Basic education is a right guaranteed by Nigerian laws. The 1999 constitution even states that its funding is free of cost for all citizens. That is also backed up by the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004.
Popularly called the UBE Act, it empowers state governments to develop basic education policy and strategy while local governments ensure service delivery and management. The Federal Government is responsible for setting national standards and maintaining regulations on it.
What is regarded as basic education in the law is the first six years of primary school education and the three years of Junior Secondary School education all spanning at least nine years.
The Act creates organs within the three arms of government to ensure basic education gets to citizens. Under the Federal Ministry of Education, we have an agency named the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). An agency under each state ministry of Education is the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) while its local government supervisor is the Local Government Education Authority (LGEA).
Ordinarily, federal and state ministries of education should provide oversight for UBEC and SUBEB but their budgets are outside the budgets of those ministries. This sometimes leads to some overlapping duality in the roles of both the ministries and the agencies. It also makes it possible that basic education is funded from both ends while also weakening accountability.
Sources of Basic Education Funding in Nigeria
Basic education is funded by the three arms of government, as tersely suggested above, aside non-governmental related funding. EduCeleb.com will be giving details of that in subsequent paragraphs.
State government funding
Each state in Nigeria has services it provides for its populace, among which are in forms of capital projects, and recurrent expenditure that would also impact education. It boils down to the availabilty of funds to the government.
A state’s main source of revenue is from a statutory transfer approved by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). Usually, that is from whatever is accrued from oil and taxation at the national level.
States jointly receive around 26.72% of FAAC revenue each month. But this usually varies from one state to another based on an allocation formula. The FAAC formula gives 40% of that equally among states, those with higher population 30% more. Landmass and terrain attracts 10% more while social development attracts 10%. Based on internally revenue generation effort, states get 10% additionally. Oil producing states get 13% derivation funds too.
The FAAC funds had been dwindling in recent years due to fall in oil price. Then, most states don’t have equal capacity to generate high internally generated revenue (IGR) to be self-sustaining. That also means that each state cannot fund education equally.
For basic education funding specifically, states would largely leave that to their SUBEB, which handles every other spending possibly including salaries. The state ministries spends little on basic education in that regard.
Local government funding
Local governments are not entirely autonomous of state governments in Nigeria even as each is separate by law. Like states, their main revenue is from the FAAC contributions. LGs in each state have a Joint Account Committee that determine the allocation to each from the federation account.
The funds determine how much recurrent or capital expenditure an LGA can provide for its people. The payment of primary school teachers is technically through the LGEAs but is usually done through the SUBEB as there is some political agitation against making it as it should be. So, SUBEB directly pays teachers at that level based on the records of personnel provided by the LGEA.
LGEAs have access to little money on imprest to cover some recurrent costs like school inspection.
Aside the direct funding from each SUBEB through the LGEAs, the Local Government Chairman who appoints the Education Supervisor (someone like an LGA “commissioner”) also manages the JAC account that may also be allocated to primary and secondary school education. At most, such little funds, where made available through the education supervisor, could cater for infrastructural maintenance and/or payment of examination levies.
Federal government funding
The main federal funding of basic education comes from the Universal Basic Education Intervention Fund. It is generated through a 2% of the FAAC revenue also called the Consolidated Revenue Fund from a preceding year and its spending is coordinated by UBEC.
States are expected to have a ‘matching grant’, which is 50% of the fund allocated equally among all states in order to be able to have access to the UBE fund. A 2018 report by EduCeleb.com showed that 24 states failed to access this federal basic education fund in 2017, possibly because of that criterion.
Note that UBEC is largely powerless in the event that such funds are not appropriately utilised by states. The worst it could do is to withhold access to such subsequently but things don’t work that way.
In another article, we would explain in details how the UBE Intervention Fund is shared with states and local governments.
Other governmental funding
When people talk of government funding education in general, they don’t likely see beyond the ministries of education at the various levels, as already established above.
Some other funding from the government also go into basic education outside the UBE funds. Some other ministries have educational agencies that are also co-regulated by the Federal Ministry of Education. These ministries also run basic schools. Funds from the Army Children Secondary Schools or Police Secondary Schools are examples as they also cater for basic education.
Even within the Federal Ministry of Education, the government runs 104 unity colleges with Junior Secondary School education in each just as federal parastatals may also have staff primary or secondary schools. These are not in any way funded from the UBE funds.
Because government alone cannot do it, individuals and private organisations are funding basic education in Nigeria with little or no government support at any level. No publicly available data is yet to quantify how much of non-governmental funding goes into education in general or basic education specifically. Attention is always placed on public funding, which is believed to be the bulk of it all.
Local and International donors
Numerous local and international donors support basic education with infrastructure, instructional materials, teacher training, teacher salaries, and other areas where government funding is not likely making the needed impact. We have such organisations even going to the extent of establishing and funding community schools or adopting existing ones for care.
Proprietors of private schools fund basic education with their investments in building schools, maintaining the services of teachers and other manners. Though, they may aim at profit, the impact of the gap they are covering in providing access to basic education is not fully quantifiable.
According to the Nigeria Digest of Education Statistics, public primary schools constitute barely half 36% of the total number of primary schools but at the same time, 62% of Junior Secondary Schools in the country are privately owned. The data gathered in the 2015/2016 session focused on registered schools. Whereas, numerous private schools are still being run on a low cost to provide this essential service in basic education but are not officially captured in any data.
The inability of governments to provide access to free good quality basic education leaves parents and guardians with the task of funding it within their capacities. Nigerian public primary schools have numerous challenges making them unattractive to parents to enrol their wards. Even if all parents were to be interested in that, the schools available cannot accommodate all.
Parents would either enrol their children in private schools, employ the services of private teachers or self home school them to acquire basic education.