forced to remove petroleum subsidy in early last year. This had an immediate and terrible impact on inflation. Thirdly, over previous efforts to protect the Naira, the Central Bank placed a ban on the importation of 41 items. This alone worsened the situation by creating scarcity of the products, precipitating job losses and closure of businesses.

However, a good attempt by the administration to implement an expansionary budget in the 2016 fiscal year and increase its capital expenditure component by 30% was partly hampered by ceaseless oil pipeline vandalisation by the Niger Delta militants. This deeply affected the administration’s ability to fully implement the budget as a result of drop in oil output from 1818 barrels per day in the Q4 of 2015 to 1270 in the Q2 of 2016. Also, President Buhari’s delay in appointing ministers and the resultant padding of the budget saga affected a timely implementation of the budget.

Till today, while the government has promised to release a report of the 2016 budget performance analysis by the end of January 2017, they have not. Furthermore, efforts by the administration to diversify the economy by expanding agriculture and amplifying solid minerals exploration have recorded nanoscopic results over the lack of coherent strategies to achieve such. Finally, limited results from the administration’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business and boost investors’ confidence have further imperiled the attraction of foreign capital into the country.

The economic recession is largely Nigeria’s choice and not just oil price shock because it was predictable and largely avoidable. It remains imperative that Abuja make sure that it’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is a comprehensible economic blueprint that could address the recession with strategies, projections, targets, programs to cushion its effects etc. They should swiftly devise ways to keep pumping money into the economy, without the commensurate inflationary tendencies it can bring. Following this, the series of jocose frivolous items on the 2017 budget have to be clinically jettisoned while the fund rather goes into capital expenditure. They should also lift the ban on the importation of the aforementioned items. Import led industrialisation strategy has always failed outstandingly when it’s not backed up with coherent or backed up with anomalous tactics. Ultimately, there should be further sound strategies to aggressively attract foreign capital, position the country for industrialisation, diversify exports; and reduce poverty and unemployment.

 

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