A critical analysis of the Universal Basic Education Policy (1999) in Nigeria: consequences of the extent of the implementation of free and compulsory education
Framed within a transformative paradigm and qualified by a mixed-method approach, this study was aimed to comment on the consequences of the extent of the implementation of free and compulsory education in four selected schools in the Rivers State in Nigeria. In order to achieve the aim of the study and to gain an African perspective on free and compulsory education in Africa, a literature review was undertaken of universal basic education in Malawi, Uganda, and Kenya. The review pointed to various implementation problems experienced by these countries, such as a lack of funding to implement UBE and a shortage of teachers to deal with the increased enrolment since the introduction of free basic education. The literature review was followed by a policy analysis of both the context and the content of the Universal Basic Education Policy (1999) and the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Law (2005). Based on the policy analysis, questionnaires were compiled and distributed to school principals, teachers, parents and students. A survey was subsequently used to establish the realities the respondents experience with regard to the implementation of free and compulsory education. The analysis of data revealed some positive aspects regarding policy implementation, such as the upholding of basic education as a human right, increased access to education on primary and secondary level for Nigerian children, the ability of teachers to provide assistance and satisfaction with the level of supervision and monitoring of policy implementation. However, some problems with regard to policy implementation came to the fore and included, inter alia, inadequate funding, overcrowded classrooms, a lack of teaching materials and the payment of school fees. The survey was followed by data generation through semi-structured interviews. The aim of the interview were to comment on the consequences of the extent of implementation of free and compulsory education. The findings from the interviews corroborated the existence of problems related to policy implementation, such as a staff shortage, a lack of teaching materials and resources, no conducive teaching and learning environment and insufficient funding. In conclusion it can be stated that the implementation of free and compulsory education in the Rivers State is problematic. It is problematic in the sense that it hampers the effective provision of UBE, but it is also problematic in the Summary 162 sense that its consequences impact on the quality of education and on the realisation of education that is truly free for all Nigerian children.