One of the educational policies put in place by the Nigerian government is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2004. The act provides for free and compulsory education for children of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria. According to the Universal Basic Education Commission, the policy is aimed at providing greater access to and ensuring the quality of basic education throughout Nigeria.
Despite the good intentions of the law, several loopholes have been discovered based on some realities on the ground. For example, the number of out-of-school children is still outrageous. The minister of education, Malam Adamu Adamu, during his National Assembly in 2019, said the number of out-of-school primary school children was 10 million, and the number of out-of-school secondary school children was 6 million, i.e. a total of 16 million out-of-school children. Ordinarily, one would attribute this alarming rate to parents not sending their children to school and wonder why parents are not being sanctioned for their civil disobedience to the law. But in reality, the hidden costs associated with basic education are largely responsible for this. Children in basic schools are still required to pay for some services and items despite the UBE act that guarantees free basic education. Another contributing factor is the high cost of continuing from junior secondary school to senior secondary school.
In solving this problem, we are currently in a collaboration with Malala Fund and some other CSOs in Nigeria, advocating for the amendment of the UBE Act by the 9th Assembly’s House of Representatives. The 8th Assembly’s Senate passed the amendment before their tenure ended but unfortunately, the same feat was not achieved with their House of Representatives. Our advocacy is calling for the extension of the free basic education from 9 years to 12 years and by this, children will have access to free education from primary school to senior secondary school. Also, we are calling for an increase in basic education funding from the current 2% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to at least 3%.
We believe that if free and compulsory education covers 12 years, there would be a drastic reduction in the number of out-of-school children and every child would have been impacted with adequate knowledge of life survival skills. The amendment bill is yet to be passed by the House of Representatives but engagement is still ongoing and we hope it would yield results very soon. You can be part of this advocacy by taking action here.