CHAIRMAN of the Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education Frank Ibezim on Tuesday applauded interventions by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) but frowned at the high number of dilapidated structures across UBEC project sites in schools across the country.
The Senator representing Imo North Senatorial District said it would be difficult to find a primary school in the country without one or two dilapidated structures which should have been repaired if there was a dedicated fund for that purpose.
He spoke during a Legislative – Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) roundtable meeting organised by the MacArthur Foundation and UBEC in Abuja.
Present at the meeting were stakeholders in the education sector, especially UBEC and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) officials, federal and state lawmakers, and members of CSOs.
Ibezim noted that with as low as N200, 000, UBEC could prevent a damaged previous intervention project from getting worse through swift repair.
“In my constituency, I have seen schools that all you need to do is to cement the floor or replace a part of a damaged roofing sheet. Some of these things will not cost N200, 000 to fix but, by the time you allow it for another one or two years, it ends up costing N15 million,” he stated.
“Why can’t we think of government projects as our own individual projects?”
However, he urged stakeholders to remain more patriotic and manage government infrastructure as if they were personal belongings.
On the side-line, he expressed discomfort on the level of ‘anarchy’ in the country, the frustration of the typical Nigerian youth, and the persistent killings in the nation. But he sought collective actions to curtail the trend and for the electorate to elect the right leadership as president come 2023.
“Honestly, we need to ask ourselves questions. We all know the truth. Why can’t we think of the right Nigerian to be the right president.”
The deputy director of the MacArthur Foundation, Africa Office, Dayo Olaide, in his remarks questioned how much value and impact the UBEC awarded projects had achieved, especially as regards the reduction in the figure of out-of-school children.
Olaide who emphasised the need to have a perception shift advocated for a new benchmark for measuring project successes, mainly the impact on the masses.
“It is not enough that we are increasing our budget allocation to education. I think there has to be a shift in our mindset. For the last 60 years of our existence, we have paid too much emphasis on how much is allocated to education, health but we need to push ourselves and begin to talk more about how much impact those funds are making in the lives of ordinary people.”
He noted that between 1999 and 2018, the Federal Government allocated over N63.5 trillion to different sectors of the economy.
“If you had pumped that money into this economy and we are still like this, we should ask a significant question, where have those monies gotten to? It is not about increasing the allocation to education or health but asking the question that if in spite of these allocations, we are saying we have 13 million out-of-school children, where are they coming from?” Olaide added.
Ekiti State SUBEB Chairman Akin Akinwumi shared a similar view with the lawmaker by asking that a percentage of UBEC funds be set aside for maintainance of previously awarded projects in schools.
The ICIR attempted to establish how states take ownership of UBEC intervention projects, especially after project delivery. But, he affirmed the differences between UBEC projects and SUBEB, hence, the reluctance in fixing projects awarded from UBEC interventions.
“We don’t need to wait for a year before we maintain old projects. If UBEC can earmark one or two per cent as a maintenance fee, it would be nice.”
Meanwhile, other stakeholders sought the same request in terms of allocation to end incidents of UBEC dilapidated structures in schools.
Olaide also shared other thematic areas MacArthur had shown interest in the country such as strengthening the democratic process, law reform, firming up the criminal justice system, promoting girls’ education, and recently curtailing the trend of corrupt practice.
“As of the time the foundation came into Nigeria with focus on addressing maternal deaths, especially during child delivery, the maternal mortality rate in the country was 1,600 per 100, 000 births but the statistics dropped to about 800 as of 2015 when transiting from the program to other areas,” he said.