Governors divert UBE funds to other selfish purposes -Ezekwesili

By The Citizen

A former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, said on Tuesday in Lagos that some governors used the Universal Basic Education funds political thugs and other mercenaries.

Ezekwesili disclosed this at the third Lagos Education Summit, organised by the Ministry of Education, with the theme, 'Qualitative Education in Lagos State: Raising the Standard'.

She explained that some governors did not use the funds to recruit teachers and do other things needed to boost education, but used the funds for political purposes.

She said, 'When the UBE was inaugurated to increase access to basic education, there was a demand for more teachers in all states of the federation. The Federal Government responded to the challenges by providing funds for recruiting more qualified teachers. At the end, some state governors used the funds for the electioneering in 2007.'

She also blamed the absence of analysis, data and research as the bane of education in the country.

She said the standard of education at the time she was appointed the education minister was not encouraging. She said enrolment was low, while quality of education was below the standard. She added that schools were not well-managed and displayed inequality in terms of gender enrolment.

Ezekwesili said, 'Nigeria accounts for six million out of 36 million school girls that cannot have primary education worldwide. There are about 56 million illiterates in Nigeria. Primary school completion rate ranges between two per cent and 92 per cent, depending on the state.'

She said bureaucracy was also a major hindrance to raising the standard of education in the country.

The former minister added that the overwhelming power of the education minister with respect to decision-making at the unity schools, should give a cause for concern.

She therefore called for intensive and meaningful efforts at developing public schools, adding that more than '65 per cent of Nigerians still depend on publicly funded secondary education. About 75 per cent depend on publicly funded primary education.'

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the government owed a duty to provide better education to those who could not afford private education, adding, 'the time for hard work is now'.

The governor urged teachers in the employment of the state 'to take their jobs seriously. If we do not do what we are doing, we will not have stable electricity. It is the scientists and technologists that can help to generate education. We are not fighting war.'

Others at the summit are former Deputy Governor of the state, Mrs. Adebisi Sosan; Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye; and tutors-general across the state's education districts.