MPs speak up for education in Nigeria

Following a roundtable meeting on ‘Engaging the community in delivering education for all: the case of Nigeria’ held by the APPGs on Global Education for All and on Nigeria in December, three MPs have tabled parliamentary questions asking the government about their support to education in Nigeria.

Nigeria has the largest number of out of school children of any country in the world – over 8 million according to the latest figures. The UK Department for International Development currently provides support to education in Nigeria through the ‘Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria’ (ESSPIN), which is largely managed through NGOs. There is a big focus on girls’ education, which is a particular issue in large areas of northern Nigeria, and the programme also aims to increase community participation in education.

Mark Williams MP

Mark Williams MP

Two of the questions were tabled by Vice-Chairs of the APPG on Global Education for All, Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion, and Fiona O’Donnell, MP for East Lothian. The third question was tabled by Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith and a Labour Shadow Minister for International Development.

Mark William’s question is:

“To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what discussions his Department has held with the Nigerian government on UK support for the Nigerian education sector; and if he will make a statement.”

Fiona O'Donnell MP

Fiona O'Donnell MP

Fiona asked:

“If his Department will provide support for steps to reinstate the education sector Community Accountability and Transparency Initiative in Nigeria.”

The Community Accountability and Transparency Initiative is a programme established by former Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili to increase transparency in the education sector by publishing budgets, which allowed communities to hold their politicians to account for actually delivering the funding that was allocated. Unfortunately the initiative ran out of money and has not been operational over the last year. Civil society organisations within Nigeria are currently trying to re-establish the initiative, using external funding to ensure its sustainability.

Mark Lazarowicz MP

Mark Lazarowicz MP

Mark Lazarowicz asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what plans his Department has to increase the geographical coverage of its Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria.”

So far only Fiona O’Donnell’s question has been answered. Yesterday Minister of State for International Development Stephen O’Brien MP said:

“The Department for International Development (DFID) is willing to consider supporting any reinstatement of the Community Accountability and Transparency Initiative (CATI) in Nigeria. This would be dependent on a request and support from the Nigerian Government. The principles of accountability and transparency are fully supported by DFID, and we are working with Nigerian officials to promote these principles. DFID is supporting community based management committees to improve transparent use of resources at school level, as part of an effort to strengthen management of the education sector as a whole.

This is excellent news. Our Nigerian partners are currently working to get the Nigerian government on board with the initiative, and we hope to see progress over the next few months.

The other questions are due to be answered shortly, and we very much look forward to hearing more about the UK government’s plans to support the Nigerian education sector, which is so crucial to achieving Millennium Development Goal 2 on universal primary education.

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5 responses to “MPs speak up for education in Nigeria

  1. Margaret Ya'u

    The need to reactivate CATI from slumber is a matter of urgency, moreso that the current government is putting in place various strategies to rebuild the Nigerian education sector from its near collapse. Community participation that can be guaranteed by effective implementation of CATI will ensure sustainability of recent interventions introduced by the federal government to create enabling environment for its citizens.
    President Goodluck Jonathan recently inaugurated the presidential task team on education to refocus and restructure the educational system in the country. This is following a presidential stakeholders’ summit on education convened October 2010.
    Another attempt is the signing of the Employees Compensation Act that will provide the protection that all workers including teachers should be entitled to in their workplaces, and advised all employers to protect their workers.

  2. The ideal setting would be for the Community Accountability Transparency Initiative (CATI) to be anchored by the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All CSACEFA, a coalition of over 500 members NGO in Nigeria well spread across Nigeria.

    CATI of course would encourage popular participation and also give communities ownership of the education process. Also, CATI would get civil society groups and communities involved in holding the Federal and State Governments accountable and ensure that communities take ownership and responsibility for the falling standards in schools especially through the School Based Management Committees (SBMCs).

    Main objectives of CATI are as follows: To improve the quality of participation of SBMC members and CSOs in local governance in Local Government Areas thereby improving access and citizens’ participation in governance at the local level. To reduce the rabid mismanagement and misappropriations of education intervention funds in community schools in Local Government Areas thereby improving learning achievement and outcome in schools. To improve downward and upward accountability in the utilization of education intervention funds in community schools thereby enhancing infrastructural development at the local level. To increase state and national level awareness on the dangers of mismanagement of public funds and the way out through media campaign.

  3. James Gala

    It is quite clear that government alone cannot reactivate CATI with any meaningful intent; if government which started it could not sustain the initiative, it can well be presumed that government cannot do it alone! Fundamentally, the participation of communities is imperative if CATI is to succeed. I recall in the ’60s and ’70s when communities actually owned and managed schools which produced a core of well educated elites that now occupy key positions in both public and private sector ventures; communities thoroughly owned the initiatives.

    Indeed, the zeal still remains high amongst communities to take active part in managing the schools within their territories; but the wherewithal has since gone with with the wind, as elected and appointed political office holders have betrayed the trust reposed in them by the people’s mandate. The communities need to be reawakened to the fact that only they can meaningfully hold these office holders to account. A coalition as widely spread as CSACEFA and initiatives such as the Northern Education Initiative (NEI), as well as membership-based NGOs such as Community Action for Popular Participation, CAPP, among others, are doing some great work, no doubt, but the best shot would be to awaken the communities and charge them with the responsibility to track government budget and expenditure in education, hold their elected and appointed office holders accountable and at the same time ensure that teachers do not abandon their responsibilities to their pupils/students, and sacrifice the future of Nigeria on the platter of poverty; I mean, in many communities, you will find a school, quite alright, but you are likely to find that infrastructure is dilapidated, and that there are only 2 teachers: the Head Teacher (who often comes in only 2-3 times a week) and the Teacher handling Religious Knowledge (who most likely would be the local Imam or Evangelist!).

    A look at the typical Nigerian communities will reveal clearly that the community folk a far better organized than governments at all tiers. Community Foundations and CBOs abound, but lack the ability to take on their elected/appointed officials; poverty levels are not helping matters here. This must change! The work which community foundations, etc, are doing in liu of government can only be valued when one looks at the poverty index and sees what sacrifices community members are often willing to make in order to make their schools work. One only needs to visit a community during annual cultural festivals, and you are left in no doubt as to the positive energy vibrating amongst these mostly rural folk. This energy needs harnessing.

    The focus for future funding of Nigeria’s education sector, be it from governments in the country, indigenous Foundations and grantmaking institutions, or from foreign donor agencies must therefore take seriously the need to involve communities as primary partners and not mere beneficiaries of initiatives meant to touch their lives. This way, these communities will totally own the education process, and thoroughly strive to protect and sustain it. It happened before when Community Schools championed education of mostly rural children; it can happen again.

    • The key group that CSACEFA envisage could play a key role in community accountability in the education sector is the School Based Mnagement Committees(SBMCs).If the SBMCs have their capacities built they can as well lead a revolutinary charge in holding the Government accountable and also guarantee a truly bottom up approach to education development in Nigeria.

  4. UPDATE: There are more responses from DFID. We report on these in our new post here.

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