• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Local governments and management of primary education fund

COVID-19: Nursery Schools in Delta to reopen November 9

Globally, primary education is foundational to every formal education system. At this level, every child within age six should be admitted to primary school which has six years duration.

Primary education does not only lay the foundation for other levels of education but also the fulcrum of the socio-political and economic advancement of a nation.

It is meant to provide the learner with opportunities to: acquire literacy, numeracy, creativity, and communication skills. Besides, children are to enjoy learning and develop a desire to continue learning and harness the ability for critical thinking and logical judgment.

Consequently, experts believe that primary education is the bedrock of a child’s development. More so since a child’s development cumulates to national development.

Wahab Alayiwe-King, the executive chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) in a chat attested to the fact that finance is a fulcrum to running a successful education system at any level, starting from primary education.

“Funding, without any doubt is very essential to education. However, the issue of funding of education to me is subjective, in the sense that there is little correlation between funding and management of the funds.

“There are actually some competing issues between provision and management of the funds provided. There has never been any time funds provided are said to be enough; hence, it is more about the usage of what is provided. The management aspect is more important,” he said.

Babs Fafunwa, a former minister of education had earlier agitated that 70 percent of the education budget should be allocated to primary education.

Fafunwa argued that the system that neglects primary education, which is the very foundation of the entire educational system, will not have good secondary and/or tertiary education.

The establishment of the national education fund in 1988 to allocate funds to state primary education boards of all the states of the federation and its affiliate agencies, no doubt brought about a lot of changes in the primary education funding policy.

Instead of deducting the fund needed for primary education administration directly from the federal government account, there was a separate body and purse meant to provide the fund.

But contrary to expectations, the establishment of this fund brought about major lapses in the financing of primary education.

Consequently, the federal government’s proportion of the primary education budget for both capital and recurrent allocations was caused to fall from 21 percent to 13 percent in 1988, and total capital allocations from 7 percent to 4 percent over the same period.

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According to the World Bank publication in 1990, there was a progressive withdrawal of federal government financing of primary education throughout the early and mid-1980s.

Since these periods, primary school education has been under serious financial pressure and unstable governance till today. Besides, are the challenges of inadequate human and material resources, over-crowded classrooms in urban schools, poor maintenance, poor supervision, and poor learning environment?

As it is today, it seems as if the primary education sector is floating, not sure of where they belong, its teachers do not seem to know their employer whether federal, state, or local government.

Just like a sheep owned by many, nobody seems to be directly responsible for its upkeep. This is so because though, primary education administration is being controlled by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) of the various states, the funding is the responsibility of the federal, state, and local governments.

This without doubt affects the inputs and outputs of the system adversely.

Taking a look back when primary education was effectively managed by the missionaries and voluntary agencies with grant-in-aid from the colonial government compared to what is obtainable now, the Nigerian primary education system could be said to not be fulfilling the central purpose in terms of management and funding.

A critical survey of the situation of things across many states in Nigeria reveals there are shortages of classroom space, classes are offered in the open air, and subjected to all problems associated with outdoor teachings such as weather fluctuations leading to class cancellations and lack of quality instruction.

During the era of the British government in Nigeria, primary education was directly administered and managed by the few government schools and with the spread of western education to various rural and urban settlements native authorities become the managers of primary education in the North.

Then by 1929, there were ninety-five primary schools in the north managed by native authorities and five mission schools managed by the missionary voluntary agency.

The South had sixty-five government primary schools managed by the colonial government and two hundred and sixty-nine mission/voluntary agencies schools that were granted aid and managed by the mission.

Local government education authority was established to replace the native authorities. The local education authorities were indeed parastatals of the ministry of education and they were charged with primary schools under their jurisdiction.

Thus, the management of primary education in the north was under the supervision of the ministry of education. Besides, as soon as the local government authorities were established their finance was separated from the coffers of the native authorities.

With the introduction of free education in the southwestern region and southeastern region in 1955, there was an increase in primary school enrolment and consequently, this led to inadequate funding and poor management.

In 1988 the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC) was established with Decree 31 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to manage the affairs of primary education.

It was later scrapped by the federal government under the provision of Decrees 2 and 3 of 1991 which rested the full responsibility of the administration of primary education in the hand of the local government.

In 1993, the National Primary Education Board (NPEB) and Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) were once again in control.

While the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) was charged with the administration of the primary schools in the state. The local government councils appoint education secretaries who were to report directly to the SPEBS.

The introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) nationwide in 1976 experienced the problem of underestimation of about 30 percent of the turn-up number of children enrolment, acute shortage of classroom space or overcrowded classrooms, and shortage of teachers and equipment.

This inability of the government to effectively run primary schools made many people agitate for the return of schools to the missionaries and other voluntary agencies.

Besides, it brought the emergence of many private primary schools which tend to perform better than public primary schools in Nigeria.

With the 1976 local government reform and 1979 federal constitution, the provision and maintenance of primary education came under the statutory delegation of local government councils.

In order to assist local government councils in achieving this task, the Local Government Councils Education Authorities were established in each local government council and as subsidiaries of the National Primary Education Commission under decree 31 of 1988 and charged with several responsibilities related to primary education management and financing.

Since 5 May 2010, the terms local education authority and children’s services authority have been repealed and replaced by the single term ‘local authority’ in both primary and secondary legislation.

The management of primary education in Nigeria has been assigned to various tiers of government and commissions. In other words, it has gone through different experiments.

Even now in the present Universal Basic Education programme, the responsibilities of administration and financing primary education are still shared among the three tiers of government.

It is very important for the government to find a permanent solution to the problem of instability in the control and management of primary school education, therefore the government should be specific in its provision or declare in clear terms the legislative list upon which the control and management of primary education system is placed.

Without mincing words, the management of primary education by the Local Government is a very big task that needs serious commitment before much could be achieved.

The intervention of the federal government is needed to rescue public primary education, which is the hope of the poor in giving education to their children, from total collapse. More so, the federal government should establish a minimum standard requirement for both public and private primary schools.

It could be suggested that the control and management of primary school education in Nigeria should be the joint responsibility of both Federal and Local Governments.

The local government should be involved because it is the government closer to the grassroots with less responsibility for education administration.

While the federal government’s overall monitoring and funding is necessary in order to maintain a uniform standard of primary education throughout the country.

It must be noted that it is the government’s failure to provide quality primary education as a result of poor management and funding that necessitate increased privatisation of the primary education system in Nigeria.