On Monday, 17th August, 2015 the representatives of Human Development Initiatives (HDI) and five other cluster members namely: Grassroots Health Organization of Nigeria (GHON), Youth Child Support Initiative (YCSI), Patriotic Citizen Initiatives (PCI), Out-of-School Children Empowerment Foundation (OSCEF) and Youth Ambassadors of Abuja Municipal as well as Bwari Area Council, paid an advocacy visit to Alhaji (Dr.) Dikko Suleiman, Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Abuja. This visit is one of several scheduled activities in executing a Local Governance and Education Project. During the visit, they solicited the support of the commission and formally presented the communiqué issued at a three-day workshop on governance and accountability in basic education held in Abuja. Also presented were copies of information, education and communication (IEC) materials.

Mr. Olayemi Samuel, Research and Programme Officer, Human Development Initiatives (HDI) explained that the project was aimed at improving governance and accountability for quality, effective and accessible basic education at the Local Government level in Nigeria. He also highlighted some of the activities that have been carried out by the team such as sensitizations, town hall meetings, advocacy visits to Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs), tweeting sessions on improving funding of basic education, among others.

Prof. Sarah Oloko, Chair, HDI Board of Trustees, who led the delegation, spoke on issues of weak governance structure, bureaucratic bottleneck at various levels of government and MDAs, inadequate and non-functional educational facilities, dilapidated infrastructure in schools, inadequate and low quality of teachers, non-implementation of a meal per day for pupils in primary schools etc. She also drew attention to the recommendations from the communiqué issued at the end of a three-day training workshop on Improving Governance and Accountability in Basic Education in Nigeria. Prof. Oloko agitated for CSO desk officers in SUBEBs and LGEAs saddled with monitoring, tracking, evaluating and reporting progress.

Other members of the team were Mrs. Olufunso Owasanoye, Acting Executive Director, Human Development Initiatives (HDI); Hajiya Hadiza Nagona, Executive Director, Grassroots Health Organization of Nigeria (GHON); Mrs. Ijeoma Nnaji, Executive Director, Youth Child Support Initiative (YCSI); Comrade Osita Osemene, Executive Director, Patriotic Citizen Initiatives (PCI); Mr. Akeem Kelani, Executive Director, Out-of-School Children Empowerment Foundation (OSCEF); Mr. Yinka Saka, Finance Director, Human Development Initiatives (HDI); Mrs. Funmilayo Olooge, Programme Officer, Human Development Initiatives (HDI), Mr. Yahaya Bako, Youth Ambassador, Abuja Municipal Area Council and Mr. Solomon Garda, Youth Ambassador, Bwari Area Council Abuja.

The team members were received by Alhaji (Dr.) Dikko Suleiman, Executive Secretary, UBEC and Alhaji Kaoje, Director, Social Mobilization, UBEC. In his response, Alhaji (Dr.) Suleiman declared that the commission is willing to partner with the HDI team in areas of sensitization, awareness and advocacy. He explained that the local government is responsible for funding of basic education, teachers’ employment and students’ admission, while the State is responsible for senior secondary education (SS1 – SS3) as well as disbursing funds from the Federal to Local Governments. UBEC, in his words is only responsible for regulating school calendar and curriculum and basically intervenes on behalf of States even though majority of state Governors have refused to assess the matching grant allocation to States. According to him, “UBEC has no right to determine the quality of basic education in any State because implementation of UBE Act 2004 policy lies in the Local Governments. He maintained that each of the tiers of government should be made to know their roles in basic education, while reiterating the fact that the falling standard of education can only be tackled through attitudinal change.

With regards to the implementation of a meal per day for pupils in primary schools, Dr Suleiman stated that the Federal Government through his office carried out a feasibility costing which brings per day meals for pupils of primary schools in Nigeria to N2.8billion naira per day to implement the programme. However to make it sustainable, he suggested that the Government should not handle it alone but in conjunction with other partners such as state governments, communities, and the private sector.
He further highlighted the major challenge facing the implementation of the UBE Act. This according to him is because the governing body only dispenses funds and has no authority to track and monitor usage. He mentioned that he had already started working on a draft of the review of the UBE policy, and therefore solicited the support of CSOs in advocating for a review of the policy without politicizing the process.
It was agreed upon that there should be a community component to every policy and that there should be a review of the UBE policy to empower the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), to be more than just a dispenser of funds without the authority to monitor and track its usage. This would ensure that the funds released are used for what they are meant.