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1.1     Background to the Study

Education has been regarded as the foundation to every human development hence; the United Nations (UN) sees it as a right to which all human beings are entitled. Over the years, the UN and its special agencies have been promoting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially to achieve free universal basic education for all children. Lee (2013) reported that most children in Africa have failed to have access to even basic education. Against this backdrop, the provision of basic education has become an increasing concern of government at all levels. Often times, the concern of government towards basic education have been followed by uncommitted zeal thereby making its implementation a haphazard exercise. However, attempt to implement basic education is in recognition of the fact that basic education is the first pillar of formal education in the educational system of any nation.

          According to Babatunde (2012), the UNESCO defines basic education as all forms of organized education and training that meet the basic learning needs of adults including literacy and numeracy, as well as the general knowledge, skills, values, and attitude that they require to survive, develop their capacities, live and work in dignify, improve the quality of their lives, make informed decisions and continue learning. In order to achieve basic education programme, the National Policy on Education statesthat such education shall be free and compulsory. It shall also include adult and non-formal education programmes at primary and junior Secondary Education levels for the adults and out of school youths.

          In Nigeria, the idea of free universal basic education was practically experimented in the western region of Nigeria under the premiership of late Obafemi Owolowo in 1955. Equally, the free universal primary education was lunched in the Eastern region in 1957 however; the first national universal primary education programme was introduced in 1976. According to Eddy and Akpan (2009) the packages associated with the UPE were among others, abolishment of school fees, reduction of the duration of study in the primary school from eight to six years, and an increased in funding to the tune of about 60% of the total budget. The era also witnessed a great influx of pupils in the primary school system.

          The compulsory free education Bill which was passed into law in 2004 stipulates that basic education means early childhood care education and nine years of formal schooling, Onwubiko (2012). Therefore, basic education embraces formal schooling and a variety of formal and informal public and private educational programmes designed to meet the learning needs of people irrespective of age. Basic education also, within the framework of UBE Comprises of early childhood and pre-primary education, primary education, the first three years of secondary education, basic and functional literacy for school children, youths and adult nomadic education among others.

          Anaduaka and Okafor (2013) argued that, the national objectives with which the universal basic education scheme seeks to achieve include among others developing in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion. Besides this, it is to ensure the acquisition of the appropriate level of literacy, numeracy manipulation, communication and life skills as well as the ethics, morals and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning.

          Consequently, Akwa Ibom State likes other states in the federation had established the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to assist in the translation of the UBE national objectives into concrete actions to achieve policy outcomes at the state and local government levels. Following the declaration of free and compulsory education in the state by the Chief Godswill Akpabio’s led administration in 2008, the scope of responsibility of SUBEB in the state has expanded correspondingly. Apart from the fact that SUBEB is responsible for ensuring effective implementation of the UBE programme, it is also expected to plan, ensure compliance with the programme guidelines and monitor the progress of the free and compulsory education throughout the 31 Local Government Areas of the state. Despite the fact that the UBE programme was being implemented in the state, it was until 2008 that the scheme had a face of a complete free and compulsion. As at 2007, fees and other charges were collected in public secondary schools. Equally, PTA levy, development levies etc were also collected in the primary schools in the state.

The introduction of free and compulsory education scheme abolished the collection of all these charges, government therefore started paying subvention to principals and Head-teachers of secondary and primary schools for the day-to day management of the schools. Under the scheme, government has also constructed and renovated dilapidated schools buildings, provided textbooks which are distributed throughout the various schools in the state.It is therefore no doubt that the free and compulsory education scheme in public primary to secondary schools is a demonstration of commitment towards achieving the objective of UBE and education for all. However, the scheme has attracted increased enrolment of pupils and students in public primary and secondary schools. In 2010, report shows that the population of pupils increased from 751, 081 to over 1,396, 878 in the primary school. Equally in the same year, the enrolment of students in public secondary school increased from 159, 280 to 318, 000.However, in the 2012/2013 school year the number increased to 584,912. The Akwa Ibom State Ministry of education noted that, the UBE programme in the state has received a budgetary commitment of about 60,000,000 USD annually from the government. (State Ministry of Education, Uyo). The problem of population explosion in schools has resulted in increased teacher-students ratio. Okon (2014) argued that only Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government is able to meet the mandatory teacher-students ratio of 1:35 and 1:40. According to him, there are only 57 percent of the mandatory numbers of teachers intended to implement the loaded primary school segment of UBE curriculum in Akwa Ibom State. This implies that only 57 percent of the pupil’s populations are actually exposed to teaching and 43 percent of the populations are not catered for.

          The implementation of the UBE programme according to Onwubiko (2012) is expected to be a collaborative effort, one which involves not only the three levels of government but, the civil society organizations, international donor agencies, communities and private individuals. However, so far, there is a low mobilization of local community in partnershipwith government for effective policy implementation.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

          The universal basic education is a policy initiation that was intended to achieve education for all (EFA)by the year 2015. However, since its inception, the implementation process is characterized by some inconsistencies and flaws. Although, the government through the Child Right Act 2008 has made it an offence for a school age childto engage in any commercial activities during school hours, the free and compulsory education scheme lack the legal framework which would ensure the sustainability and continuity of the programme beyond the expiration of the government that initiatedit. The UBE programme in the Akwa Ibom state is also faced with serious dearth of qualified teachers. This problem is the resultant affect of population explosion in school thereby causing high teacher-students ratio. For instance, according to SUBEB quoted in Okon (2014) the teacher-student ratio in Ika local government area is 1:75 hence, the standard of education is threatened under such condition.The programme is also face with the problem of ineffective monitoring and supervision, low teachers’ motivation and low community mobilization and collaboration. There is also the problem of inadequate qualified teachers and lack of learning materials and infrastructure such as functional libraries and laboratories and, recreational facilities.

1.3     Purpose of the Study

Generally, the purpose of the study is to asses the problems and prospects of universal basic education in Akwa Ibom state. It is carried out to analyses the problems and prospects of the free and compulsory scheme in AKS. In specific term, the objectives of the study therefore include:

1.       To ascertain whether the UBE programme in Akwa Ibom state has been properly planned.

2.       To ascertain whether the UBE programme in Akwa Ibom state is adequately funded.

3.       To identify the impacts of population explosion on the teaching process in schools in Akwa Ibom state.

4.       To examine how free is basic education in Akwa Ibom state.

5.       To examine how compulsory is basic education in Akwa Ibom state.

1.4     Significance of the Study

The  findings of this research work will be of immerse benefit to the generality of people in Akwa Ibom state and Nigeria at large including the  government, school organization, Educational planners, parents as well as teachers. It will be useful to government and educational planners by enabling them build school with adequate learning facilities for the increasing population of students and pupils in the state.

It will in the same vein, helps stakeholders in the educational system to prepare and plan adequately for educational programme which are in consonance with the need of the society taking into consideration the financial strength of the state in order to create a viable educational sector. On the part of SUBEB, its official will benefit from the finding because; it will assist them with valid and reliable information which can be applied for the improvement of the programme. Help teachers to be more informed about what is expected of them and what is expected of the government in the implementation process of the programme which will make the scheme more productive. For the communities, parent, and students, the findings will help them in making strong case for improvement in the quality of education through their involvement in the management, control and supervision. Finally, its recommendations and findings will serve as reference point and addition to already existed literature on the topic.

1.5     Research Questions

The research work is guided by the following research questions.

1.       Is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in Akwa Ibom State properly planned?

2.       Is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in Akwa Ibom State adequately funded?

3.       What is the impact of population explosion on the teaching process in schools in Akwa Ibom State?

4.       How free is basic education in Akwa Ibom State?

5.       How compulsory is basic education in Akwa Ibom State?

1.6     Research Hypothesis

1.       The problem of universal basic education in Akwa Ibom State is not significantly associated with poor planning.

2.       The problem of universal basic education in Akwa Ibom State is not significantly associated with inadequate funding.

3.       There is no significant relationship between free education and the standard of education in Akwa Ibom State.

4.       There is no significant relationship between compulsory education and the level of school dropout In Akwa Ibom State.

1.7     Scope/Delimitationofthe Study

The scope of the study basically covers the problems and prospect of UBE programme in Akwa Ibom State. It spans into assessing the free and compulsory education in Ika Local Government Area. The study is delimited to examining issues such as availability of enough funds, availability of quality teachers, availability and adequacy of infrastructural facilities, students/pupils population ratio and the issue of standard of education in Akwa Ibom State.

1.8     Definition of Terms

Problems: Means challenges, limitations associated with the implementation of a particular programme.

Prospects:Means a likely favourable outcomes or hope for successful outcome of a particular programme.

Basic Education:Means a foundational education at the primary and the first stage of secondary education which involves the teaching and learning of basic numerical manipulation, acquisition of vocational and technical skills and the development of cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning domains to preparation for continue learning.

Free and Compulsory Education:Means education especially basic education that is free of charges, levies and fee which is made mandatory within the law of a state for all children of school age