Uko-Aviomoh, E E

The Universal Basic education (UBE) Programme could not have been introduced at a better time than now that the nation is in dire need of all round national Development. The major objective of the UBE programme is to provide free, universal and compulsory basic education for every Nigerian child aged 6 – 15 years. However, for the Universal Basic Education programme to be truly free and universal, efforts must be made to check those factors that are known to have hindered the success of such programmes in the past. This paper specifically considered the implementation of Universal Basic Education (UBE) so far – its success and problems. Relevant recommendations are therefore proffered.


Education is one of the vital instruments in development. According to the national Policy on education (1998) “Education in Nigeria is an instrument “per excellence” for effecting national development. What Nigeria needs in the 21st century to turn her economy around is not extended primary or elementary education, but a basic education programme that will ensure that every Nigerian youth on graduation is sufficiently equipped with knowledge, skills, and experience required for initial entry into one occupation in the world of work, whether college bound or not (Anyabolu, 2000).

The Universal Basic education (UBE) programme of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was however, launched by President Olusegun Obasanjo on 30th September, 1999. The UBE programme as spelt out in the implementation guidelines, aims at achieving the following specific objectives;

* Developing in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for Education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion.

* The provision of free, universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school-age.

* Reducing drastically the incidence of drop out from the formal school system.

* Catering for the learning needs of young persons who, for one reason or the other, have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complimentary approaches to the provision and promotion of basic education.

* Ensuring the acquisition of the appropriate levels of literacy numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic value needed for effective implementation of the UBE scheme.

A review of related literature has revealed that attempt in the past to provide free education (i.e. Universal Primary education, UPE programme) whether at the federal or state levels has never been successful due to poor planning and implementation. These views were supported by Nwagwu (2000) and Maduewesi (2005) who saw poor planning as one of the problems responsible for the unsuccessful implementation of the UPE programmes. In their own contributions Adamaechi and Romaine (1991) also saw poor planning as one of the problems responsible for the unsuccessful implementation of the former UPE programme. They remarked that the planners of the programme were unable to project accurate number of children that would gain from the scheme and the facilities/manpower required. According to Odo, (2000) the UPE programme also failed because of inadequate funding and poor monitoring of the programme.

Adequate efforts therefore, should be made to counter all the factors which led to the unsuccessful implementation of similar programmes in the past. This paper examines some issues associated with free education programme and proffers solution for the effective implementation of UBE programme.

The Meaning/Concept of Universal Basic Education (UBE)

The existing educational programmes in Nigeria failed to meet the educational needs and aspiration of the populace. This led to the proposal of the universal basic education (UBE) by the Nigerian government. It was a welcomed idea to the Nigerian populace who were unhappy that the 6-3-3-4 system which replaced the 65-2-3 system and the earlier introduced universal primary education programmes (UPE), (of the past regimes) were not better than the earlier introduced programmes.

The Meaning of UBE

Universal Basic Education is the transmission of fundamental knowledge to all facets of the Nigerian society from generation to generation. It has three main components – Universal, Basic and Education.

Universal connotes a programme that is meant for all facets of the society – the rich, poor, the physically fit and physically challenged, the brilliant, the dull the regular students and the dropouts including every other individual that is ready to acquire knowledge. The term “basic” is related to the base, take off point, fundamental, essential, spring board, bottom-line, they required and of course expected. This shows that basic education is the starting point in the acquisition of knowledge. Without basic education, higher education cannot be acquired. It therefore, implies that this basic education is mandatory for all citizens. It is that type of education that can help an individual function effectively in the society (Adewole 2000). Enoch and Okpede (2000) described it as the form of education, which is essential for life. They also saw UBE as the form of education, which must equip an individual with necessary skills to survive in his environment. It should be a practical and functional education.

The idea of “Education” connotes transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. In the UBE programme, it is expected that theoretical, and practical knowledge will be transmitted to learners in its simplistic form. This involves starting from the scratch and being able to carry the learners along. This education is the “aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops the abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviours, which are of positive value to the society in which he lives” (Fafunwa 1976).

Criteria of UBE

UBE by definition must provide minimum education. Citizens should have easy access to it and it should be free. In the implementation guidelines for UBE programme, there is a “UBE” commission which runs the affairs of the UBE. They set up minimum standards of primary, junior secondary and adult literacy throughout Nigeria. It is expected that stiff penalties should be imposed on persons, societies or institutions that prevents children, adolescents and youths from benefiting from UBE (Adewole, 2000, Obayan, 2002). UBE is also expected to provide basic education which is expected to be terminal. Such education (UBE) is not meant for school age children alone, it is also designed to take care of the educational needs of young people and adults who have not had the opportunity to receive adequate schooling. Thus the UBE programme will include: nomadic education, education of migrant fishermen, school drop outs, out of school children and adult education.

The Main Objectives of the UBE Programme

According to the implementation guideline released by the Federal Ministry of education in February 2000, the programme aims at achieving the following objectives:

1 . Develop in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion.

2. Provide free, compulsory, universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school age group.

3. Reduce drastically, drop out rate from the formal school system through improved relevance and efficiency.

4. Cater for drop outs and out of school children/adolescents through various forms of complementary approaches to the provision and promotion of basic education.

5. Ensure the acquisition of the appropriate levels of literacy, manipulative and life skills (as well as the ethical, moral and civic values) needed for laying the foundation for life long learning.

This programme is expected to be a continuation of the UPE programme, which was abandoned in 1976..

The Need for Effective Monitoring and Assessment of UBE Programme

For UBE programme to be successful there must be quality assurance. Monitoring and evaluation should be carried out on a regular basis in order to sustain and improve quality. The research and plan- ning units of the ministries of education should be well equipped to meet the challenges of the UBE programme. Close and continuous monitoring of the programmes will reveal whether the stated objectives of the programme have been achieved. This will help to identify the causes of failure before it gets out of hand. Personnel from Planning, Research and Statistics units of the ministries of education and other implementation agencies from all tiers of government should be involved. The monitoring and evaluation team should include:

1. The ministries of education

2. The Joint Consultative Committee (JCC)

3. The National council in Education (NCE)

4. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC).

5. The Universal Basic education Commission (UBEC).

6. The International Centre For Educational Evaluation (ICFEE)

7. The national Examination Council (NECO)

8. The West African Examination Council (WAEC)

From the aforementioned, it can be observed that the monitoring teams are quite numerous. With careful planning, management and programming, the Educational planners can draw up a monitoring programme to accommodate these monitoring bodies. It will go a long way to relieve the monitoring groups from stress. There will be division of labour and the monitoring will be more thorough.

Monitoring and evaluation will also ensure that:

1 . There is proper utilization of funds and accountability

2. The infrastructures and learning materials are adequate

3. Effective teaching and learning takes place.

4. The curricular content is adequate.

5. The teaching methods used are suitable.

6. Qualified teachers are used in the programme.

7. Admission criteria are strictly adhered to.

8. Appropriate instructional materials are used.

Factors that May Lead to the Failure of UBE Programme

Various reasons have been envisaged which may likely lead to the failure of Universal Basic Education Programme. From the view expressed by Ezeocha (1990), Ukeje, (1995), some of the factors which may lead to the failure of the UBE include;

1. Poor planning

According to Adamaechi amd Ramaine (2000) proper planning has been found to be at the root of the success of every good educational policy or programme. Without proper planning, the best education programme is bound to fail. The UPE programme of the past suffered from lack of planning. This view is in consonance with Nwagwu (2000) who observed that poor planning was one of the problems responsible for the unsuccessful implementation of the former UPE programmes.

2. Inadequate Funding

Funding is central to the over all development of education in general and technical education in particular. According to Olaitan (1996), no educational programme can be successful in the face of inadequate funding. Educational funding in Nigeria has been dwindling in recent times. The yearly average allocation to the educational sector has even declined to about 7%. This tends to confirm the UNESCO (1969) Paris plan which observed that many low-income countries would be unable to give universal free education at all levels owing to the unrestricted population upsurge in those countries. According to Okoh (2002), the inability of the federal government to effectively sustain educational funding demonstrates lack of adequate government planning.

3. Lack of Qualified Teachers

According to Obayan (2000)2 no educational system can rise above the level of its teachers. In his own contribution Fafunwa (1976) opined that “no significant change in education can take place in any country unless its teaching staff were welltrained and retrained”.

The teacher plays a central role in the actualization of educational goals as well as ensuring the survival of the entire education system. In the previous free education schemes, teachers were in very short supply leading to the employment of mediocres, and half-baked individuals (Adamaechi and Romaine 2004). This view was earlier echoed by Ezeocha (1990), who noted that the crash programme of the UPE attracted the wrong caliber of people into the teaching profession. Nevertheless, in spite of such crash programmes and the subsequent recruitment of mediocres and sub-standard teachers, the teachers were still grossly inadequate.

4. Poor Implementation

Previous UPE schemes as well as many other educational policies in Nigeria suffered from the problem of poor or ineffective implementation. In most cases, the policies and programmes were sound in terms of targets to be reached and means of reaching those targets but as the implementation is being carried out, there will be a breakdown somewhere along the line. Cox (1996) argued that the main problem confronting education in the less developed countries is the inability to coordinate and effectively manage available resources.

5. Population Explosion (Increase in Enrolment)

The size of the class will definitely affect the implementation of UBE programme. Ohuche and Ali (1989) observed that if the class is too large less attention will be paid to each pupil. Nowadays, there is population explosion in our primary schools. In their own contribution, Okoh, (2000), Salami and Uko-Aviomoh (2000) observed that increase in class size also affects the effective implementation of vocational programmes at the primary level.

Table I above explains the unprecedented increase in primary school enrolment from 1960 – 1997 This coincides with the period of dividend from UPE. Education was free and the economy was buoyant. The main problem was level of preparedness on the part of planners of UPE. Notably, there were problems like large student teacher ratio: shortage of classrooms, shortage of teaching staff and teaching materials and serious financial constraints.

In the 1990s, primary school enrolment dropped drastically due to the harsh economic climate in the country coupled with the high exchange rate and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced in the country by the military government. Workers’ salaries were not regular and school fees were introduced in the primary schools. Many parents could not afford the fees and had to withdraw their children from school to participate in some income generating activities to augment family income (Salami and Uko-Aviomoh 2000). Drop out rate also increased and teachers were looked down upon by the society. By 1997, primary school enrolment started increasing because of the new salary struc- ture that favoured workers and was introduced by General Abubakar. It was Chief Obasanjo – the current head of state who took over power through a democratic election process in 1999 that introduced the UBE programme.

Content of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme

The UBE programme is intended to be universally free and compulsory. These terms imply that appropriate types of opportunities will be provided for the basic education of every Nigerian child of school-going age (Obayan, 2000).

The UBE programme has enormous implications for various spheres of the nation, from budgetary expenditure to other developmental programmes. This programme must fully justify the opportunity cost that goes with its implementation. The objectives of the UBE according to Obayan (2000)2 are far reaching and they include;

1. Pre-primary education sector

2. Physically challenged children sector.

3. Primary education sector

4. Junior secondary education sector

5. Senior secondary education sector

6. Technical education sector

7. Teacher education sector

8. University education sector and

9. Adult and continuing education sector.

The content of the programme is indeed even much more expensive, as it covers all dimensions of the various sectors above. According to Obayan (2000)2 it’s scope covers the provision of;

1. Programme/initiatives for early childhood care and socialization.

2. Education programmes for the acquisition of functional literacy.

3. Out of school and non-formal programmes for updating knowledge and skills.

4. Special programmes for nomads

5. The formal school system from the primary to junior secondary school.

The content consists of a functional set of approaches geared towards effective organization and implementation of the programme, which include;

1. Public Enlightenment and social mobilization for full community involvement.

2. Data collection and Analysis.

3. Planning, monitoring, evaluation.

4. Teachers – their recruitment, education, training, retraining, and motivation.

5. Infrastructural facilities

6. Enriched curriculum.

7. Text books and instructional materials.

8. Improved funding.

9. Management of the entire process.

Source: Federal Ministry of Education (F.M.E. 2000)

Strategies For Effective Implementation of the UBE Programme

In order to successfully run the UBE programme and to prevent it from getting extinct like other educational programmes, adequate care has to be taken to effectively guard the programme. The following strategies can be adopted for effective implementation of the UBE programme.

1. Instructional Supervision:

Ogunu (2000) defined instructional supervision as the art of overseeing the instructional activities of teachers and other educational workers in a school system to ensure that they conform with generally accepted principles and practice of education. Instructional supervision is very necessary for sustainable UBE programme.

2. Monitoring of Educational Expenditures and Checking the Incidence of Fraud.

The UPE programme was characterized by reckless spending, wastage and fraud. One of the major reasons for establishing an inspectorate service is to monitor the expenditure of public fund. Monitoring and evaluation is very important in order to check the quality of delivery of the whole UBE programme.

3. Adequate Planning and Projection.

The UBE programme should be properly planned and adequate projections should be made in terms of expected enrolment, required teachers, Infrastructural needs and equipment. The UPE programme failed because of poor or improper planning. At a stage the enrolment increased far beyond the capacity of the schools and teachers. Appropriate measures should be taken to check such occurrence in the UBE programme. If planning does not meet up the expectations, manpower and finance will be inadequate.

4. Funding.

The UBE programme should be properly funded. The funds so provided should be properly utilized for sustaining the programme. Accurate projections and effective cost analysis should be carried out to avoid under-funding. The expenditure should be properly monitored to avoid wastage of scarce resources and embezzlement.

5. Implementation of the Programme.

Everybody should be involved in the implementation stage. Planners should not be isolated from those who will implement the programme Odo (2000).

6. School Administrators.

School Administrators should be ready to thoroughly supervise the teachers for effective delivery of the educational content. The school administrator plays a vital role in the implementation. If all other indicators of success are in place but at the end of the day students are not properly taught, the whole process will be a waste of time as it is bound to fail. The school head in a free education system should not only supervise the teachers, but also see to the even and fair distribution of books, pencils, chairs and other materials made available to the children by the government. He should be able to manage the funds provided and use it for the procurement of goods meant for the programme. The school administrator should resist the temptation to embezzle UBE fund.

7. Training and Retraining of Teachers.

We are living in a changing world and the teachers meant for the UBE programme need to keep pace with fast technological changes. To effectively achieve this, the teachers need to be trained and retrained regularly so that their content, method and instructional materials may not turn obsolete.

According to Odo (2000), “at present, some non-professionals are being specially employed for the purpose of the UBE scheme with the hope that quick orientation/training will be given to them, after which they will serve as teachers under the scheme” The government should quickly train those teacher to make them professionally fit to participate in the UBE programme. Also during the planning, funds should be set aside for regular training and retraining of teachers.

8. Free Education Always Results in Increase in Enrolment.

The increased demand on manpower (teaching and non-teaching staff), textbooks, exercise books for pupils and teachers, buildings, classrooms, libraries, laboratories, examination halls, etc should be adequately accommodated in the planning stage. (Adamaechi and Romaine 2000).

9. Coordination of the Various Levels of the Programme.

The various levels of the programme should be properly supervised and coordinated. There should be a link and continuity in the education programme. Curriculum planners are therefore challenged to come up with a regular programme review which will reflect the societal needs thereby linking the school to the society.

10. Provision of Incentives For UBE Graduates.

Provision of incentives for UBE scheme to enable them secure gainful employment. These incentive could be in the form of soft loans, grants etc to encourage the school leavers start a small scale business. The government should also endeavour to set up cottage industries, which will provide middle level employment for skill and semi skilled workers. Such as a gesture will encourage UBE students to embark on terminal courses i.e. more students will pull out of school on completion of JSS III and become gainfully employed. The UBE programme if properly planned, implemented, monitored and the products are gainfully employed will be a very sound, credible and laudable programme.


It is hereby recommended that seminars and workshops should be organised to sensitize teachers, parents and the community on the need for the UBE scheme. Specialist service of counselors in career guidance, guidance through Education, personal and social development of the school child, should be used to help them benefit positively from the UBE programme. More teachers should be trained to cope with the expected increase in enrolment. Quality control through proper monitoring and evaluation should be carried out regularly at the various stages of the programme. Financial control should be well planned to ensure effective use of the funds and to prevent misappropriation of funds and embezzlement.


The UBE programme is an expression of the strong desire of the government of Nigeria to reinforce participatory democracy by raising the level of awareness and general education of the entire citizenry. There have not been records of successful free education programmes in Nigeria. Therefore, for the successful implementa- tion of the UBE programme, all hands should be on deck and the strategies/recommendations put forward in this write up must be strictly followed and implemented

Adequate fund must be put into the programme, the required level of participation needed from the state government, local government and other agencies in terms of funding must be clearly specified. The Universal Basic Education commission therefore, must device a way of combating these ills, otherwise the hope of Nigeria implementing UBE as an instrument for national development will remain a myth.


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Department of Vocational and Technical Education, Faculty of Education,

University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria


Institute of Education, University of Benin, Ekenwan Campus

Benin City, Nigeria

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