Dearth of Qualified Primary School Teachers Fuelling Learning Poverty, Says UBEC

Uchechukwu Nnaike

The Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, has bemoaned the acute shortage of qualified teachers in public primary schools, which he said is contributing to learning poverty in basic education.

According to him, of the 694,078 teachers required at the primary school level, 499,202 are available, leaving a gap of 194,876.

Bobboyi stated this on Monday at a one-day meeting with the organised private sector on implementing the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in Nigeria.

He stated that there would be 1,686,535 teachers in the basic education sub-sector in 2022, 354,651 in Early Childhood Care and Development Education (ECCDE), 915,596 in primary and 416,291 in junior secondary schools.

He noted that ECCDE teachers increased by 123.5 per cent, from 43,368 in 2018 to 96,956 in 2022. However, public primary and junior secondary school teachers decreased by 21.0 per cent and -19 per cent in 2023. (COVID-19 being a major factor in the decrease).

He said the shortage suggests that states are not recruiting new teachers or replacing those who withdrew from service.

The UBEC boss also tasked state and local governments with increased funding of basic education, saying that basic education delivery is the constitutional responsibility of states (secondary) and local governments (pre-primary and primary).

He described the federal government’s involvement in basic education delivery as an “assistance to the state and local governments in Nigeria for the purposes of uniform and qualitative basic education throughout Nigeria.”

To demonstrate its commitment, he said that the federal government contributes 2 per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund (not a federation account) as a UBE intervention fund, disbursed to states in line with a sharing formula approved by the Federal Executive Council.

In line with its mandate, he saif UBEC has continued to discharge its traditional roles, made significant progress in supporting the states and local governments in the implementation of the

UBE programme in Nigeria and introduced a number of innovative programmes and activities between 2015 and June 2024.

Bobboyi, who highlighted the commission’s initiatives in the basic education sub-sector, stated that a major plank in the UBE implementation is expanding access to all children of school age.

“The combined efforts of the commission, SUBEBs and private providers have recorded some remarkable progress in getting more children into school and providing facilities to accommodate them,” he said.

According to him, the 2022/2023 UBEC National Personnel Audit revealed that there are 171,027 basic education institutions (public and private) made up of 79,775 public schools and 91,252 private schools.

“The number of basic schools increased by 16.9 per cent between 2018 and 2022. Public schools increased by only 3.84 per cent. There are more private schools at the basic education level,” he said.

He stated that enrolment increased in 2022 by 11.9 per cent over the 2018 figure of 41,890,602, adding that gender parity has been achieved nationally, with regional variations.

“Public basic education schools cater for 71.1 per cent of total enrolment,” Bobboyi said.

He regretted the high deficit in physical infrastructure provision in schools, saying that 40 per cent of classrooms are in bad condition in the basic education sub-sector, and the poor condition of classrooms cut across all geo-political zones.

“As of 2022, 907,769 additional classrooms were required in primary schools, and 200,085 were required in junior secondary schools. All geo-political zones are above the standard ratios (learner/classroom

and learner/teacher) as specified by the National Policy on Education.

“Generally, a high percentage of learners do not have furniture in both

public and private schools. Percentage of schools without toilets is worse in public schools (especially ECCDE and primary) compared to private schools. States are totally overwhelmed with the scale of dilapidation and scarcity,” Bobboyi said.

To address the challenges of basic education, he called for greater determination and collaboration between the commission and key stakeholders, saying that private entities should commit to taking further responsibility in key aspects of UBE delivery, especially creating opportunities for addressing the out-of-school children phenomenon.

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