UBEC and the Marching Order of Inclusivity with Children of Special Needs

With the vision of leaving no one behind, the Universal Basic Education Commission might just be right on time in nipping the challenges of children with special needs in the bud. Kuni Tyessi writes

There is a paradigm shift in implementing special education intervention funds in basic education institutions in Nigeria, with the sole aim of having everyone on board, including children with special needs. This is coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s ensured National Policy on Education (NPE) in 2004, 2009 and 2012, explicitly emphasising that all necessary facilities that would provide easy access to inclusive education should be provided, with special classrooms in public schools under the UBE scheme coordinated by the Universal Basic Education Commission.​

For UBEC to speedily achieve this, the federal government enacted the Universal Basic Education Act in 2004 and has consistently donated two per cent of the country’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) every year to UBE implementation in the country since 2005. In addition, since 2008, the federal government introduced a special education programme and donates two per cent of the UBE’s two per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) every year for special education in the county.

Furthermore, in 2017 the Federal Ministry of Education developed a National Policy on Inclusive Education in Nigeria (NPIEN) and outlined the specific roles and responsibilities of the Universal Basic Education Institutions. Therefore, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) developed a document presenting the clear guidelines required to perform the assigned roles in the NPIEN. The commitment was made to utilize all avenues expected to equalize educational opportunities for all children, irrespective of their physical, sensory, mental, psychological or emotional disabilities and socio-economic background.

Recently, at a sensitization programme on the UBE Act and moving forward, the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, stated that to close the huge margin which the basic education system has been known for, massive enrollment of children irrespective of status must be encouraged.

The UBEC helmsman further commended administrations in states that have consistently seen the need to support basic education through the contribution of the 50 per cent counterpart funding for the special attention accorded to education, particularly for children with special needs, the introduction of a free education policy at primary and secondary levels and the inauguration of the enrollment drive committee, all of which have led to a huge enrollment in schools across states.

This action has become critical as records have shown that while there are between 93 and 150 million children with different categories of disabilities in the world, the 2018 UBE National Personnel Audit report 0f 2018 indicates that there are 100,863 males and 88,208 females totalling 189,071 learners with different categories of disabilities. In 2021, the commission conducted a needs assessment exercise in 397 schools and 18,338 learners with special needs were recorded for improved educational processes. With such high figures, the commission made deliberate efforts in taking systematic actions to at least provide quality basic education individually to these categories of Nigerians, particularly those within school-going age in both public and private basic education institutions.

To begin the process, a situation analysis on the implementation of Special Education Intervention Funds in the last six years was conducted, and the report indicated that efforts are made to provide education for children with special needs in public and private basic education institutions, including providing support funds for new constructions, renovation of classrooms, purchase of facilities and equipment amounting to billions of naira. The information gathered was an eye-opener that the implementation procedures were not in line with the inclusive education implementation framework to justify the resources being utilised for the special education intervention funds implementation processes.

Therefore, much more is needed by the commission to lead these actions toward attaining inclusive education objectives as envisioned in the national document and globally. This is because funding and policy changes cannot be proficient unless properly directed by the right implementation guidelines as we want to begin today.

To have a paradigm shift in implementing the Special Education Intervention Funds, the commission conducted a needs assessment exercise in selected schools per state. The plan was to gradually make all schools inclusive, as plans had been underway to provide assistive technologies and other instructional materials to all learners based on their educational needs. Though this process recorded a huge success, three obvious needs revealed were the need to prioritise the list of assistive technologies collated from the field to build the capacity of the special education desk officers in 36 states and FCT, as well as the development of the Inclusive Basic Education Implementation Framework expected to contain the strategies for the effective delivery of quality basic education for all categories of learners.

Having completed the process for the provision of the equipment and built the capacities of the 37 desk officers, including 37 UBEC zonal/state coordinators, 397 heads of public and private basic education institutions that participated in the needs assessment exercise to be on the same page with the commission on the ideologies of inclusive education, the next pressing activity was expected to be the development of the Inclusive Basic Education Implementation Framework.​

It is this national concern to open avenues for basic education to prosper in the direction that the UBEC is set to institute new implementation strategies under which an effective inclusive school programme will be implemented in basic education institutions in the country. With such a milestone in the commission’s kitty and political willpower on the side of each state government, a national document will be implemented with a high degree of outcomes. Such a framework will re-direct the implementation of basic education to meet up with international education competitiveness that will make Nigeria and Nigerian children equal among peers.

Technical experts have already been carefully selected to kick start the process and collaborate with the commission to develop the training manual, which has commenced already. Thereafter, teacher training on the utilisation of the framework and assistive technologies as well as other activities will follow.​

Bobboyi said, “This is because if any of these plans are not guided by experts like you from the beginning, our plan for attaining efficiency may become a mirage, just like what we have achieved in the past. Hence, I desire you to kindly grant us the opportunity to gain from your wealth of experiences which are required for the quality delivery of basic education for our children, particularly, children with special needs.’’​

With the mechanisms already put in place, the huge number of out-of-school children, albeit, children with special needs can be said to be on the road to total inclusion.​

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