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Alleged Widespread Corruption at UBEC, SUBEBs Worries SERAP

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Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC

By Adedapo Adesanya

An advocacy organisation in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has expressed strong concern over the allegations of corruption at the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).

The group wants the federal government and relevant agencies to probe the alleged missing N3.84 billion documented in the 2017 annual report submitted by the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF).

It was alleged that the two agencies in the education sector in Nigeria recorded widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of funds between 2004 and 2020.

SERAP wants the government to act fast and decisively and make public the outcome of any investigation, and to prosecute suspected perpetrators if there is relevant admissible evidence, as well as fully recover any missing public funds.

SERAP stated that allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of millions of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by the poor learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.

In a statement, SERAP stressed that, “We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter If we have not heard from by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel his government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, & to promote transparency & accountability in UBEC and SUBEBs.

“Allegations of corruption in UBEC & SUBEBs undermine public confidence in the education sector, lead to the erosion of education quality & access, & if not urgently addressed will lead to an increase in out-of-school children, & exacerbate educational inequalities in the country.

“According to the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, UBEC spent N7,712,000.00 to engage external solicitors between January to December 2015 without due process and the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation.

“UBEC also reportedly failed to explain the nature of the legal services rendered. The Auditor-General is concerned UBEC may have engaged ‘unqualified solicitors.

“The Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board also reportedly failed to account for N37, 200,000.00 despite repeated requests by the Auditor-General.

“The Plateau SUBEB also spent N9,709,989 without any payment vouchers. The SUBEB spent N1,607,007,353.72 Special Intervention funds by the federal government without any documents.

“The Plateau SUBEB also paid N10, 341,575.00 to various contractors without evidence of advance payment guarantee. The SUBEB paid N70,569,471.00 through cheques to a member of staff, in violation of the Federal Government e-payment policy.

“The SUBEB also failed to explain the purpose of the payment. It spent N120,948,000.00 on the professional development of teachers but failed to retire and account for the money.

“The Imo State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly spent N482,560,000.00 as mobilization fees to some contractors without due process and any advance payment guarantee. The contracts were funded from the Matching Grant Account.

“The Auditor-General stated that the contractors selected lacked ‘the financial capacity to handle the contracts.’ The SUBEB has also failed to account for N140,774,702.12 of project fund since 2015.

“The Kano State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly paid N71,263,000.15 to contractors without due process and without open competitive bidding.

“Similarly, the Ebonyi SUBEB paid N569,758,938.00 to ‘unqualified contractors and companies’ for the reconstruction and renovation of classrooms. The Ebonyi SUBEB also spent N10,123,892.46 to buy store items but without any documents.

“The Gombe SUBEB paid N31,822,600.00 to a staff from its teachers’ professional development funds but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General is concerned that ‘the payment is fictitious’, and that ‘the funds did not benefit the intended beneficiaries.’

“The SUBEB also reportedly paid N41,277,983.00 as cash advance to staff to ‘buy some materials and for press coverage but failed to account for the money.

“SERAP is concerned about allegations of widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement within UBEC and several SUBEBs, the failure to investigate these allegations, and to recover any missing public funds.

“The federal government bears responsibility for ensuring that every Nigerian child has access to quality education in a conducive learning environment, and to safeguard education as a public good, govt’s responsibility to guarantee & ensure the right to quality education for every Nigerian child is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices & abuse of office.’

“This imposes a fundamental obligation to investigate the missing public funds from UBEC and SUBEBs, to prosecute suspected perpetrators, recover the money, and to remove opportunities for corruption in these institutions.

“Access to quality education would empower children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life.”

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Education

LASU Declares New VC Selection Process Credible

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LASU Lagos State University

By Ahmed Rahma

The management of the Lagos State University (LASU) has declared that the ongoing process of selecting a substantive Vice-Chancellor for the institution is credible and warned against attempts by some people to discredit the process.

This  was disclosed in a statement on Wednesday by the Coordinator, Centre for Information Press and Public Relations (CIPPR), Mr Ademola Adekoya.

“Our attention has been drawn to a viral video by one @Baloguneko making the rounds on the social media, where he accused the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of the University, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, of attempting to manipulate the ongoing selection process of the next Vice-Chancellor of the University, purportedly to favour some candidates and shortchange others.

“Before now, we have maintained a deliberate silence on the various media reports and propaganda that have greeted the first, and the currently ongoing selection process in order to avoid joining issues with those seeking to, and by all means, rubbish the process, in order to achieve their personal gains.

“But after critically assessing the latest video, and aware of the damage the misinformation it contains could cause to the good name of the university, we are compelled to provide some clarifications,” the statement read.

It further stated that, “First, the Council Chairman, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, does not have any grouse with a particular candidate and regardless of his personal preferences, cannot unilaterally determine who applies for, is shortlisted for, or is eventually appointed as the next Vice-Chancellor of the University, as @Baloguneko alleged.

“For the avoidance of doubt, a committee, headed by the Chairman Council, made up of representatives of the council and the Senate of the university, is only responsible for shortlisting, screening and interviewing applicants for the position of Vice-Chancellor, in a transparent manner.

“The job of the selection committee, however, ends with recommending the names of the three best performing candidates to the Visitor (the Governor of the state) who has the prerogative to appoint *any of the three candidates recommended* to him.

“Second, the poster’s allegation that the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, attempted to foist a particular candidate on the university is untrue and very unfortunate. The poster again betrays a lack of knowledge of the process of appointment. No where in the LASU Laws is an incumbent (or former) VC empowered to decide his successor.

“Being a stickler for rule of law and due process, the immediate past VC consistently maintained his neutrality in the process of the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor. If he was not able to determine his successor while in office, one wonders how he would do that now that he is out of office.

“Finally, we must state that the process for the appointment of the 9th Substantive Vice Chancellor of the University has been very transparent and credible.

“We, therefore, urge all well-meaning stakeholders to resist any effort to undermine the ongoing selection process, but rather  continue to pray for the best candidate to emerge while supporting the University to attain her goal of becoming the best in the country.”

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Education

Gradely Rolls out Homegrown Learning Management System

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Gradely

By Adedapo Adesanya

A Nigerian education technology startup, Gradely, has unveiled a homegrown and virtual learning management system (LMS) for schools.

The startup, which has raised $150,000 in pre-seed funding from angel investors and venture capital firms such as Ventures Platform and Microtraction, has now launched its LMS, known as Gradely For Schools.

Gradely For Schools is a teacher-led LMS, built for personalised learning, with features such as live classes to organise and hold engaging class experiences, assessment tools to set up robust and relevant assessment formats fitted with the Nigerian and British curriculum-aligned question pool, a proctored examination system to hold credible remote academic evaluations, and a suite of personalised video lessons, practice quizzes and games library known as Gradely CatchUp! to support in-class efforts with students at home.

Speaking on the system in a recent interview with a tech-based platform, Disrupt Africa, Mr Boye Oshinaga noted that, “The personalisation works by having tonnes of assessment content mapped by topic and difficulty, and following the performance on adaptive tests, students are provided recommendations daily to catch up on weak areas.

“This leads to measurable improvement in student’s performance and a learning path that is unique to each child.

“It is possible to use Gradely at home as a standalone learning supplement or in conjunction with school, so that homework and class material can be viewed directly on the app as well. In this case, where the app is school-integrated, parents see a report that is the most representative source of truth of the child’s learning progress.”

So far, Gradely has been used by over 5,000 Nigerian parents and 200 schools as part of its beta testing, and it is now planning a wider rollout.

“We saw that while African schools had begun to adopt technology, they had not figured out how to leverage it to improve learning outcomes,” said Mr Oshinaga.

“Today, 200 million African students, many in private schools as well as public schools, are in school but not learning. This is nine out of every 10 students on the continent.”

As internet penetration and device access accelerate, however, Gradely believes every school and parent in Africa will require a digital learning environment that complements classroom education and gives students a leg up in future exams. Gradely is such a solution, and charges schools an annual per-student fee for LMS access and an additional fee for content access. It also charges parents a monthly subscription for content access as well as fees per live tutor session.

“We are currently making revenues from existing users.

“We are launching first in Nigeria but plan to expand region-by-region across Africa and potentially globally as the use-cases for a content-driven personalised learning platform are very scalable,” Mr Oshinaga added.

Founded in 2019 by Boye Oshinaga, Femi Ibiwoye, Seyi Adelaju and Babatunde Caleb, Gradely uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help parents and schools intervene in real-time to plug student learning gaps.

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Education

Stanbic IBTC Gives 87 Students N34.8m for University Education

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Stanbic IBTC IDE

By Ahmed Rahma

Not less than N34.8 million worth of scholarship has been given to 87 candidates of the University Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) for their awesome performances in the 2019 and 2020 exam.

The gesture was given by a leading financial institution, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, to encourage hard work and excellent academic performance.

The chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Dr Demola Sogunle, while speaking at the presentation of the scholarships on Thursday, said the prosperity of the nation and its citizens was hinged on the youth’s educational development.

He further said the financial institution, which is a member of Standard Bank Group, remains determined to provide the necessary support to brilliant students.

“Stanbic IBTC appreciates the fundamental role education plays in transforming society, which is why we have chosen to institute the scholarship to encourage hard work and academic excellence amongst Nigerian students who desire tertiary education.

“The scholarship will enable them to pursue and realise their dreams of academic excellence,” he said.

“The scholarship will be disbursed to the 87 students in yearly tranches for a period of four academic years.

“However, after the first tranche, subsequent disbursements will be subject to maintaining at least a second-class upper grade and evidence of good conduct confirmed by the school” Mr Sogunle added.

He further stated that, “Education Trust Funds will be set up for the beneficiaries, and thefunds will be accessed through the Education Trust accounts.”

In 2019, the lender announced its scholarship scheme which was introduced as part of the activities to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The scheme, according to the bank is to support, reward and encourage students who had excelled in their academic pursuit and also in line with its commitment to value-driven corporate social investments, designed to contribute to youth’s educational development. The beneficiaries were effusive in their appreciation of the gesture.

Business Post gathered that the 87 beneficiaries of the scholarships yesterday included physically challenged students and they were picked from the 36 states in the country of which 39 of them participated in the 2019 exam while 48 participated in the 2020 exam.

Expressing his gratitude, one of the beneficiaries, Hammed-Saruk Omogbolahan, said the scholarship would allow them focus on their education, and he assured that they would continue to strive for academic excellence to justify their selection.

Education has remained a key focus area for Stanbic IBTC, and the financial institution has continued to play a leading role in transforming lives through education.

Other scholarship initiatives organised by the financial institution include those awarded to indigent children who have suffered limb losses, under its signature CSI initiative tagged Together4ALimb.

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Education

NUT Member Joins Oyo SUBEB Board

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NUT SUBEB Board

By Dipo Olowookere

A member of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr Oladimeji Raji, has been appointed to the board of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board.

Mr Raji, the current Treasurer of the NUT, is an experienced educationist as he has served in the Oyo State teaching service for 30 years. He has also served at Progressive Day School II, Aladorin, Ibadan, the state capital.

His appointment to the board, according to a statement from Oyo SUBEB, was approved by the Oyo State Government.

The Executive Chairman of the agency, Dr Nureni Adeniran, speaking when he hosted the executive council of NUT in the state led by Mr Samson Adedoyin, explained that the appointment of a member of the union to the board was borne out of the present administration’s commitment to the welfare of teachers.

He added that teachers’ interests would not be compromised at all, even as he said that they know the best way to address their problems since some of them were once like them.

The Oyo SUBEB chief disclosed that the state government intends to carry teachers along in the scheme of things at the board especially in the execution of educational policies and programmes of the state government, through the appointment of one of them.

He listed some of the ways Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration has motivated teachers for higher productivity to include prompt payment of salaries and allowance to primary school teachers in the state.

Mr Adeniran, however, appealed to members of NUT to collaborate with the board, urging the group’s leadership to do its utmost best to sensitize its members on the efforts of the state government on their course.

He said the board will not hesitate to discipline erring teachers who refuse to adhere to the rules of service, adding that, the present administration is working on modalities to recruit new teachers in the basic education sector.

Mr Adeniran also assured the leadership of NUT that the board has listed some of the challenges facing teachers in the state, and would immediately swing into action.

Earlier, the NUT Chairman in Oyo State had praised the state government for its commitment to the welfare of teachers and appealed for more attention to the needs of his members.

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Education

Foundation Donates N2m to UNICAL for Potholes

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UNICAL Potholes

By Ahmed Rahma

An educational foundation, Teacher Essien Ita Ita Educational Foundation (TEIIEF), has donated N2 million to the University of Calabar (UNICAL) to fix the potholes in the institution.

The foundation, which presented the institution with the cheque during the weekend, said it was part of the activities to mark the second year remembrance of the demise of Mrs Temitope Ekpenyong Ita, wife of Mr Ekpenyong Ita, a former Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and son of the late teacher, Esien Ita, who died March 13, 2019.

The cheque was given to the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Florence Obi.

Speaking, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the foundation, Mr Gersh Henshaw, said the organisation was poised to contribute its quota towards the development of the institution hence the donation, which he said is meant for fixing potholes in the school to ease movement of vehicles on campus.

According to him, the foundation, a non-profit organisation, was set up for such purposes, adding that under the trust fund, scholarships would also be offered to indigent students in tertiary institutions.

He further said the foundation was looking forward to exploring other areas of partnership with the institution for mutual benefits.

He expressed confidence in the ability of Prof. Obi to turn the tide for the good of the institution and urged her not to hesitate to call on the Foundation whenever the need arises.

Responding, the Vice Chancellor thanked the organisation for the kind gesture and assured that the money would be put to good use.

Proif Obi described Ekpenyong Ita, who is also an alumni of UNICAL and son of the late legendary teacher, as a “dependable friend” of the institution adding that posterity will be kind to him for his philanthropic gesture towards the institution and the society at large.

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Education

Afro-Tech Girls Wants More Women in STEM-related Careers

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Afro-Tech Girls STEM at Home Kit

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science held on Thursday, February 11, 2021.

This year’s event was themed Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and it provided an opportunity to look into ways females can be encouraged to increase their involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

In Nigeria, the day was celebrated by Afro-Tech Girls, a non-profit organization focused on encouraging and empowering females in STEM.

The organisation, in partnership with IHS Nigeria, a subsidiary of IHS Towers, organised a virtual conference where participants addressed some critical issues faced by young females looking to build careers in STEM.

This was done in the hope that confidence and soft skills will be improved to drive more interest and participation amongst young females.

The interactive session had over 100 participants in attendance online and a further 100 girls from public secondary schools watching from their classrooms, with female speakers from the medical, science and technology sectors tutoring the participants.

The speakers said the theme of this year’s celebration reinforced present challenges associated with the current pandemic and highlighted how women in science are currently playing a critical role to address these challenges.

Some of these speakers were Dr Ngozi Onyia, MD, Paelon Memorial Hospital; Ms Cima Sholotan, Director of Sustainability & Corporate Communications, IHS Nigeria; and Ms Yetunde Adewunmi, PhD, Microbiologist, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health.

Others were Dr Mobola Oyefule, Medical Doctor, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; Dr Kemi Ezenwanne, Medical Doctor, Armoured Shield Medical Centre; Ms Jessica Uwoghiren, Data Analytics Expert; and Ms Gloria Okereke, Team Lead, Network Operating Centre, IHS Nigeria.

The event was also used as a soft launch of a longer-term partnership between Afro-Tech Girls and IHS Nigeria and in her words, the co-founder of Afro-Tech Girls, Ms Adeola Shasanya, noted that, “We are grateful for organisations like IHS Nigeria that have committed to improving STEM outcomes in Nigeria particularly within young females.

“We are confident that their support will go a long way to ensure these females are equipped with the skills required to compete and contribute immensely in STEM-related careers.”

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