In Kwara State, constituency projects are filling the infrastructural gaps in primary and junior secondary school education created by poor funding which was made worse by the inability of the state government to access the Universal Basic Education Commission counterpart fund, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation looking at the execution of projects selected by lawmakers has found.
The UBEC fund is an annual grant by the federal government to help states upgrade their primary education facilities. To access the fund, state governments are required to match the federal government’s grant.
Subsection 2 of Part III of the UBE Act 2004, states: “For any state to qualify for the Federal Government block grant pursuant to subsection 1 (1) of this section, such state shall contribute not less than 50 per cent of the total cost of projects as its commitment in the execution of the project.”
However, Kwara State last accessed the UBEC grant in December 2013 when it received just over a billion-naira grant. A PREMIUM TIMES investigation published in February revealed that due to the failure of the immediate past administration of the state led by Abdulfatah Ahmed to remit the state’s contribution into the fund, it has been unable to access a whopping N7.1 billion meant for the upgrade of primary and junior secondary school facilities.
The incumbent administration says it has since paid N450 million from the contribution the immediate past administration refused to remit and hopes to start receiving funding later this this year.
“After paying the N450 million over which Kwara was blacklisted from UBEC before this administration came on board, the government has budgeted N1.8 billion in the revised budget recently assented by the governor to begin phased drawdown (access) of the huge chuck we have at UBEC. So, definitely, God willing we would access UBEC fund this year. I can confirm that the process has begun, including identification of projects to be funded with the money, Rafiu Ajakaiye, the chief press secretary to the governor of Kwara told PREMIUM TIMES.
While the government awaits UBEC’s counterpart funding, basic education facilities in the state, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation revealed, have started falling into disrepair. However, some of the schools are being renovated as part of the constituency projects of selected lawmakers in the area.
One of such schools is the Egbejila Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) primary school. An inspection of the school revealed that two blocks of classrooms were built in 2017 by UBEC. The project was selected by Bukola Saraki, a former senate president who was the senator representing the area – Kwara Central Senatorial District. The classrooms also had benches and desks.
Other schools in the district that were renovated as part of the constituency projects selected by Mr Saraki are Karuma Junior Secondary School in Ilorin East Local Government Area, Agbarigidomo Community Primary School and the Government Day Junior Secondary School, Okerere.
At Karumi Junior Secondary School, this reporter saw that a block of two classrooms recently built was still in good condition. The classrooms were part of the “Zonal Intervention Project.” A total of N13,458,750.00 was budgeted for the block of classrooms.
Similarly, at Agbarigidomo, a block of two classrooms has been built and furnished. The budget for the project was N14,550,000.00 as indicated under the Zonal Intervention Project.
At the Government Day Junior Secondary School, Okerere in Ilorin West Local Government Area, a block of three classrooms has been completed with a modern toilet, motorised borehole with an overhead tank and a 7.5kva generator supplied as indicated in the Zonal Intervention Project selected by the former president of the senate.
When reached on the phone, Rasheedat Yusuf, the principal of Onikeke Community Junior Secondary School in Asa Local Government Area, one of the schools that benefitted from the constituency projects, said the project has aided learning in her school.
She said the school, which was established in 2014 to serve more than 21 communities, had no classroom and pupils were learning under a tree before the construction of a block of two classrooms as part of Mr Saraki’s constituency project in 2017.
Ms Yusuf said 70 chairs for the students and three desks for teachers were supplied to the school. The chairs and desk were in good condition when this reporter visited the school.
“As for the furniture, they were very useful to use, even to the staff, because we don’t have sufficient teachers’ table and chairs. So, some of them were kept inside the staff room for the staff to use. And for the teacher’s furniture, it was given to the vice principal because if we should put them in the class, the students won’t have free movement in the class.”
She said the project has led to an increase in the number of pupils attending the school.
“The number of students is more than 70 now from 60. Even though the community is trying its best to build more blocks, we can still say the building is the only one we have in the school. We are using under a tree for the staff, but if there is rain, we (staff) need to run down to the classrooms and stay together with students,” she said.
None of the schools was in session due to the closure of as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents commend construction of classrooms
Abdulrahman Abdulraheem, the vice-chairman Egbijela Community Union, did not conceal his joy over the execution of the project in the school.
“This is the only primary school here and I am very happy that a project like this is done to the school,” Mr Abdulraheem told this reporter.
Karimu Saidu, the chairman of the community association, said the classrooms will reduce the number of out of school children in the area.
“The building has been very useful to us and if not for it, the pupils would have stopped coming here because the old classes are bad,” Mr Saidu said.