Olufunso Owasanoye is the executive director of Human Development Initiatives (HDI), a Lagos-based nonprofit working to enhance the effectiveness and accessibility of basic education at the grassroots in Nigeria
The Human Development Initiatives (HDI) is implementing a project aimed at enhancing effectiveness and accessibility of basic education at the local government level in Nigeria. Tell us about it?
The project, which is being implemented in collaboration with the USAID-funded Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) Project, is aimed at improving accountability and good governance in the area of basic education in Nigeria; we are working in 4 states across the country which includes Lagos, Enugu, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
And our advocacy is two pronged: to the citizens as well as the government. For the government, we are advocating for the state governments to pay their counterpart funding to be able to access the Universal Basic Education (UBE) matching grant of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The UBE matching grants will help address the serious gaps in the area of basic education including issues to do with teacher training, teaching aids and infrastructure.
For the citizens, we have sensitization outreaches aimed at empowering them to be able to engage with the government in terms of demanding for accountability from the policymakers in relation to management of funds meant for basic education, including tracking the implementation of the action plans of the various State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).
Therefore, we encourage the formation of education funds monitoring groups and train members of School-Based Management Committees (SBMCs); Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), as well as Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) to be able to monitor and track the implementation of the SUBEBs action plans.
Education for all is a responsibility for all, how critical is the role of non-state actors and citizens in achieving access to basic education for all Nigerian children?
Without education there is no development, so it shouldn’t be the responsibility of only the government and NGOs to ensure all children have access to quality basic education, instead; it should be the responsibility of everybody because every child that is not educated is a menace to the entire society. This is why we really have to do everything possible to ensure all children have access to basic education since it will be of great advantage to the entire society.
So, as citizens if we happen to come across school-age children during school hours in our neighborhoods roaming the street, we need to ask them questions on why they are not going to school or rather if you happen to find a child working as a house help we need to ask why they are not going to school and instead being engaged in domestic labour.
We therefore need to educate people on the fact that even if the child is working as a house help they need to be going to school as well; since the Child Rights Act (CRA) 2003 and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) 2004 acts say the first 9 years of a child’s education is a basic human right, free and compulsory!
But because many people are not aware of this acts they will tell you that their children are not going to school because they cannot afford to send them to school; such parents should be sensitized to understand that their children can go to public schools without necessarily paying a dime!
The UBE act says the first 9 years of child’s education is free while the 2003 Child Rights Act also describes basic education as a right, how far do you think the effective implementation of these laws will go in increasing access to basic education among Nigerian children?
This is why we are going to pay an advocacy visit to the executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) so that the Commission would support our advocacy to the various states to domesticate and implement the UBE and Child Rights Acts which will help increase access to basic education in the country.
This could be achieved by ensuring quality teachers, provision of basic infrastructure in primary and junior secondary schools including desks, chairs, and books, and learning aids for the children to be able to access quality education and learn under a serene atmosphere.
We are campaigning for the UBE matching grants to be accessed by the states so as to improve service delivery in the area of basic education in Nigeria because funding is the greatest challenge militating against access to basic education in the country.
You talked about the failure of many states in Nigeria to access the UBE matching grants, how far do you think the matching grants can go in bridging the huge gap in terms of access to basic education including decreasing the 10.5 million out of school children in Nigeria?
The matching grants will help make education more accessible to children as such the states need these funds to address the challenge of infrastructure and training and retraining for teachers. Children going to school need to be motivated to avoid a situation where by children will just not want to go to school.
This happen in most cases either because the teachers are not well trained – as such they are not responsive to the educational needs of the students, probably because the teachers are not paid – or rather because the infrastructure in the schools are dilapidated and the children will have to sit on the floor because there are no chairs in the school.
I don’t want to see any Nigerian child on the street, I want a Nigeria where all children learn under serene environment and this doesn’t necessarily mean children learning in air conditioned classrooms or having armed security guards guarding them; instead, it means making instructional materials available, having well-trained teachers and having classrooms with proper ventilation.