On Wednesday RESULTS joined the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Global Education for All and on Nigeria to bring together education experts from various organisations across the globe to discuss ‘Engaging the Community in Delivering Education for All: The Case of Nigeria’. Nigeria is the country with the largest number of out of school children in the world – over 8 million at the last count – and faces significant problems in the education sector. The meeting intended to investigate how the UK is supporting education in Nigeria at present, particularly through ensuring that local communities are engaged with schools and how this could be extended and/or improved in the future.
Eight MPs attended the event, which featured presentations from the Acting Nigeria High Commissioner; Jim Drummond, the Director of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) West and Southern Africa Division; and Margaret Ya’u, a representative of Nigeria’s CSACEFA (the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All) who has been working with RESULTS and the APPG for the last three months as a Commonwealth Fellow. The wealth of expertise in the room from international and local NGOs, academia, private foundations, government and diaspora groups was astounding and produced a very rich conversation.
A general overview of the education situation in Nigeria was painted as a sector that has suffered deplorable neglect, facing the challenge of 8 million children out of school, poor teacher quality, inadequate participation of stakeholders, decaying infrastructure and under-funding. The Nigerian High Commissioner said that the ‘situation is appalling, but not hopeless’. Things are getting better with various interventions from the government, foundations, international development partners and NGOs. He explained that the Nigerian government recently held an education summit in Abuja to develop a strategy going forward for the sector, targeting the year 2015 for the delivery of education for all.
DFID has been working on two programmes in Nigeria: the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) and the Girls Education Programme. Through these programmes, DFID has helped state governments to produce medium-term plans with budgets and to set up a process of getting communities involved in school governance through School Based Management Committees (SBMC). Excitingly, Jim Drummond commented that there may be an opportunity for DFID to fund further work in the Nigerian education sector in the coming years.
A very strong message came out of both presentations and the open discussion that followed, which concluded that in order to see a big improvement in education in Nigeria in the coming years, it is crucial for communities to be engaged and empowered with information about budgets and government commitments, as this allows them to hold their rulers to account for delivering what has been promised. Accountability remains a big problem in Nigeria, and a strengthened civil society is essential to be able to obtain and use information to fight corruption.
Dr David Johnson from the University of Oxford, who has carried out research into accountability mechanisms in the Nigerian education sector, commented that he felt that the Community Accountability and Transparency Initiative (CATI)’s fall into disuse is worrying. CATI was an initiative set up to publish education budgets and to ensure that communities could use them to put pressure on politicians, but it has struggled to find alternative funding after its government funding was discontinued.
Tony Baldry MP, who chaired the meeting, pointed out the timely nature of the session because DFID is currently reviewing all bilateral aid programmes to decide funding priorities over the next few years. He concluded with the question: ‘If DFID were inclined to spend more on education in Nigeria, where would the investment best be made? Where is UK money going to make greatest change?’ The general sense in the room was that support for communities to hold their leaders to account for delivering quality education for all is the best way forward, building on the work already being done within DFID’s current programmes.