HomeNewsNigeria Faces Deepening Education Crisis; States Miss N68.73B UBEC Grant

Nigeria Faces Deepening Education Crisis; States Miss N68.73B UBEC Grant

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In a stark revelation for Nigeria’s education sector, about 29 states have yet to access a staggering N68.73 billion in funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for the year 2023. This worrying development surfaces against the backdrop of an escalating educational crisis, with an estimated 20 million Nigerian children currently out of school.

A detailed examination of UBEC records shows that the collective unclaimed matching grants from all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) amount to N68.73 billion. As of mid-December, only seven states have stepped up, contributing a total of N10.6 billion in counterpart funds. The contributors include Osun, Niger, Taraba, Sokoto, Enugu, Jigawa, and Ondo, each with varying amounts of funds.

This situation is further compounded by a recent UNICEF report, which puts the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria at a concerning 20.2 million. Notably, one in every five out-of-school children globally is Nigerian, with the majority located in the northern regions.

The UBEC matching grant scheme requires states to deposit 50 percent counterpart funding to unlock these vital education funds. The intended use of these grants covers a wide range of essential educational needs, such as infrastructure development, the provision of learning materials, and teacher training, all of which are critical for boosting enrolment and retention in schools.

Despite the urgency, a large portion of these funds remain untouched, reflecting a disconnect in addressing foundational educational needs. Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary of UBEC, has voiced his dismay over this situation. He notes that many schools are still grappling with basic infrastructural deficits, inadequate learning materials, and overcrowding.

Historical data from the commission paints a bleak picture: between 2005 and 2010, about N71 billion of the N371.84 billion released remained unutilized. This trend of unaccessed funds continued in subsequent years, indicating a persistent challenge in harnessing these resources for educational development.

According to a report by The Guardian, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, chairing the Senate Committee on Basic Education, has expressed deep concern over this lack of commitment from the states. He underscores the critical need for effective use of government funds in enhancing the education sector.

Education experts, including Joseph Olaojo, suggest implementing measures to encourage, and if necessary, penalise states that fail to access these grants. The consensus among stakeholders is clear: state governments must take proactive steps to address the educational needs of Nigerian children.

In response to the growing number of children not attending school, human rights advocate Femi Falana points to the necessity of UBEC disbursing funds directly in cases of non-compliance by states. This suggestion aligns with the Education Reforms Act, which mandates state contributions to education projects.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum is seeking amendments to the UBEC Act, proposing a reduction in the required matching grant to facilitate easier access to these funds. This proposal aims to address the varied fiscal capacities of states and ultimately reduce the number of out-of-school children across Nigeria.

This unfolding scenario highlights a significant gap in Nigeria’s education system, where substantial funds designed to uplift basic education remain largely untapped while millions of children are deprived of their right to education.

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