It was a small gesture that was insignificant to many. But when the fruits begin to germinate in the next few years, the youths of our country and the critically important education sector will be the better for it. Indeed the flag off of the distribution of books and instructional materials for basic education schools in the country under the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program by the federal Government is actually a robust attempt to ensure transformation of the critical education sector at its most important level. For it is generally agreed that it is better to catch them young. And the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has started the process of not just catching them young but also nurturing them into maturity with this well thought out program.Not that it would be the first time that government at the centre will decisively intervene to change the fortune of the primary and junior schools in the country.
However this is the most comprehensive in living memory since it touches all schools in the country and it is not designed to be a one off intervention but a systemic and continuing initiative. Architect Namadi Sambo, the Vice president, who performed the flag off on behalf of his boss at the Model Primary School, Maitama, Abuja underscored this much when he said the initiative was carefully designed to bring added value to the education process at its most rudimentary level. As it takes root, it is expected that primary schools pupils in the country will no longer study without the requisite instructional materials which has been the norm in the past.
The initiative in the estimation of the its key driver, Dr Goodluck Jonathan underscores the importance the administration attaches to education as an important component of the transformation agenda. The president rightly sees basic education as providing a very solid foundation for the provision of quality education in the country. The president and his team are doing the right thing and are on the right course. If we miss it at the basic education level, we will continue to clutch at straws at the other levels. We are all agreed that you cannot build something on nothing and those who should know believe that the downward trend in the sector is traceable in part to the neglect of the basic sector in the past. Most of the attempts to rejuvenate the sector past administrations have been concentrated on the secondary and tertiary levels with token intervention at the basic education level which incidentally is the most critical foundation for sustainable growth and development in the education sector. This intervention by the Goodluck Jonathan administration therefore strikes at the very core of the problem besetting the education sector in the country and the process to get it right has simply been kick started. What is more, it is part of the four year strategic plan principally targeted at improving and creating marked sustainable growth in the education sector.
Now that the President has delivered on another critical component of his transformation agenda, it is important for all stakeholders to own the process and deliver on their assigned responsibilities.
This should be politics blind. All states must buy into this vision and ensure the equitable distribution of the materials. Those in charge must not allow bureaucracy to frustrate the process.
This is about the future of the Nigerian Child and it should not be turned into an occasion to score cheap political points or play dirty politics. The process should be well monitored and effective measurements parameters put in place. The collaboration between the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and the 36 States and Abuja must be firmed up to ensure that the promised gains of this all important gesture get to the all targeted pupils. The statement of Mr. President to the effect that, “This three dimension strategy-quality production; equitable distribution; and effective application; are essential steps that must be taken if we are to realize significant benefits from our enormous investment in quality education, over the years” should be the guiding principle for all those involved in the process of getting the books and the instructional materials available to the end users. The process and its implementation should be fine tuned from time to time to ensure that identified lapses are corrected while areas of successes are improved upon.
We expect that with the distribution of English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies and Basic Science and Technology books to primary one and two pupils and Library Resources Materials for Junior Secondary Schools all over the country, the youngsters will be given a head start as they navigate their journey through life. It is a small gesture that will turn out to be a giant leap forward for the education sector in the country before long. There is no doubt that the FGN-UBE intervention will certainly enhance the quality of basic education in the country , put the Nigerian child at an advantage and give the needed fillip to the sector as a whole.
Adebanjo writes from Ijebu Ode and can be reached via [email protected]