UNICEF AND BASIC EDUCATION EBONYI SUBEB PERSPECTIVE THE JOURNEY SINCE JANUARY 2015

Introduction:
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is an organ of the United Nation (UN) where core mission is to promote children’s right outline by the convention on the right of the child (CRC). The vision of UNICEF is to ensure that children have the right opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential without discrimination, bias or favoritism. To actualize their mission and vision for children and women, UNICEF in collaboration with partners develops and implements activities on a medium term plans. These medium term plans are called country programme. The 2014 to 2017 UNICEF country programme of cooperation with the Nigeria government focused on the most disadvantaged and excluded children. Therefore, all the seven UNICEF priority areas (Programme Interventions) were designed to target these two focus areas.

Some of the seven priority areas include:

Equitable access to quality education
Social inclusion of disadvantaged children
Access to nutrition support and improved nutrition and care practice
Maternal and child health and promotion of healthy behavior
HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment of children, pregnant women and women etc.

UNCIEF’S support to basic education programme falls within the priority area of equitable access to quality education. This is the basis of her intervention in the Universal Basic Education Programme and fulcrum for her cooperation with Ebonyi SUBEB. It is worthy to note that of the ten states the UNICEF Enugu office serves, Ebonyi is the only state that enjoys their intervention and support in basic education. This is because the state is educationally disadvantaged. The intervention in basic education in Nigeria and Ebonyi SUBEB in particular is aimed at offering educational opportunities to all children of primary school age and eliminate exclusion of all kinds.

Consequently, UNICEF activities and support are aimed at achieving the following objectives:
Improving net primary school enrolment, retention and educational attainment in formal schools
Improving participation in non-formal education and early childhood centres.
Reducing the number of out of school girls and improving their learning outcomes
Promoting the mainstream gender sensitive child friendly education.

To achieve the objectives, UNICEFF adopts the following strategies;
Promotion of community ownership funding and involvement in school personnel
Promoting government formulation of policies to provide enabling environment
Champions and improves access to early Childhood Care Centres.

Bearing in mind the obvious fact that the challenges being addressed belong to the collaborating agency who primarily implements the programmes, these objectives of UNICEF and strategies which are designed to actualize them are always tailored and aligned to government processes as the UNICEF programme interventions are not stand-alone. Expediently, the funding support is to be borne by UNICEF and the collaborating agency in equal ratio. Despite the agreement and the benefits the partners derive from the collaborations, they hardly abide by the agreements. They do not fulfill their financial obligations. This makes programme implementation clumsy and the objectives unrealizable.

Activities carried out between 2015 and 2018
There are two major programmes the UNICEF has assisted Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board to implement within the period under review.

There are:-
School Enrolment Drive Campaign
Early Childhood Care and Education.

Under school enrolment drive campaign, activities carried out include:

Inauguration and sensitization of state steering committee on school enrolment drive.
State level flag off of school enrolment drive campaign
Inauguration of Local Government School Enrolment Drive Campaign Committees in the 13 Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State.
Training of Local Government School Enrolment Drive Campaign Committee on work plan and strategies to raise fund for implementation of the action plans.
Inauguration of community school enrolment drive campaign committee in ten (10) LGAs.
Development of Information/Education and Communication (IEC) materials on school enrolment drive in conjunction with media experts.
Training of community/ village school enrolment drive campaign committee in the ten (10) Local Government Areas on the use of the developed IEC materials (Posters, flyers and jingles) in the conduct of enrolment drive campaign.
Training of head teachers and chairmen of school based management committees in six (6) Local Government Areas on school enrolment drive.
Training of Local Government councilors on the conduct of school enrolment drive.
Monitoring the level of implementation of school enrolment drive in four Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State.

Achievements:-
3,500 critical stakeholders were reached and have joined in the conduct of school enrolment drive in their different villages/Local Government Areas.
6,983 pre-school and school aged children who are not enrolled in any form of pre-school and basic education were identified by the school enrolment drive campaign committee and local institutions have been mobilized to help enroll them in school.
5,020 out-of-school children have now re-enrolled in basic education in some hard to reach communities of Afikpo South, Izzi , Ikwo , Ivo, Ezza North and Ishielu Local Government Areas.

Early Childhood Education:
It is on record that enrolment in Early Childhood Education Centres in Ebonyi State ranks lowest in the South East geopolitical zone. To salvage this situation, the following activities were planned and carried out.
Development of Early Childhood and Education (ECE) prototype costing model. (Yet to be completed).
Training of caregivers of ECD linked to public schools in Ikwo and Afikpo South on the use of Reggio Emilia Teaching Method in instructional delivery.
Training of School Support Officers (SSOs) on monitoring of the classroom application of Reggio Emilia Teaching Method.
Bi-monthly monitoring of caregivers classroom application of the Reggio Emilia teaching method by trained SSOs of Ikwo and Afikpo South.

ACHIEVEMENTS:
Children in pre-schools linked to public primary schools in Ikwo and Afikpo South now enjoy instructional delivery due to caregiver application of Reggio Emilia Teaching approach which is child centred and participatory.
Caregivers in Afikpo South and Ikwo Local Government Areas now have the knowledge and skills on Reggio Emilia and use them in classroom instructional delivery.
Application of Reggio Emilia teaching methodology in schools in Afikpo South and Ikwo Local Government Areas has increased the demand for pre-school education.

CHALLENGES:
The UNICEF programme of co-operation has made much contribution to the progress of the State Universal Basic Education Boards. It has the potential to help in the achievement of the laudable objectives of the universal basic education programme if it is well managed. Basically there are challenges that militate against effective implementation of the programmes.

Some of these challenges/constraints are:
Lack of proper understanding of the programme of co-operation. This makes Chief Executives of MDAs to refer to it as UNICEF programmes.
Irregular provision of counterpart funding support by collaborating government MDAs.
Lack of political will by government partners to fully own the programmes.
Government inability to sustain and scale up best practices from the programme.
Dwindling funding support from UNICEF
Donor driven nature of the programme of co-operation.

CONCLUSION
Despite the aforementioned structural challenges that have hampered the implementation which hitherto rubbed off the full benefits of UNICEF assisted programme in Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board, the programme of co-operation has been fruitful, rewarding and has potentials to which if properly harnessed will contribute in extricating Ebonyi State from her present categorization as educational less developed.

NWEKE CHRISTOGONUS O.
UNCIEF Desk Officer.

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The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme is a nine (9) year basic educational programme, which was launched and executed by the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration.