By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi
About 99 percent of the 14,000 primary school teachers in Lagos state are qualified, while those constituting the remaining one percent, who still have the traditional Grade II certificate, will retire from the system within the next two years, according to the Executive Chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Gbolahan Khadijat Daodu.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Intellectual in Lagos recently, Daodu rejected the notion being expressed in certain quarters that the Lagos State government does not provide enough money for basic education, insisting that while there was room for improvement, the state government has been doing the needful.
She gave the board’s yearly overhead costs, including the training of teachers as N1.19 billion and capital allocation as N846 million. “All of this does not include our counterpart funds,” she added quickly. “If the federal government releases N1 billion, we (also) release N1 billion (counterpart funds). Whatever they (federal government) release, we have to match it.”
Although Daodu agreed that a larger chunk of the budgets at the national, state and local council levels should to be allocated to the education sector, she however blamed the current seemingly low allocation by the states on the percentage of the national wealth being retained by the federal government.
Her words: “What makes it worse for the states and local councils is that the percentage of funds that is given to the federal government, that is at the disposal of the federal government, is unduly lopsided and at the detriment of development at the state and local government levels. The truth must be told. They are just playing politics with it. Three quarters of the money with the federal government need not be with the federal government. It should be with the states and the local governments. There is need for a review of the present allocation system, because when the chips are down, that is what is affecting everybody.”
She said one of the significant steps already taken by the Lagos State government to improve its basic education sub – sector, was to give priority to teacher training. According to her, having realized that infrastructure alone could not give the schools the desired quality, “a lot of money has been invested to improve teachers’ capacity.”
She explained: “As far back as 2010, we conducted the Teachers’ Development Needs Assessment with the technical support of ESSPIN for all teachers, not only in primary schools, but also in junior secondary schools. That was done to determine if there is any deficiency in their ability to teach. And without making public the outcome of that exercise, we just went ahead and designed appropriate skill enhancement capacity building programmes and courses, with the support of ESSPIN for our teachers and huge sums of money have been spent on that on a yearly basis.
“ESSPIN started just in 100 schools as a pilot scheme and before they started it, they told us we must partner with them and make sure that we can cascade into the other schools. The following year, we added 500 schools and by the third year, we now covered all our schools. We had about 1400 primary schools then, but right now, there are 1700 schools.
“All the teachers, head teachers and assistant head teachers have, within the last three to four years, had to undergo series of training in leadership, management of their schools, pedagogical skills, subjects and what have you, and we have been supported by UBEC.
“Actually, they (UBEC) give some money to each SUBEB within the federation for this, but specifically, we didn’t give it out to external consultants to do. Rather, through the ESSPIN supported programme, we used our in-house trained officers, because the whole programme is called School Improvement Programme (SIP) and about 22 of them were selected from secondary schools and tertiary institutions. They sat for examinations, qualified, were trained by the technical experts from the United Kingdom and they too became master trainers. They are the ones who have been training all of these teachers. So, a lot of money is spent on that on a yearly basis.”
Daodu also noted that the state government had since 2009, supplied instructional materials (textbooks) in four core subjects – Mathematics, English Language, Introduction to Technology and Science in all public primary schools. “It’s an ongoing thing and we expect that parents will support with some other textbooks,” she added.
Besides, she revealed that towards the end of last year, the state government also purchased ICT textbooks for pupils in primary 4 – 6, and the Yoruba alphabet for those in primary 1 – 3. “A large quantity was supplied. Evans Nigeria Limited supplied the ICT books. Books on three subjects were purchased, running into millions of naira. Almost N35 million was spent on the ICT books supplied by Evan and almost N7.9 million was spent to purchase Yoruba books for the primary schools,” she said.
In addition, she said the state government, with the support of the Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), has supplied lesson notes to teachers teaching primary 1 to 3, to guide them on the best modern techniques to deliver lessons to the children.
But one of the major challenges facing her board, she told the magazine, “is the fact that we have a large number of schools that need attention, but there aren’t sufficient funds.” Besides, “the influx of people into the state also makes nonsense of our planning purposes.” Giving further clarification, Daodu said there wasn’t much problem at the primary level, even though some areas still have hitches, in terms of over-population.
She averred: “The challenge at the Junior Secondary level is more of population, not enough classrooms and all that. Although the law says SUBEB should be handling junior secondary schools, but we don’t. There is another law that gave the mandate to the Tutor General, because the state is divided into six education districts, so each Tutor General/Permanent Secretary is in charge of the junior and senior secondary schools in the state.”