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Policy Analysis: Universal Basic Education Act, Nigeria


The Universal Basic Education (UBE) was first introduced in 1999, but the Act was passed in 2004. It was noted that implementation started in 1999, but the progress was cut short by lack of enabling law, which the 2004 acts provided. The UBE was similar to the 1976 Universal Primary Education (UPE), which provides access to compulsory and free six years of primary schooling. This was due to the 6-3-3-4 educational system that ran during the period, six years of primary school, three years in junior secondary school, three years in senior secondary school and four years at the University. The Universal Basic Education seems like an extension of the Universal Primary Education; however, the UBE act includes that it is compulsory and free for all school-aged children to complete nine years of basic education, that is six years of primary schooling and automatic transition into three years junior secondary school, which supposedly makes provision for Early childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) (see About page, Universal Basic Education Commission). I suppose this is problematic as early childhood care should precede primary education and be part of the pre-primary education strategy. The Act provided that parents must take responsibility for enrolling their children into public primary and junior secondary schools. Furthermore, according to the UBE act, the sole responsibility of basic education in the state and local government. Although, the federal government intervenes by providing the consolidated revenue fund. The consolidated revenue fund is the main bank of the federal government. All government income and revenue are paid into this account, meaning that this is where all government expenditure comes from, and 2% of that revenue is directed towards supporting state education. More so, “the Act also provides for the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to coordinate the implementation of the programme at the states and local government through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) of each State and the Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs).” (ibid). I will analyze this policy using the Sen (1999) capability approach (See Walker and Unterhalther, 2007). Walker and Unterhalter (2007:4) argued that “capabilities are the potential to achieve functionings”. So does the state and local government have the capabilities to implement universal basic education? And do parents also possess the capabilities to support the implementation of universal basic education? I will focus my analysis on counterpart funding and its implication. I will also look at the ability of state and local governments to implement Universal Basic Education and finally examine the role of parents in its implementation.

Counterpart Funding, the Consolidated Revenue Funds and States Capability

The counterpart funding is the States contribution to education development and running of education projects in the States. For States to access the 2% of the consolidated revenue fund, they need to contribute 50% to the education project they want the federal government to fund. Then, the federal government provides the additional funding. According to the Universal Basic Education Act, the other 50% the federal government provides is called the “block grant” (see Universal Basic Education Commission). My question now is, do all states have the capacity to commit 50% to access this fund? I believe some states possess lower revenue models, which may be hard for them to set a budget for the 50%. So I will provide that the social justice approach has to be looked upon to determine if all states need to contribute to the 50% (see Tikly and Barett, 2013). I will suggest that maybe for some states, it has to be 30% or full 100% funding, depending on the educational challenges and revenue capacity of each State. More so, I will suggest that states also need to look out for localized solutions and the UBE providing an avenue or approach to make that happen. A great strategy could be adopting community learning centres to improve educational outcomes of out-of-school children and using funding and community resources to optimize educational outcomes (see Akyeampong, 2006). Community Learning Centres are owned and run by nonprofits and community members to provide basic and vocational education. More importantly, to improve literacy and numeracy skills of children to enable them to transition into formal public schools.


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Role of Parents

The universal basic education act promulgated that parents are responsible for the basic education of their wards. While this serves to engage parents in supporting basic education, I found this aspect of the Act problematic and questionable. For instance, erred parents who failed to send their wards to school are meant to pay a fine up to #2000 Naira. In another case, they will be fined 10,000 Naira or serve a month to 3 months imprisonment, depending on the number of convictions. I can argue that I have never seen someone who has been convicted. Likewise, the accountability system put in place to monitor parents has been lacking. I will also argue that this is a weak policy, as I think threatening citizens with imprisonment for not choosing to send their kids to school is not feasible. For example, we have households who live on less than $1 a day, and the incentives of going to the farm are higher than sending their kids to school, or the incentives of getting girls married are higher than sending them to school. As a policy discourse (Ball, 1993), the applicability of this Act to different households can be contested. Policy as a discourse reflects the interest of a policy and actors involved in the production of knowledge and truth5. For example, some parents could even afford the fees as they understand that attending schools offers no benefits. So, I will suggest strong advocacy around education importance, and aside from this, I think creating a conducive environment to learn. This could serve as an incentive. Imagining complementing programs such as school feeding programs with other alternative learning like 21st-century vocational training where children learn coding, entrepreneurship etc. More importantly, removing barriers to education. Some children trek distances to school, so provide necessary transportation means and strengthen the security system in schools. It is no longer news that children are kidnapped from schools. So, before we push for implementation or design a policy, we need to consider its application and implication of such policies.


I will argue that the Universal Basic Education Act application needs to be critically analyzed. It needs to reflect the capabilities of each State to run educational projects and drive educational development as states capacity, or revenue models are different. The 50% counterpart funding should not be used as the yardstick for all states to access federal government block grants. The social justice approach should be used to determine what States need to contribute 50% and what States need not contribute at all. More so, provision should be made by the UBE act to enable states to implement alternative education to improve educational access in the states. For example, the States exploring partnerships with the likes of Teach for Nigeria, where young people are deployed to public primary schools in rural communities to teach. Adopting such a process would reduce the cost Government spend on recruitment and training and take advantage of the youth demography. Ultimately, I will suggest that parents should not be punished for not sending their kids to school; instead, the government should provide the incentives that allow parents to want to send their kids to school.


2. Walker, M., & Unterhalter, E. (2007). The capability approach: Its potential for work in education. In Amartya Sen’s capability approach and social justice in education (pp. 1-18). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

3. Tikly, L., & Barrett, A. M. (2013). Education quality and social justice in the global south. Education quality and social justice in the global south. Challenges for policy, practice and research, 11-24.

4. Akyeampong, A. K. (2006). Extending basic education to out-of-school children in Northern Ghana: what can multigrade schooling. In Education for All and Multigrade Teaching (pp. 215-238). Springer, Dordrecht.

5. Ball, S. J. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. The Australian Journal of Education Studies, 13(2), 10-17.

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