THE role of education in the development of man and his environment is well known. Education is crucial to societal development but the extent of improvement for man and his society will depend on the quality of education received. This explains why the United Nations makes enhancing quality of education number four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is in realization of the fact that the education sector in many countries is in poor shape generally and requires upgrade.
One such country where challenges are manifest in the education sector is Nigeria. The challenges range from decrepit infrastructure, unqualified teaching staff, corruption, poor welfare package and strike actions which disrupt academic calendar. This impacts the education sector negatively leading to the production of what is commonly called "half baked graduates."
Nigeria's huge population worsens the country's problem in the education sector because the increase in population is not matched by a corresponding increase in educational facilities and infrastructure. This disparity ultimately has a negative impact on learning. According to the Global Partnership for Education, "Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population and has approximately 20% of the total out–of-school children population in the world."
Adding to this challenge is the demographic pressure with about 11,000 newborns every day that overburdens the system capacity to deliver quality education. In the Northern part of Nigeria, almost two-thirds of students are functionally illiterate. According to the data on literacy index recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the states where majority of people can neither read nor write are those in the Northeast, Northwest, and North-central. The data shows that Yobe State has only 7.23 percent literacy level, the lowest in the country. The dismal record of Yobe is followed by Zamfara (9.16 percent); Katsina (10.36 percent); Sokoto (15.01); Bauchi (19.26 percent); Kebbi (20.51 percent); and Niger (22.88 percent) respectively. Only Taraba is an exception with 72 percent literacy rate.
The Northern states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, and Sokoto have shown commitment to improving their education systems, but they face severe challenges including high poverty levels, low enrolment, gender disparities, poor quality and relevance, poor infrastructure and learning conditions.
For a country like Nigeria, a lot of work needs to be done in sustaining or improving standard of education but leaving it to government alone could be dangerous as government agencies are hardly associated with excellence. Bureaucracy and corruption in the system makes this worse. To ensure effective oversight functions, many civil society organizations (CSOs) have sprung up in the country with the aim of collaborating with the government to ensure the improvement of education across board.
Olubusola Kolade, a Nigerian-Canadian educationist who runs an after school programme in Nigeria called Ornaments of Grace Virtue (OGAV) believes that better co-operation between the government, and CSOs will yield dividend. "Civil organizations need to work with the government to improve education. The government cannot do everything at least not now that there is so much decadence. All hands need to be on deck. However, the government needs to make it easy for the NGOS too. There has to be tax incentives for people to financially support NGOs since they rely on public funds to carry out their mandate. There must be transparency between the government and the NGOs for them to work as partners and collaborate when necessary."
Providing an insight to the work of OGAV, Kolade said it has a holistic approach to promote the education of the girl-child:
"We empower the girls through our initiative – 'Learning beyond the classroom'. We have two programmes under this initiative – Summer Leadership Camp and a Co-curricular Girls' Club in secondary schools. This is a three-year programme meant to support public secondary school girls (SS1 –SS3) using the 'head and heart' teaching approach. The head refers to academic skills and the heart social and emotional skills. Our areas of focus are: Career guidance, character moulding, academic success, skills development and acquisition, leadership skills and life coaching. The impact on the girls has been encouraging and includes improved academic achievement, and social competence which foster better school relationship. Girls are empowered to be independent self managers and problem solvers."
Dr. David Tola Winjobi, National Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD) also said that the CSOs under the coalition have been partnering with government to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education in Nigeria by 2030. He said:
"There are quite a sizeable number of our member-organizations working on education for all among which are; Community Education Advancement of Peace and Development Initiatives (CEAPDI); Women's Right to Education Programme (WREP), Centre for Youth Initiative on Self Education (CEYISED); and Phelyn Skill Acquisition Centre."
He pointed out that some CSOs under the coalition are members of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign which came up at the behest of the Chibok Girls saga. He recalled that many CSOs took active part during the post-2015 development agenda deliberations especially in Nigeria. He explained that in line with the UN slogan of leaving no one behind, many of these member-organizations are engaging the Nigerian government in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all:
"While some are campaigning on achieving literacy and numeracy, some are involved in school infrastructural rehabilitation. And while some are involved in referral on skills acquisition, some are basically providing vocational skills for youth's employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship in line with target 4 of SDG-4. In addition, some of our member-organizations are involved in monitoring of the school system while some are appointed members of the school based management system."
Winjobi, however, noted that members of the coalition are saddened by radical de-education of girls in the North East through the dangerous activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. He recalled that in 2016, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had lamented over the 11 million children out-of-school in Nigeria:
Boko Haram extremists are further decimating the poor number of children in schools in the North East by abducting school girls. The unpalatable news started on April 14, 2014 with the abduction of over 276 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram. The same month in 2014, 58 male students of the College of Agriculture, Buni Yadi, Yobe State were murdered in cold blood while asleep. On February 19, 2018 Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls' Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State and made away with 110 girls. The aim of these incessant attacks is to discourage education through radical de-education which tallies with the agenda of Boko Haram, "education is a sin."
According to the Education Data, Research and Evaluation in Nigeria (EDOREN), a five-year initiative funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), there are more than 600 CSOs involved with the education sector in Nigeria and these are visible in the 36 states of the country. The CSOs are part of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA). EDOREN gives a background to the formation of the CSO:
"The Civil society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA) is a coalition of NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs) working on education issues in Nigeria. Forty (40) education NGOs came together in the run-up to the World Education Summit in Dakar in April 2000 to form the coalition. CSACEFA developed a core set of positions and attended the Dakar Summit to join in the call for quality education for all. The coalition has since expanded its membership to over six hundred (600) CSOs covering the 36 States of Nigeria and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and has been engaging, advocating and inputting to education policies and programmes at Local, National and International levels."
The mission of CSACEFA is to ensure free, quality and inclusive education for all through effective participation of civil society while the vision is to help guarantee quality education and dignity for all structures. The organization's activities are coordinated at the state level by an elected state coordinator and at the zonal level by an eight-member Facilitating Committee (FC) drawn from the six geo-political zones, the FCT and a representative of International Development Partners (IDPs) elected for a maximum two terms of two years each.
The Facilitating Committee led by a National Moderator is to meet at least four times in a year depending on availability of funds, while the coalition has an Annual General Forum (AGF). The Annual General Forum is the apex decision-making organ of the coalition. The coalition is managed through the secretariat led by the Policy Advisor/National Coordinator who oversees the national secretariat, coordinates the states and reports to the Facilitating Committee.
Many of the CSOs sustain their work with grants from foreign organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation which has an office in Nigeria. In December, 2017, CSACEFA held a three-day dialogue meeting and capacity building on tracking UBE (Universal Basic Education) funds in Kaduna State with the support of MacArthur Foundation. The Federal Government established UBE in 1999 "to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration."
According to the UBE Act of 2004, "the financing of basic education is the responsibility of States and Local Governments. However, the Federal Government has decided to intervene in the provision of basic education with 2 percent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund. For states to fully benefit from this Fund, criteria were established with which states are to comply. "
However, there have been reports, over the years of missing UBE funds and it is in this context that the CSACEFA event in Kaduna holds meaning. In March, 2018, CSACEFA, in conjunction with One Campaign and Malala Fund, at an event, called on the Nigerian government to take education in the country seriously. They requested President Muhammadu Buhari and Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education to come up with concrete measures to urgently address the incessant challenges in the education sector.
"We can no longer continue to relegate the important sector of the economy to the background when we are aspiring to be among the top world economies. It is saddening to note that education has received low priority and attention both at the national and state levels over the years. Little wonder why we are bedevilled with the various crises we experience in the country today," CSACEFA stated.
The coalition listed the challenges confronting the education sector in Nigeria today to include insecurity, poor finance, abysmal teacher development and poor learning environment.
In addition to CSACEFA, a non- governmental organization known as Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) had in December 2017 launched an innovative data-driven project to track funds earmarked for the provision of Universal Basic Education (UBE) in Kaduna State.
Ibrahim Zikirullahi, Executive Director of CHRICED gave reasons why the organization chose to focus on UBE funds:
"It provides three years of Early Child Development, and nine years of formal schooling. It is the Federal Government's policy for ensuring every child of school age has access to quality basic education. However, while the problem of inadequate funding has been implicated as one of the reasons for the low quality of service delivery in the Universal Basic Education (UBE), corruption and its damaging effects have derailed the potential of the policy to deliver quality basic education to citizens."
In a 2013 paper published in Jorind titled: The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects, Uche S. Anaduaka of the Department of Science and Environmental Education, University of Abuja and Chinese Okafor of the Department of Science Education, Anambra State University point out some problems/challenges besetting the UBE programme. They include inadequate funding, inaccurate data for planning, lack of enough competent teachers, poor implementation of the New UBE curriculum, poor public enlightenment, poor monitoring /evaluation and poor motivation of teachers.
In a November 2017 report, Premium Times, an online newspaper, reported that, of the N8.6 trillion 2018 Budget, President Muhammadu Buhari's government allocated only 7.04% (translating to N605.8 billion) to education which breakdown is: N435.1 billion for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission.
Some of these monies are lost to corruption. A report by Felix Khanoba of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, published in October 2017 warns that:
"Thousands of physically-challenged children across the country are at risk of missing out on education, as many of the government-run special schools supposed to meet their educational needs are on the verge of collapse. The schools, which were specifically built for persons with physical challenges, including down syndrome, have received N10.6 billion grant from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) within a period of 10 years but have little or nothing on ground to show for it."
Khanoba's report makes reference to a document showing that over N10 billion UBEC funds was disbursed to the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2006 and 2016 to support special education, with little to show for it:
"A recent visit to some of the special education schools located in the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa, Edo and Anambra states revealed a sordid state of affairs. Apart from the commonly identified problems of students not living in decent condition and lacking access to health services or proper feeding, most of the schools' structures could easily be mistaken for abandoned homes left behind by the nation's former colonial masters. In one of the schools, Special School for Physically Challenged, Umuchu, Anambra State, there were no good structures. The only major proofs of the presence of a school were a dusty signboard and obsolete blackboards hanging on dilapidated open rooms that serve as classrooms."
It is the same for the issue of procurement and budget for which CSACEFA in September 2017 organized a workshop for CSACEFA state coordinators and CSOs in the northern part of the country on advocacy, communication, monitoring and evaluation and budget. Report on the event which held in Kaduna State, states:
"Participants were also trained on monitoring and evaluation; the training took participants round the definition of monitoring as a systematic and continuous collection, of analysis and use of information for management control and decision-making. The moderator stated that monitoring is done to check the indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds. On the other hand, it was explained that evaluation is the assessment of an ongoing or completed project, programme or policy, design, implementation and results. It was also highlighted that monitoring is done on a daily basis while evaluation is done on a periodic basis; the result chain process was explained and guided the participants on how to properly capture data collected in a report.... The participants also learn the four ways to monitor and track a budget."
However, some of the CSOs themselves are not immune from challenges. An "in-depth capacity assessment" of eight CSOs in Kaduna State by Iliya Ambi and Dr. Mustapha Gwadabe published in December 2009 states that:
"Baseline situation of the assessed CSOs shows that there were 13 issues for capacity development/support of the CSOs with more than 50% of these issues being related to internal management and programme issues. These issues range from internal, programme and external relationships. These were; vision, mission and value statements not clearly articulated; ineffective board, weak financial management systems, inadequate personnel policy, communication flow, weak monitoring & evaluation system as well as programming skills. Strategically, others were strengthening the existing skills, knowledge base of CSOs on educational policies, advocacy, gender, inclusive participation, the concept of voice and accountability within a wider state educational framework for effective delivery of education services."
Lack of synergy
A 2009 report by Wale Samuel and Ignatius Agu for the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) titled: Mapping of Civil Society Organizations in Lagos State shows the lack of linkage between education-focused CSOs and the Lagos State Government.
Findings reveal that the CSOs' partnership with the Lagos State government is not well documented. According to the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB), Lagos, the only documented evidence of CSO/Government working relationship is the compilation of the list of NGOs intervening in schools and this list was only compiled based on correspondence from the NGOs who report on their intervention to Government:
"Generally, most respondents observed that there was the need for ESSPIN to build the capacity of NGOs on gaps identified in the report especially around areas like work with school-based management committees (SBMC), monitoring & evaluation, budget tracking and education policies. They also called for ESSPIN to support networking activities among NGOs working in the area of education in Lagos State amongst others."
The paper further reveals that:
"Very few NGOs work directly at community level. NGOs who work directly with rural or urban communities account for only 3.1% of those surveyed. The high figure recorded for NGOs with community level outreach is in sharp contrast to the findings on NGOs that are actually located in rural Lagos. This upholds the submission that most Lagos-based NGOs are city dwellers but with only community outreach."
Perhaps, part of the lack of synergy is mistrust and suspicion between government agencies and the CSOs. This was pointed out by Musa Umar of the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at a recent education workshop organized by the Development Research Project Centre (DRPC). While noting that government cannot handle education alone, and that NGOs are necessary to complement the efforts of government, Umar says their work is hampered by a silent mistrust between both parties.
Using OGAV's experience as an example, Kolade says: "The challenges are more at the Ministry level than the district. The District is directly involved with the schools and so they appreciate the values added to the lives of the students thus making them a lifelong learner."
Knocks for CSOs in Nigeria
Despite the important role CSOs play in monitoring and building capacity in the education sector in Nigeria, some of them have been criticized in recent times for paying more attention to the monetary or personal gains rather than humanitarian concern.
In a 2013 article titled: Eight Challenges for Civil Society, Brian Pratt argues that the expansion of privatization of welfare, health and education globally has led to new entrants from the private sector. He says:
"International aid has seen a similar process, with companies branching out from their comfort zones of finance and construction into civil society, education, health, and rural development – with some even learning how to masquerade as ersatz civil society groups to project a cuddly image. There will be more manoeuvring between NGOs and official aid agencies as we close in on 2015, when for many development goals will be reviewed and revised."
A 2014 report entitled: The Two Main Challenges Facing African Civil Society Organisations, (Centre for International Private Enterprise), Ryan Musser points out that "Civil society organizations often struggle with a dependency on donor funding which hinders sustainability, distracts from their missions, and encourages a short-term strategy of chasing funds. As organizations face a global decline in donor funding, the issues of dependency and unsustainability only grow in importance."
It further notes that "USAID's most recent CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa found that "difficult economic environments due to the global financial crisis impacted CSO resource availability in almost all of the countries" included in the index. In an effort to ensure financial stability, organizations have a tendency to focus their energy and attention on finding more funding rather than focusing on implementing their mission.
Lars Benson advises that CSOs need to "avoid mission creep and resist seeking pots of gold."
Bulama Abiso, chairman of the Borno State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), at an event organized by the Kano-based Development Research Project Centre (DRPC) in September 2017 said that the NGOs in Borno State are not coordinated and their activities overlap one another, making it difficult for education authorities to know who to deal with, when and how. On the issue of budgeting, Abiso urged NGOs to be specific about their aims and what cause they want to support. He pointed out that when the NGOs identify what they want to achieve, it will be easier for local authorities to key into their agenda.
As part of his submission at the event, Abdullahi Hudu, Permanent Secretary, Jigawa State Ministry of Education said the major challenges government face while working with NGOs and CSOs is sustainability and timing.
The event drew various education stakeholders and organizations like the Girl-Child Concern, Centre for Girls Education, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, The Education Partnership (TEP), Malala Foundation and Ford Foundation.
Jaye Gaskia, Chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria
Plot to clip CSOs' wings
The National Assembly seeks to clip the wings of civil society organizations in Nigeria through a bill proposed by Umar Buba Jibril, Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Part of Jubril's argument for the introduction of the bill is the funding enjoyed by some CSOs from international donors which he says are not well accounted for. He believes that the bill will checkmate the excesses of CSOs and help to promote probity and accountability within the civil society sector.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Jibril, said:
"NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) are voluntary organizations that are registered to partner government at all levels to fill gaps wherever they exist. They are supposed to be partners in progress with the government; therefore, the need for a commission to serve this purpose arises.
Secondly and naturally for them to carry out their activities, the NGOs and CSOs solicit for funds from all over the world and collect billions of naira on behalf of Nigerians. Thirdly, they recruit expatriates to help them run their activities in the country with lots of abuses.
However, recent developments have shown that some people registered NGOs, solicited for funds and disappeared. That happened recently in the North East...
The NGOs bill therefore is primarily to set up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interests of Nigerians. In addition it is to ensure transparency and accountability in the ways and manners the NGOs collect moneys and use them for Nigerians."
But the move is not well received by many Nigerians, especially civil society groups who say it is meant to intimidate the leadership of CSOs.
Jaye Gaskia, Chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria, described the bill as toxic, saying it is a calculated attempt by the government to stifle freedom of speech and portends a great threat to the hard earned democracy in Nigeria.
Funding of CSOs
The evidence that CSOs receive grants from foreign organizations is available in a recent work, Civil Society Organization Consolidation Fund Grant Manual which is a joint initiative of the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria funded by the Department of International Development (DFID). On page 7 is the declaration that "ESSPIN will provide CSO Consolidation Grants for a period of 14 months to a maximum value of NGN 293, 487,425 (equivalent to Sterling Pounds 1,048,000). ESSPIN will disburse the funds to CSOs across the six ESSPIN states on a tranche basis." And while "CSOs will receive grant funds from ESSPIN periodically in tranches based on plans and budgets for the period; disbursements are scheduled for June 2015, September 2015, January 2016 and May 2016."
However, "Expenditure/Retirements during the previous tranche and remaining grant balances held by the CSOs shall be remitted to ESSPIN's coffers as soon as retirements are made with the use of Under-spent Remittance Form." In regards to first tranche, "payments will be made to the CSOs on application of the Grant, signed contract and MoU and upon being approved by ESSPIN's Management," and "Subsequent tranche payments to CSOs will be made subject to proper use and reporting (Financials and Narratives) of the previous quarter disbursement and remittance of any under-spent funds."
The Civil Society Organization Consolidation Fund Grant Manual describes how beneficiaries are selected. It points out that due diligence was "conducted on 58 CSOs within the 6 ESSPIN-supported states of Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, and Lagos," and that "in line with DFID's due diligence framework requirements, CSOs were assessed for risk in five key areas: Governance and control, ability to deliver, financial stability, monitoring & evaluation and external relations."
Part of the process was for them to complete a questionnaire and provide supporting documentation. Risks were measured against a standard benchmark for the CSOs and ESSPIN required that CSOs achieve an overall risk rating of low or medium in order to qualify to receive grant.
Fifty seven CSOs in some states met the due diligence requirements and were selected. They include Enugu-based CSOs like Youth Education on Human Right & Civic Responsibilities (YEHRCR), Raise a Child Today Initiative (RACTI), Economic Empowerment & Development Initiative (EEDI), Agents of Communication and Development (ACODE), Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP), Youth Resource Development Education & Leadership (YORDEL), and Poverty in Africa Alternative (POVINAA).
The successful ones in Jigawa are Gadawur Youth Forum (GYF), Rural Education Foundation (REF), Hadejia Development Circle (HDC), Kamala Health and Education Development Initiative (KAHDEV), Gumel Youth Movement (GYM) and Society for Community Health Awareness and Mobilisation (SOCHAM). Others are Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Maranda Development Association (MDA).
In Kaduna State, there are twelve beneficiaries. They are: Hope for the Village Child Foundation, Millennium Hope Programme, ABANTU for Development, Grant AID for Widows, Orphans and Needy Foundation (GAWON Foundation), Lifeline Education Development Resources Centre, Gender Awareness Trust (GAT), JEBI Educational Services Ltd, Youth Team in Action Supporting Community Initiated Development (YOTASCID), Fantsuam Foundation, Women of Vision Development Initiative (WVDI), Support Health and Education (SHED).
In Kano State, the successful ones include: Neighbourhood Education Committee (NEC), Basic Education Association (BEA), Citizens Council for Public Education (CCPE), Federation of Muslim Women Association (FOMWAN) Global Youth and Women Support Initiative (GLOYWSI), Support for Women and Teenage Children (SWATCH). Others include Turaki Educational Consultancy Services ltd., InuwarJa'maar Kano (KANO FORUM), Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training (Mambayya House), Community Development Initiative (CDI), Magajin Malam Educational Services.
Kwara State beneficiaries are: Community Development Initiative (CDI), Centre for Appropriate Technology for Rural Women (CAPTEC), Hilltop Foundation, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Living Care Community Development Foundation (LCCDF), Royal Health Heritage Foundation (RHHF), Womankind Family Enhancement Initiative (WOKFEI), and Integrity Mission.
The funds also extended to Lagos State, and the selected CSOs include: Quality of Life Initiative, Health and Sustainable Development Association of Nigeria (HESDAN), Linking the Youth Together of Nigeria Exchange (LYNX), Organization for Non-Formal Education Foundation (ONEF). Others are Women Protection Organization (WOPO), Talent Plus Resources International (TRI), Defence for Children International (DCI), Development Support Institute (DSI), Centre for Health Development & Communication (CHEDCOM).
The way forward
For Nigeria to attain SDG-4, Mr. Kabir Alihu, National Moderator, CSACEFA believes there is need to improve the partnership between the government and CSOs to ensure proper accountability for education budget. "We should make education budget more transparent, more inclusive of the Civil Society Organizations and NGOs. By so doing, it will make the government accountable on what whatever they are meant to do,'' he said.
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