“Is education no longer free in Nigeria?” people reacted to Success’ now viral video. While the obvious answer to this question is that Nigeria runs a free education system, there is an unfortunate twist to it. One is that the government underfunds the schools and the other is that schools levy parents of pupils, to either make up for the gap created by the government or for their selfish gains. The rest of this piece will throw more light on the above situation.
The government always argues that it practices free education, but go behind to allegedly underfund the schools by supposedly cutting allocations to schools using roadblocks like the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). Notable Nigerians have spoken up against these red tapes in the education ministry, like Peter Obi the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP who proposes on several occasions that government should remove red tapes like UBEC and SUBEB and send money directly to schools.
While some people argue that the problem of the education system in Nigeria is underfunding, others think it is corruption. In 2018, the FG allocated N605.8 Billion to the Ministry of Education from which over 100 billion was allocated to the UBEC. What has this money offered the 13.5m kids presently out of school? Yes, the 2018 education budget is an abysmal 7% of the total budget, but there are signs that the money allocated to the ministry does not go into bridging the gap of educational opportunities for all kids in Nigeria.
A peculiar case culminated in 2018 when Anum Iho, former Chairman of the Basic Education Board (SUBEB)—an offshoot of the UBEC earned 12 years imprisonment for embezzling funds meant for training teachers in Benue State. Iho according to the judgment misappropriated N91.5 million and took bribes worth N14.9 million. All of these crimes are perpetrated by someone whose task is to address inequality in educational opportunity at the primary level.
In an interview granted the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu, a PTA Chairman of Government School Lugbe stated that school authorities do not use funds generated from the schools for what they are meant for, which includes maintenance of classroom and provision of teaching materials. Alhaji Aliyu has not seen a problem with the apparent thievery of taking money from students, because he feels helpless towards such culture, but he is concerned that the authorities even misappropriate the allegedly stolen money.
This rape of the educational sector has supposedly become a culture, to the extent that even some dubious staff of these boards allegedly strike deals with heads of schools to cover them when the bubbles burst. Unfortunately, in all of these arrangements, pupils like Success suffer. Any hope hence?
While it is easy to scapegoat the headmistress of Okotie Eboh 1 Primary School, Sapele (Success’ suspended headmistress), it becomes increasingly dangerous if the government does not address the real issue behind Success’ case. The government must address alleged massive corruption in the education sector by restructuring and reforming bodies like SUBEB and UBEC, from which many schools get underfunded or at worst, get owed their allocations for months.
Unfortunately, there are at least 13.5m ‘Successes’ in Nigeria. Such Children are either out of school due to levies like this, or underfunded non-functional schools. Success may be lucky enough to get coverage and go viral on social media, but the other children in their millions may not be that lucky. All they depend on, is the government and the government must stand up to their duties.