Kwara State again came up for national applause on Tuesday, as the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Basic Education and Services commended the state for the efficient use of basic education grants and the state government’s determination to improve the standard of education.
The commendation came barely one month after UBEC itself said Kwara now stands out for excellent utilisation of the grants — a feat the body observed is a clear departure from its horrible experience with Kwara State in the past when the grants were diverted, resulting in the official blacklist of the state for at least seven years (2013-2019).
The committee specifically applauded Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for quality service delivery seen in the management of the Universal Basic Education Commission matching grants, saying the state deserves a pat on the back for the quality of the schools and other facilities funded from the money so far accessed.
“What we have seen so far in Kwara is of high quality and satisfactory. There is evidence of focus and commitment, and a clear interest in promoting basic education and empowering our children to survive in an increasingly complex technology-driven global system,” Chairman of the committee, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere told reporters on Tuesday in Ilorin.
Flanked by other members of the ad-hoc committee, Ihonvbere was speaking as the committee wrapped its two-day oversight visit to Kwara State to inspect the completed and ongoing UBEC-SUBEB projects.
“I think the best way to appreciate what is going on is to have the proper understanding of how it used to be, and we’ve seen a lot in Kwara.
“It is not always that we find a leadership (like AbdulRazaq) that understands basic education and its value to national growth and development. If the basics—the foundation—is contaminated and corrupted, what it produces can never promote peace, stability, growth, and development anywhere in the world, that is why basic education is very critical,” he stated.
Some schools the committee visited included Ogele LGEA Primary School, Ogele and Otte LGEA Primary School Otte-Oja (both in Asa Local Government area); Sheikh Alimi Junior Secondary School (Ilorin West); Amoyo Junior Secondary School (Ifelodun); Gaa-Akanbi Junior Secondary School (Ilorin South); Shao LGEA Primary School, Shao (Moro); and Adeta UBEC Model Smart School in Ilorin West local government of the State.
Ihonvbere said his committee members were just as impressed as he was about how the projects have been greatly executed in Kwara State, adding that the committee will officially communicate their judgement of the assessment to the Governor and other appropriate quarters as part of its oversight functions.
“As an academic and the Chairman of this committee, and I am sure my members share the same sentiment, we are pleased with the programmes of Kwara State. Some states have collected marching grants from UBEC and have not deployed them to basic education. A few (of the states) have jettisoned the action plans of UBEC; they are doing something else with the money. Some have done wishy-washy works. With time, this Committee will release a list of our observations in various states.
“Without education, you cannot go anywhere. It is not rocket science. And I think Kwara State seems determined to change the narratives. We are pleased about it,” Ihonvbere added.
The professor insisted that efforts will be spared to sanction the states found to have diverted the UBEC grants, including taking steps to retrieve some abandoned facilities the Commission allocated to some defaulting state governments.
According to Ihonvbere, “There are penalties for states where UBEC allocated critical infrastructure to some state governments but were abandoned. We are amending the UBEC Act so that UBEC can retrieve such facilities and put them to public use.
“Secondly, we are looking at ways to compel compliance with the law of the land; a situation whereby states that have not accessed the marching grant or have accessed it but used it wrongly will face some penalties.”
He also hinted that state governments that comply with UBEC’s action plans will be rewarded with more support to serve as an encouragement to do more.
“At the level of the committee, the National Assembly and the UBEC, states that utilized UBEC grants perfectly like Kwara will get additional support as a reward so that it will encourage them to do more.
“I would like to advise state governments to take basic education seriously in their interest. Bulletproof cars, dogs and barbed wire cannot save them from the anger of uneducated, abused and marginalised children in the consequences,” Ihonvbere added.
He commended the management of the State Universal Basic Education Board and their Chairman, Prof Sheu Raheem Adaramaja, for proper monitoring and their insistence on the delivery of quality jobs by contractors.
Other members of the National Assembly Ad-hoc Committee on the oversight visit were: Mayowa Akinfolarin; Bashir Dawudu; Oluyemi Taiwo; Mufutau Egberongbe; Cook Ganiyu Olododo; Sylvester Ogbaga; Usman Abdullahi; Peter Owolasi; and Bukola Oyewo.
UBEC was represented during the tour by Dr Jimmy Equensen and Engr. Yissa Yakubu.
Chairman Kwara SUBEB, Professor Sheu Raheem Adaramaja, explained that the school projects cover renovation, construction, and comprehensive remodelling of various structures across at least 605 public schools in the State, including the provision of furniture, public toilets, and water facilities.
Adaramaja further argued that the turnaround of the education sector under Governor AbdulRazaq has led to an increase in students’ enrolment, decrying how hundreds of classrooms were left dilapidated under the previous administrations.
In his words: In terms of renovation, we have renovated 605 schools as contained in our action plan. The project consists of the construction and comprehensive remodelling of classrooms, and the provision of furniture for teachers and students.
“The situation before was so pathetic that nobody wanted to put their children in public schools. But the story is different now. Enrolment of pupils into government-owned schools has now increased.”
Adaramaja, who conducted the team around the places of their choice, described the Governor as the wisest leader for paying the #7.1billion UBEC counterpart fund to access another N7.1bn with which the government is now fixing public schools.
PTA Chairman for Amoyo Junior Secondary School, Prince Adeyemi Garba, appreciated the government for the work done and how the Amoyo community is given a sense of belonging.
“We have to thank the authorities for remembering Amoyo town. I have now discovered that not only does every child count in the State’s education policy, but every community also counts, and we are grateful,” he added.
Chairman, School Based Management Committee (SBMC) for Shao LGEA school, Elder Adigun Abel, said the choice of Shao primary school for the UBEC’s renovation project was appropriate, given that the whole Shao has no other community school for basic classes.
Adigun lauded the vision of the government in turning around the education sector in Kwara and renovating school structures in their community.
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