Ever imagine a man building a house without a foundation? Though by their nature, foundations are not necessarily meant to be attractive, but in most cases are very expensive. Besides, a foundation is buried with the mud, not minding its vital roles in sustaining an edifice. The primary/ nursery education is the basic foundation of a man’s educational pursuits.
Section 2C of the National Policy on Education describes primary education as the education given to children aged 6 to12 years. It further acknowledged that, since the rest of education system is built upon it, the primary education is vital to the success of the whole education system.
Primary education is foundational to every formal education system the world over. It is believed that at this level every child at the age of six years should be admitted to the primary school for a six-year education. Primary education does not only lay foundation of other levels of education but it is the fulcrum of the sociopolitical and economic advancement of any nation, Nigeria inclusive.
The quality of education in a country no doubt is fundamental to its national development. Consequently, a school of thought has it that primary education is the bedrock of a child’s development while a child’s development cumulates to national development.
Primary education ordinarily is meant to provide the learner with opportunities to: acquire literacy, numeracy, creativity and communication skills. Besides, children are to enjoy learning and develop desire to continue learning, and harness the ability for critical thinking and logical judgment.
The truth is that no matter how magnificent a building may seem or how expensive it may be, if it lacks solid foundation, it is doomed to collapse. It may not only collapse, causing economic waste, but may result to the death of its occupants. Likewise primary education, if the foundation is faulty, then the structure is in great danger.
Consequently, funding is vital to achieving endearing education system at the primary level.
Wahab Alawiye-King, the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), agrees to this fact that finance is very essential to running a successful education system at any level, primary education inclusive.
However, he explained that that while funding is very essential to education, funds and resources management should also be of paramount essence.
“The issue of funding of education to me is subjective, in the sense that there is little correlation between funding and management of the funds.
“There are actually some competing issues between provision and management of the funds provided. There has never been any time funds provided are said to be enough; hence, it is more about usage of what is provided. The management aspect is more important,” he said.
There is however, no clear up-to-date and comprehensive information available on spending on primary education, and how actual spending deviates substantially from planned spending. But it is a clear fact that overall actual level of public spending on education is relatively low.
Professor Babs Fafunwa, a former Minister of Education, had earlier agitated that 70 per cent of education budget should be allocated to primary education, emphasizing that a system that neglects primary education, which is the very foundation of the entire educational system will not have good secondary or good university education, and neither its economy, nor its people will progress, and as a result poverty, ignorance and disease will envelop the people..
The Universal Basic Education ordinarily was made to cover non-literate Nigerians who make up 45 per cent of our population in addition to all children of school age which represents another 20 per cent of the population making a total of about 70 per cent of Nigerian’s population.
The establishment of national education fund in 1988 to allocate fund to State Primary Education Boards of all the states of the federation and its affiliate agencies, no doubt brought about a lot of changes in the primary education funding policy. Instead of deducting the fund needed for primary education administration directly from the Federal Government accounts there was a separate body and purse meant to provide the fund. The establishment of this fund brought about major lapses in financing of primary education..
Consequently, the Federal Government proportion of primary education budget for both capital and recurrent allocations was caused to fall from 21 per cent to 13 per cent in 1988, and total capital allocations from 7 per cent to 4 per cent over the same period.
A World Bank publication in 1990 showed that there was a progressive withdrawal of Federal Government financing of primary education throughout the early and mid 1980s.
Since these periods, primary school education has been under serious financial pressure and unstable governance. The situation was made worse with the additional challenges of inadequate supply of human and material resources, over-crowded classrooms in urban schools, poor maintenance, poor supervision and poor learning environment across the nation.
Likewise, while primary education administration is being control by the State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) of the states in which the schools exist, the funding is the responsibility of the Federal, State, and the Local Governments. This without any iota of doubt affects the inputs and outputs of the system adversely.
It is obvious that the Nigeria government has good intentions to fulfill primary education purpose, as the National Policy on Education stated its objectives. But it seems to have lost focus on its quest to achieving the intended objectives.
In the pre-independence era, primary education were effectively managed by the missionaries and voluntary agencies with the regional government also effectively shouldering the responsibilities of funding and managing their schools. But unfortunately, the reverse is the case now.
A critical survey of the situation of things across many states in Nigeria reveals there are shortages of classroom space, classes are offered in the open air and are subjected to all problems associated with outdoor teaching such as weather fluctuations leading to class cancellations and lack of quality instruction.
Local Education Authority (LEA), usually has the greatest authority to create, implement, and enforce the primary education aspect of the Educational Policy even though the Federal and state governments may as it were supply some funding, and may direct some of the required curricula.
Education in Nigeria is overseen by the Ministry of Education. Local authorities take responsibility for implementing state-controlled policy regarding public education and state schools. The education system is divided into Kindergarten, Primary education, Secondary education and Tertiary education.
The findings indicate that lack of educational facilities; insufficient qualified staff; poor supervision and management; political interference; unattractive salaries packages for primary teachers; unsatisfactory evaluation and examination system; poor curricula; inadequate budget for education; corruption, etc are traceable to either poor funding or management of the funds provided.
During the Colonial era in Nigeria, primary education, with the few government schools, was directly administered and managed by local education authorities.
In the North, the public primary schools were managed by native authorities and the missionary voluntary agencies managed their own schools.
In the South, the government primary schools were managed by the colonial government; while the mission/voluntary agencies schools, though were granted aid, were managed by the missions.
Later Local Government Education Authorities were established in the North to replace the native authorities. The local education authorities were indeed parastatals of the ministry of education and they were charged with primary schools under their jurisdiction.
Thus, the management of primary education in the North was under the supervision of the ministry of education. It is also to be noted that as soon as the local government authorities was established their finance were separated from the coffers of the native authorities, their sources of revenue include: subventions from the native authorities, state government grants and school fees where applicable
With the introduction of free education in the South- Western region and South- Eastern region in 1955, there was an increase in primary school enrolment and consequently this led to student over-population and inadequate funding and poor management.
The development of primary education in Nigeria was guided by the Ashby Commission’s recommendations of 1960, which among other things advocated for careful planning, budgeting, coordination and control in order to ensure a healthy relationship between resource availability and educational expansion.
The Federal Government, in 1976, launched the nationwide Universal Primary Education (UPE) system in line with the UNESCO Convention. This was to be free and compulsory as from the year 1980 while the Federal Government will fund all the cost of primary education throughout the country.
Particularly, in that same year the Federal Government introduced a scheme of local government reform. Consequently this led to the local education authorities in the Northern states becoming departments of local government authorities; however, this removed both the supervisory control of the ministry of education and the separate accounting system of the local government authorities. Thus with this reform a specific body was made responsible for the effective management and control of primary education in the Northern states.
Probably, it was believed that local government will continue to provide manually at least for the provision of teaching materials in the main time; the assumption was that the state governments will continue to pay relatively the retiring benefits of the primary school staff.
In 1988 the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC) was established with Decree 31 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to manage the affairs of primary education. It was later scrapped by the Federal Government under the provision of Decree 2 and 3 of 1991 which rested the full responsibility of the administration of primary education in the hand of local government with the degree No. 96 of 25th August, 1993 the National Primary Education Board (NPEB) and Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) were once again in control. Local Government Education Authority was assigned with the day to day administration of primary schools in their areas of jurisdiction.
While, the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) was charged with administration of primary school in the state. The local government councils appoint education secretaries who were to report directly to the SPEBS. The introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) nationwide in 1976 experienced problem of underestimation of about 30% of the turn-up number of the children enrolment, acute shortage of classroom space or overcrowded classrooms, shortage of teachers and equipment.
This probably could be due to the neglect and/or lack of maintenance as a result of the economic depression in the country then. Hence, it was difficult for government to effectively manage the system. This inability of the government to effectively run primary school made many people to agitate for the return of school to the missionaries and other voluntary agencies. Besides, it brought the emergence of many private primary schools which tends to perform better than public primary schools in Nigeria
With the 1976 local government reform and 1979 federal constitution, the provision and maintenance of primary education came under the statutory delegation of local government councils. In order to assist local government councils in achieving this task, the Local Government Councils Education Authorities were established in each local government councils and as subsidiaries of National Primary Education Commission under decree 31 of 1988, and charged with several responsibilities related to primary education management and financing.
Since 5 May 2010, the terms local education authority and children’s services authority have been repealed and replaced by the single term ‘local authority’ in both primary and secondary legislation.
The management of primary education in Nigeria has been assigned to various tiers of governments and commissions. In other words, it has gone through different experimentations. Even now in the present Universal Basic Education programme, the responsibilities of administration and financing primary education are still shared among the three tiers of government. It is very important for the Nigerian government to find a permanent solution to the problem of instability in the control and management of primary school education, therefore the government should be specific in its provision or declare in clear terms the legislative list upon which the control and management of primary education system is placed. Without mincing words, the management of primary education by the Local Government is a very big task that needs serious commitment before much could be achieved.
.The intervention of Federal Government is needed to rescue public primary education, which is the hope of the poor in giving education to their children, from total collapse. More so, the Federal Government should establish a minimum standard requirement for both the public and private primary school.
It could be suggested that the control and management of primary school education in Nigeria should be the joint responsibility of both Federal and Local Governments. The local government should be involved because it is the government closer to the grassroots with less responsibility on education administration. While Federal Government overall monitoring and funding is necessary in order to maintain a uniform standard of primary education throughout the country. Also, it is the government failure to provide qualitative primary education as a result of poor management and funding that necessitate increased privatization of primary education system in Nigeria.