UBEC harps on quality education, commits over N10bn annually to teacher professional development

 

Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Hamid Bobboyi, has stressed the need for stakeholders in the country to contribute their quotas to strengthening the quality of teaching and learning at the basic level of education in Nigeria to make graduates of the system globally competitive.

Speaking with some select journalists on some of the activities of UBEC in 2020, Bobboyi said the year was very challenging as a result of COVID-19 pandemic that led to lockdown of the country, including closure of schools for the most part.

However, Bobboyi said the commission worked hard in many areas, including support for provision of e-learning and other responses to the pandemic.

He said the commission in realisation of the importance of a teacher in the provision of quality education, designated 10 per cent of the entire amount received from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for Teacher Professional Development through the States Universal Basic Education Boards.

“We remain the biggest teacher development agency in the country; not even the National Teachers Institute or any other agency.   UBEC’s 10 per cent of the entire amount received from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is designated for Teacher Professional Development through the States Universal Basic Education Boards. That is something that is very important for us to realise that we pump in a minimum of N10 billion every year for Teacher Professional Development in this country,” he said.

He noted that the commission believed that teachers should be trained professionally, adding that the quality of teaching given in the class was dependent on the quality of available teachers.

He said one of the major challenges was getting qualified teachers to teach the children in the country, which he noted the Federal Ministry of Education was trying to address.

According to him, every parent wanted their child to study Medicine, Law, Economics, Engineering and host of others.

He said only the dregs would opt for education when they could not secure admission into other courses, as according to him, nobody would want to study education to become a teacher because of a “bleak future.”

He said a situation where a teacher relied on support from other members of the family in almost everything, such as marriage, child education, among others, should be corrected.

According to the 2018 National Personnel Audit (NPA) report on Public and Private Basic Education Schools in Nigeria, Nigeria has a shortage of 277, 537 teachers. The personnel audit conducted by the UBEC further indicated that while 73 per cent of those teaching in public schools are qualified teachers, only 53 per cent of teachers in private schools are qualified to teach, that is, those that have the minimum requirement of the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) and above.

Bobboyi said: “Our hope is that with the current reforms that are being put in place where you attract the best candidates into the teaching profession and compensate them adequately, the narrative will change. In many countries I was in Singapore, and they told me that you are better off as a teacher than a medical doctor if it is about money. It is the same thing in Finland.”

He added that teaching in other countries is competitive where a teacher is, at least, making a decent living and being supported by the state.

 

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He noted that even in Nigeria during the earlier days, teachers were not necessarily receiving huge salaries per se but there were a lot of fringe benefits accruing to them like house, car and respectability in family and society.

On instructional materials, the executive secretary said the quality of resources to teach plays a vital role in achieving quality education, noting that UBEC had voted 15 per cent of the entire amount received from the Consolidated Revenue Fund annually for the purchase of instructional materials distributed to schools.

He said the expectation was that state governments would complement this effort, by acquiring textbooks for their own schools so that with the support of the Federal Government, every child should have a textbook on a key subject matter, regretting that about 95 per cent of the states did not provide textbooks for their school children.

“They wait for the Federal Government to give them what would be given and if you do the arithmetic of the 15 per cent, maybe N15 billion and divide by all the number of children in the public schools in the country, you can’t meet the demand. It is important for us to realise what UBEC has been doing in this regard and understand other constraints, and how our other stakeholders should play their own roles to ensure that we have quality in our schools.”

On the issue of equity, the UBEC boss said the commission had been working to ensure that those children without protégé or whose parents could not fund their education and those with special needs were accommodated in the school system.

He disclosed that two per cent UBEC’s funding went into special needs education, which he said was  about N2.1 billion each year disbursed to states.

He acknowledged that the money was small when compared to the number of children with special needs, while also lamenting that most often the usage of the money by states was not strategic to make a difference.

“The key element is that most states are not even adding any funding to support what the Federal Government is providing. The challenges are there but the structure of UBEC is to stimulate the development in particular areas, looking at how to expand access, improve quality, ensure equity and those elements of quality that we need to take care of in the system as well as provide necessary funding to the states and the states also bring their own. That synergy is required for us to make a difference.”

On the construction of Model Schools in the six geopolitical zones of the country, the executive secretary, explained that the projects were delayed by the lockdown occasioned byCOVID-19 pandemic for the most part of 2020.

He disclosed that the plan of the commission was to make sure some of the schools were operational by September 2021, even though a lot of things had changed, including the cost of the projects, which he said would be reviewed upward.

He said: “These are not normal Model Schools; they are Model Smart Schools. We looked at the disadvantages of public schools in the areas of e-learning, having the kind of digital platform that can support digital learning in the area of connectivity, and we felt that we needed to change the paradigm.”

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