Problems of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in Nigeria is an educational reform program launched in 1999. The primary goal of the program was to provide every Nigerian child between the ages of 6-15 years of access to free and quality basic education. The UBE programme began in full operation with the signing of the UBE Act in April 2004. Many years after, the UBE policy is not without its problems and complaints. Such complaints include:

Low participation in primary school education when compared to the primary school-age population

Lack of adequate teaching tools and learning facilities such as furniture, toilets, etc.

This article writes on the problems of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria.

Problems of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria

Problems of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria

Read on below:

Problem with funding

Although the government have made funds available for the actualization and implementation of the policy, there has been a limitation in the allocation and accessibility of funds. It is reported that between the years 2000 and 2008, the sum of N22.6 billion was allocated to some Universal Basic Education Boards, State Ministries of Education and public tertiary institutions. However, these funds were not accessed. This points to a root problem of corruption and mismanagement of funds meant to be used in implementing the Universal Basic Education policy.

Lack of community interest and participation

It is true that the Universal Basic Education policy is good in itself and many Nigerians agree to this. However, most have lost confidence in the government and educational institutions. Many perceive these institutions and the government as corrupt and therefore do not expect much good from the policy. This negatively affects the participation and interest of the public in the implementation of the programs.

Poor management

Many have argued that that there is no clear definition on the organizations that are responsible for education in the country. For example, the implementation of the UBE programme is supervised by the UBE Commission (UBEC), while the administration and management of basic education in Nigeria is the responsibility of Local Education Authorities (LGEAs) under the supervision of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) and the UBEC at the federal level. There are many other institutions specifically responsible for education in the country, such as:

  • National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE)
  • National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education (NMEC), National Teachers’ Institute (NTI)
  • Nigerian Education and Research Development Council (NERDC)
  • National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE)
  • Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN

With these many institutions responsible for education, many argue that the country does not have a clearly defined structure for the management of policies. What happens is there is an overlapping of roles and responsibilities of different organizations and then the work hardly gets done.

Lack of adequate and qualified employees

At the stage of university education, you will rarely find students who willingly want to study education so as to become teachers. However, after graduation, there are many Nigerians working as teachers and with the UBE. Many teachers working for the UBE are not trained or qualified to be educators. When these ones are employed, they are not able to help achieve the goals of the universal basic education programme. The program needs qualified and well trained so as to achieve the desired goal.

Inadequate planning

The UBE program has fallen short of expectations because of the lack of sufficient planning. Inadequate planning is as a result of factors such as inaccessibility of accurate data, incompetent researches, etc. For example, most times demography data for a particular location is inaccurate so the equipment or tools allotted to the area are usually not enough.

Improper Inspection

Most times, inspections of schools to ensure the program is being implemented appropriately are not successful or never even conducted. It is only when proper inspection is done that the faults and lapses of the program can be taken note of.

But for example, if inspection is to take place to ensure school children are attending classes in a conducive and friendly environment, local authorities can immediately disguise the situation to make it seem like it is even when it actually is otherwise. Problems such as non-qualified teachers are also sorted out immediately.  This way faults and lapses such as mismanagement of funds, non-qualified personnel, lack of equipment and tools, unconducive environment for kids, etc. are not detected.

Incomplete projects

The problem of abandonment of projects can be traced to the instability of government policies in Nigeria. Once a new government comes into office, they are quick to set up new projects they wish to embark on and neglect old ones. What is left is a bunch of abandoned projects that slow down the success of the UBE programme in Nigeria.

Stakeholder engagement 

The main stakeholders involved in the Universal Basic Education policy are the federal government, state governments, and international institutions who lend their support. However, there is often complaints that there is often no or insufficient communication between the institutions responsible for UBE at the federal and state level. The lack of communication is evident in the project selection, designing and implementation stage which causes problems in the allocation of funds.

Political commitment

The effort to reform Nigeria’s educational system can be traced to the 1970s with the UPE (Universal Primary Education). While all these policies have been good in themselves, there has been a lack of commitment on the parts of the government to seeing the implementation of these policies. The UBE programme is expected to be a continuation of the UPE programme, which was abandoned in 1976. However, many have reported that the problems that affected the UPE back then are the same affecting the UBE. There is no evidence that the government has made effort to improve on its implementation procedures or learnt lessons from the failure of the UPE. The UBE program is just the relaunching of the UPE, however, with a new name.

Social and cultural barriers

In some parts of the country, there are still cultural biases and belief that do not allow a female child to go to school. This is an obvious set back to the successful implementation of the Universal Basic Education policy.


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