By Ibraheem Abdullateef
Sometimes in 2013, the unthinkable happened. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) struck out Kwara State as an eligible state to benefit from funds meant to develop education.
The body arrived at such a decision after confirming that the erstwhile administration under the leadership of Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed diverted UBEC’s 1.5bn meant for educational infrastructure to other unclear undertakings.
With a supposed intention to fix schools, they requested a grant of 1.5n from UBEC. To access it, they borrowed the counterpart funding from a bank and were granted. Upon receipt of the grant, Maigida- led administration returned the N1.5b it had borrowed from the bank and then mismanaged the UBEC’s N1.5b without investing it in basic educational infrastructure as required.
From the year 2013 when people were wondering how the state of education was distastefully bad in Kwara, Kwara was already doomed.
The implications are evident in the low standard of basic education across the state.
While infrastructure doesn’t entirely make up good education, they are extremely important for an impactful transfer of knowledge and coordination of other academic activities. We cannot also overemphasize the extent of damage inadequate funds for training of teachers as a result of diversion wrung on the general standard in the last seven years.
It breaks one’s heart to see pupils sitting under the tree in several communities, or in some instances, inside a very, very old structure nearing collapse. On one occasion, my heart almost jumped out of my mouth at the sight of ‘ogiri alapa’ one community uses to groom their children. Such a sight tells how well education was terribly prioritized in the past.
Yet all of these revelations were kept out of the public glare. Until sometimes in 2019, when the news broke like a terrible fart spreading a bad smell to our noses. “UBEC blacklisted Kwara for diversion of funds, no grants will be given unless the outstanding is cleared.” Governor AbdulRazaq was frankly told on his visit to their office in Abuja in June. He didn’t eat in the apple but he was going to bear the pains.
As it is typical of the clear-sighted leader, AbdulRazaq cleared the outstanding of 450m and has now accessed 7.1bn grants from the UBEC as a backlog from 2014- 2019 just five months after he was at UBEC office. Some have since described the feat as a mark of difference between a despondent leader and a visionary one.
The development further puts Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who has spent the past one year working to rebuild basic education in the state, health, and other critical infrastructure, in good stead.
The UBEC grants will aid the rehabilitation of decrepit schools, the building of new ones, training of teachers, and the supply of the schools with ICT tools, among other objectives ratified by the UBEC.
It is particularly exciting that over the next two years Kwara would fix up to 600 elementary schools out of the over 1400 decrepit basic education facilities across the state as the government is set to organise a three-day workshop from Tuesday for local contractors to begin the procurement process, which would in turn steam the economy through the employment of local labour.
This development has not only taken Kwara State out of the pariah states with highest figures of outstanding UBEC grants but also signals a turnaround from the pitiful state of basic education in the State of Harmony.
After seven years of ignominy, AbdulRazaq is rescuing basic education from shambles in just 17 months in office.