Wednesday 17 March 2021

"Rejigging Universal Basic Education for the Development of Youths’ Entrepreneurial skills.".... Being the full text of a paper delivered by Hon. Ajibola Famurewa at the 2nd annual Akeem Kareem Lecture Series at Function Hall , Jogor Centre, Ibadan on March 17, 2021


 I hereby acknowledge with infinite appreciation your invitation to my humble self as the Special Guest Speaker of Honour at the Second Akeem Kareem Lecture Series holding here today. Your invitation could not have gone to a more appropriate personality and office than to whom and where you directed it as the official source of the information suggestions and recommendations that this Foundation seeks on this occasion. 

I am delighted that your foundation’s light for this year’s celebration is beamed on education as a veritable tool for national development and social integration through the impartation of entrepreneurial skills. It is even more expedient to revisit and implement the skill acquisition scheme for our teeming youths now than ever before in view of the myriad of raging political and socio-economic challenges eliciting violent and anti-social reactions in different dimensions on the part of the youths. 

Ladies and gentlemen, in the light of this background exposition, I delve into the discussion proper.


SUBEB: The historical background

The Universal Basic Education Commission, a Federal organ established in 1999 by the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime, could not have effectively achieved its aims and objectives if the State offices, State Universal Basic Education Boards, with the acronym SUBEB, had not been created. And even further down the line, for the planning and administration of basic education to thoroughly permeate the entire nation’s nooks and crannies, the Local Government Education Authorities were established throughout the 774 local governments that make up the country.

As a member of the comity of countries that are eager for growth and development in practically all sectors, which is only possible through education in the true sense of it, Nigeria felt the urgent and inevitable need to adequately equip her younger generation, irrespective of gender, tribe and social class, through quality, regulated basic education covering the first nine years, that is, primaries 1 – 6 and the three years of the junior secondary education. It was for the purpose of achieving this goal that the special commission at the federal level, boards at state level and authorities at the local government level were set up. 

Aims and objectives

The Universal Basic Education was established with the goal of providing universal and compulsory basic education for every Nigerian child aged 6 – 15years; 6 – 11+ years for primary school education; children aged 11 – 14+ years for junior secondary education. 

Getting down to the state, the SUBEB’s have three main functions: 

1. Improving the infrastructure Advisingin our schools (Pry. & JSS) the government on the development of basic education; 

2. Management of affairs of teaching and non-teaching staff; 

 3. Upholding children’s right to education. 

How well the Federal commission and State Boards have pursued these goals and carried out these functions is open to debate. 

However, in a country bedevilled with so much fraud and corruption with impunity in the past, achieving the set goals was obviously hampered. In like manner, as at the time that the patriotic administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into the saddle, the economy had been badly battered by the profligacy of the past. And to further worsen the situation, the international market crude oil prices nose-dived beyond endurance, and has since the past six years not recovered, especially with the debilitating effect of the still raging COVID-19 pandemic on. 

The journey so far

In spite of all these, some giant strides have been recorded. Since its establishment, the State Universal Basic Education Boards have made landmark achievements in the education sector in Nigeria. Such include the erection of new and renovation of dilapidated blocks of classrooms, supply of books and writing materials, furnishing and equipping our classrooms, libraries and laboratories, introduction of ICT in schools, recruitment of teachers, and training and retraining of teachers, among many other deliberate steps towards creating and maintaining a solid educational foundation at the preparatory primary and junior secondary levels.

Kudos for this long list of landmark achievement, but the implementation of the Act setting up the UBEZ, SUBEBs and LGEA would have been more meaningful if it had not omitted the vital word “compulsory”. The benefits from this reformative initiative aimed at liberalizing and making education an obligatory right of all children of school age in the country regardless of social, geographical and religious backgrounds would have been maximum and more futuristic if the “compulsory” clause had been enforced. The school that dispenses education as a veritable tool for the preparation of citizens in their developmental years for future functional living, mental emanupation and social change would best serve its purpose if given some greater force of the law.

Rejigging Universal Basic Education for the Development of Youths’ Entrepreneur skills.

The word “rejigging” is indicative of the existence of a policy, system or structure that has been in place but which requires an overhaul.  The need for an overhaul may be occasioned by a number developments within the super structure of the country.  Generally speaking, however, the inevitable dynamic nature of the human society calls for periodic appraisal and readjustment of the education policy of a given nation state in order not to be left behind in today’s fast race towards all-round development.The constantly changing phases of global economic, social and political orders compel every nation worth its existence to turn over the pages of its education policy document at regular intervals to ensure they are in tune with today’s trends that can secure their youths’ future. Very many years ago, Nigeria started slipping gradually into youth unemployment.  The reasons for this are glaring enough for us all to see. But rather than reconcile ourselves to the reality of gradually dwindling government jobs and clamour for a review of our education policy and by implication our school curriculum to place emphasis on preparing the young school leavers for self-employment through the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills, we remained head strong in our search for white-collar jobs, believing it was the only road to success, and good life. 

Nigeria, as a country has lingered too long on the inherited colonial education system.  It was not the business of the imperialists to equip their dependencies with the type of education that would truly liberate them economically.  The philosophy of Britain in Nigeria between 1860 and 1960 was not to offer the people the type of education that would make them self-reliant but the Grammar school system that produced store keepers, interpreters, native authority policemen, court clerks and orderlies, and at best astute civil servants. Science and technology were out of the question. 

Unfortunately we did not recover from this inept system that was bequeathed to us many decades after independence.  As a result, the popular meaning of unemployment today is the inability to secure jobs in the civil service, in any of the reputable multi-national or private companies and establishments. 

"Entrepreneurial skills"

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (International Student’s Edition) describes an entrepreneur as “a person who makes money by starting or running businesses, especially when this involves taking financial risks”.Arising from the above dictionary meaning of the word “entrepreneur” is the confounding relevance of the impartation of entrepreneurial skills to the average primary and junior secondary school teenager.  

In their surface interpretation of our theme in this paper, conservative parents are most likely to query the wisdom in the exposure of young children to skills acquisition rather than purely academic learning. The answer to this societal or parental opposition to their children’s exposure to entrepreneurial skills at so tender ages is found in the 1983 general election campaign master plan of the late sage, the visionary Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in which he enunciated his dream education policy for a technology-driven and industrialized Nigeria. 

To him, the secondary education (which was still a one-run affair then) would have to be broken into two: Junior High School and Senior High School.

He went further to explain that the Junior High School of three years was to include the teaching of all respectable entrepreneurial skills to students for two years, while they would specialize in one in the third year and be awarded certificates of competence.Pa Awolowo’s document had a long list of skills that included leather works, bricklaying and masonry, carpentry and wood work, blacksmithing foundry and iron casting, electrification, cooling and refrigeration, painting and design, etc.  His reasons for dreaming of acquisition of skills along with academics were among others:

1. Some pupils who could not continue schooling beyond the Junior Secondary School level would have a trade to settle into. 

 2. Some children whose psychomotor domain is more active than cognitive would be discovered and developed through this system for a fulfilled life career.

 2. Having successfully distinguished between psychomotor and cognitive talents, those seen to demonstrate exceptional psychomotor skills will be encouraged to proceed to the technical colleges and from there to the polytechnics. Those talented in the basic subjects would continue to the Senior Secondary and later to the university.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s proposed Secondary School curriculum arose out of his vision that with the explosion in the education industry, youth employment and its attendant woes were very likely if a deliberate comprehensive plan for the absorption of the young ones on graduation from any level of education was not made.

This is in tune with one of his four-cardinal programmes: Gainful employment.  The truth cannot be controverted that there is a direct correlation between gainful employment and national development.  Employment is said to be gainful when it profits the worker or business owner and the state or country.  If it benefits one and does otherwise to the other party, then it is not gainful.              

The business element in the dictionary interpretation. 

The term “business” is denotative of engagement in running of an enterprise that aims at profit making. It entails at the very least the active participation of two parties who are into the exchange of goods and services for some financial benefits to them. Coming nearer home, the leather works man (known as the show maker in the layman’s language) makes or mends shoes for his customers in exchange for a fee. The electrician carries out the electrical wiring of a building and collects his feet, while the owner of the house lives in it and saves his previous monthly rent for other purposes or rents out his property for a fee. Those are the simple illustrations of business. 

Business in whatever form does not imply the owner depending on government or any other employer for a monthly salary and allowance. To that extent, he is independent and can even hire as many other hands as he may consider necessary to prosecute and grow his business. That is the only solution to mass youth unemployment and national growth. Our country’s gross domestic product (GOP) has not grown appreciably over the years, since our discovery of crude oil, because of our abysmally low productive capacity. For ages, we have been arrogant consumers of foreign goods, thereby damaging our local industries and daily depleting our foreign reserve. This ugly scenario will continue if we are not penitent about our past economic mistakes and adopt, update and adapt Pa Obafemi Awolowo’s solution document, which the military under Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida stole, adulterated and implemented haphazardly, and converted to a conduit pipe for many people in the corridors of power to siphon inestimable sums of hard and local currencies. 

The risks element

If goes without saying that every business, no matter how big or small, is prone to a lot of dangers: human, environmental, financial. The ability to overcome these dangers as they come, retain and expand the business is the evidence of the manager/owner’s capability as a businessman. The school’s deliberate plan to adequately prepare students for the consistently growing risks involved in running correspondingly growing businesses calls for the inclusion of some basic business related courses in the Junior Secondary School Curriculum such as:

a. Elementary Financial Management 

b.Rudimentary Account and Book Keeping 

c. Business Risk Management 

d. Basic Business Management Skills 

All these could come under one subject code-named: Basic Business Methods. This way, every young student will be well kitted not only with an entrepreneurial skill but also the intellectual capacity to run his chosen business.

 Rijigging Universal Basic Education for the development of youths entrepreneurial skills.

The first point to made and take serious note of here is that the two segments of our education system (the 6-year primary and the 3-year junior secondary) constitute the foundation upon which further levels of education rest. This fact underscores the need to make them solid, reliable, foolproof and forward looking.  Only then can they form a strong enough bedrock for further education.

Secondly, we must all sincerely admit that the Universal Basic Education is in dire need of thorough and objective re-appraisal and total overhaul for it to achieve the objective of equipping our teaming youth with the much needed entrepreneurial skills for both personal and national growth and development. To achieve this end and gainfully engage and mobilize our energetic, naturally innovative and intellectually endowed youths for financially rewarding ventures, some steps should be taken urgently. 

1. Re-orientation of the already frustrated, misinformed, conservative major stake-holders in education. Such include parents, teachers, students and the larger society. The government should be seen to be sincerely committed to changing the colonial and already despondent mindset of these classes of people to the need to switch over to the educational philosophy of the training of the 3H(head, heart, hand) for the all-round development and functional living of the child.

 2. The school curriculum should be reviewed not only to include but to stress and make compulsory the theoretical and practical teaching of modern entrepreneurial skills. 

3. Suitable workshops and laboratories should be built and fully equipped for the teaching of these skills.

4. Instructors/teachers of these skills should be specially trained for the purpose, and they should be adequate in number. On-the-job training programmes (workshops, seminars and conferences) should be organized regularly so as to keep them abreast of current trends.

 5. The government should ensure the regular supply of practical training materials to schools.

6. Supervision is very key to the success of the scheme, as it could be messed up if the implementers are not constantly conscious of the unwavering watching eyes of the policy makers. Supervision should include periodic audit exercises of practical training materials. For effective supervision, the inspectorate arm of the Ministry of Education should be revamped, re-organized and given the needed teeth to perform.

7. Evaluation is equally very important. It should be done both formatively and summatively. It is formative when the assessment of a programme is carried out on a continuous basis in the course of its implementation. This helps to detect structural defects in good time and correct them progressively during work in progress. Evaluation is summative when done at the terminal point of a programme; say at the end of a session. Evaluation, whenever done, helps to bring to the fore the success or otherwise of a programme for necessary adjustments.

8. A comparative study of the modus operandi of the development of youth’s entrepreneurial skills through basic education or its equivalent in other chimes is desirable. Since Nigeria is a part of the global family and one that hankers after being at par with the developed world, it is not out of place for us to peep into what others have done to be where they are and what they are still doing and how they are doing it to remain in front and even move further ahead. The truth has dawned on us that transfer of technology has failed. Rather, emerging world economies have amply demonstrated that technology can only be stolen just as the developed world stole everything from us: our culture, natural resources and all. This recommendation of mine is, however, not without prejudice to international political morality.

 9. The world today has gone digital. It therefore, stands to reason that information communication Technology should not be left behind in the implementation of the programmes. That way, Nigeria will be keeping pace with the developed world.


Ladies and gentlemen, to me, our consensus today is that Nigeria must grow. Two, it is our vibrant, energetic, versatile and intellectually sound youths who can make her grow. Three, and very crucial, it is education that can equip the youth with the magic; and the best way to do is to catch them young and equip them with entrepreneurial skills at the universal basic educational level. The task is enormous but possible if we all agree on the same goal which is: Give the youths entrepreneurial skills now and stem the tide of mass unemployment and its attendant vices.

Once again, I am grateful to the Akeem Kareem Foundation for this honour. I appreciate everybody present for your raff attention.

Hon. Ajibola Famurewa is the Executive Chairman of Osun Basic Education Board (SUBEB)

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