Normalcy returned to Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC Headquarters on the 23rd, August, 2021, after the announcement by the Presidency on Friday the 20th of August,2021 of the reappointment of the out gone leadership under Dr. Hamid Bobboyi whose tenure expired some weeks, and subsequently vacated his position as Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the commission.
Unlike some public officers in Nigeria, Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government whose sit tight tendencies/syndrome is not a new thing, UBEC Headquarters went dry, but not like a graveyard as staffers gathered in clusters to discuss the need for the return of the leadership.
The twin fears that enveloped UBEC was the decision by the leadership to step aside after the expiration of its tenure, even though, emboldened by the track records of performance in its first term, that expired few weeks towards the end of July,2021.
For the naysayers, it was not business as usual, as speculations were rife that the commission will played host to a new leadership, which was contrary to the thinking and position of government, after due diligence and assessment of the performances of the Hamid Bobboyi led UBEC, its achievements spanned for four years.
The always calm, easy going academic turned administrator was not perturbed by the unfolding situation, as he had demonstrated both administrative and political will during his first stint, except he refused to condone, as drew a parallel line towards political meddlesomeness.
For him, as an educationist, administrator, a bureaucrat whose mandate and mission was to make great moves towards repositioning Nigeria’s educational system, that focus, he refused to digress inspite pressures from all angles.
But alas, on assumption of duty on Monday,23rd of August,2021, for another term of four years, staffers, well-wishers, visitors within the capital city of Nigeria and outside the shores trooped into the office of the Executive Secretary, to rejoice and prayed for him on his reappointment and successful commencement of second term in office, after an eventful first term.
Under the renewed leadership of UBEC, transparency, probity and accountability was the hallmark of its activities for consecutive four years, as the commission operated strictly in line with the act that established the body as the hub of basic education in Nigeria, a trend he wished to continue.
With its operation strictly guided on a joint and counterpart funds from State Governments, UBEC with strict compliance with lay down procedures had left about 150B Naira for the period under review in State Universal Basic Education Board SUBEB account unassessed, on the noncompliance of some States to rules guiding the disbursement of its funds.
The Commission without fear or favour to any sub national or federating states, was not under pressure or any guise from the States to do anything outside the mandate and requirements from States before availement or draw down of funds.
This had resulted in series of healthy crises and hostilities between UBEC at the forefront and SUBEB at the State level, in the last few years under the renewed leadership.
The policy thrust of the re-appointed leadership is its strict compliance to the provision of instructional materials, abhorrent to diversion, provided training and retraining of teachers into various arms of basic education, infrastructural development in schools across the country, assessment and possible intervention to States, Federal and provision of furniture’s and other facilities required, that will ensure a modest learning conditions to basic educational development in Nigeria.
UBEC’s strict compliance to lay down procedures in terms procurement and contracts was unwavering, in line with the provisions of public procurement act, that had discouraged inordinate practices in the system, and had become a norm in the current dispensation.
This had resulted into series of partnerships and synergy with both public and private organisations, that had promoted basic education in Nigeria.
The success story was achievable amidst global economic and health challenges of COVID that led to the lockdown of countries in 2020 for months, and on the long run affected the smooth operation of schools and basic education.
The introduction of a modest and modern mode of learning so as to mitigate situations arising during COVID, also led to the introduction of “SMART” program that was meant to enhance e-learning through a computerised program across the country.
The Multi Billion Naira project that is expected to cut across the Federal and 36 states of the federation, including the FCT, Abuja will ameliorate the teething problems that aroused during the natural and artificial phenomenon in the country.
The computer based project in the States will avail schools the opportunities to learn even during emergencies and the normal situations.
The dual advantage of a computer based system initiated by UBEC will also placed the pupils at vantage position, through exposure to new digital system, that is becoming the order of the day.
The online learning for pupils at the basic level will have multiplier effects on the people and exposed them to modern techniques in schools.
To consolidate the arrangements, UBEC has since gone into partnership arrangement with the National Information Technology Development Agency NITDA, the hub of technological hub in Nigeria to drive the new policy of provision of ICT Infrastructure to schools across the country.
UBEC’s efforts to improve infrastructural development and extension was part of the cardinal objectives of the first term of the renewed leadership, as office accommodation was not only remodeled but expanded to reduce incessant office accommodation problems at the Headquarters, and in compliance with the new wave of COVID in it’s first, second and third wave to maintain self-distancing and avoid congestion.
The Multi Billion Naira project is ongoing with job specifications and early completion date and target strictly being adhered to, for early completion.
To imbibe the culture of transparency, probity and accountability in the new UBEC, he further broker another round of partnership with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission ICPC, to demonstrate the fiscal discipline at UBEC, as well as synergise were there are lapses directly or indirectly.
This bold step alone had demonstrated the willingness to disentangled the commission from all form of unbecoming tendencies and to also serve as checks and balances on the activities of the commission.
These two major policies of the leadership of UBEC is enough signal for public office holders to exhibit and practise in line with the spirit of openness accessibility.
The readiness to exhibit people oriented leadership was also extended to staff development, training and retraining through seminars, symposia, workshops, talk-shops and promotion to encourage productivity.
The welfare of staff was highly prioritised in-line with the mandate of the commission, so as to encourage more commitment to duty and service delivery.
Determined to achieve more strides and complete the ongoing programs during its first term, the leadership has set the ball rolling by critically analysing the successes recorded and how to revolutionise the new programs and policies, that will soothe the accelerated growth and bring to bare a well-articulated template that will be a lasting legacies to the educational development of the country.
Abubakar Yusuf, a Public Affairs Analyst, Writes from Abuja.