With the dawn of a new year, stakeholders in the country’s education sector believe that aside proper funding of the sector, teachers should be well motivated and there should be development of centres of excellence, innovation hubs and education communities that would attract the best brains. Funmi Ogundare reports
The year 2019 has gone with its usual challenges. Aside the poor budgetry allocation to the education sector for 2020, the introduction of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), a form of identity system management pitched the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against the federal government and made both parties to engage in fierce war of words over the government’s decision to make universities embrace the system.
The union had objected to the IPPIS, sayng that it has a lot to do with budgets for universities, it argued that IPPIS violates existing laws and autonomy of the university; it is World Bank-designed exploitative template; does not make provisions for payment of arrears of promotion, study leave allowance, and responsibility allowance, among others.
In his 2020 appropriation bill submitted to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari proposed a capital expenditure of N48 billion for the Ministry of Education and also proposed N112 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
An aggregate expenditure of N10.33 trillion was proposed in the appropriation bill. The expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.88 trillion, and N2.14 trillion of capital expenditure (excluding the capital component of statutory transfers).
Debt service is estimated at N2.45 trillion and provision for a Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion. Details of the budget proposal revealed that Works and Housing got the highest capital project proposal with N262 billion, followed by Power with N127 billion and Transportation got N123 billion then UBEC with N112 billion.
The president proposed N3.6 trillion for personnel and pension costs, giving the recurrent bill of an increase of N620.28 billion when compared to the 2019 budget.
He said the addition is to cater for the “new minimum wage as well as our proposals to improve remuneration and welfare of our Police and Armed Forces.”
The president said the 2020 bill is based on the new VAT rate, which will help finance health, education, and infrastructural programmes.
However, ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi expressed disapointment over the budget proposal, saying that, “hardly do government, both federal and states, release up to 25 per cent of the allocated funds to universities in the country.”
He said the allocations usually come in trickles and amount to little or nothing, adding that at the end of the day, the little funds released are mopped up in the last month of the year and taken to the next budgetary cycle for the game of deciet to start all over.
As part of its plans, starting from 2020, the federal government said it has committed N10 billion to remove 10.2 million out-of-school children from the streets in the next five years and that it hopes to achieve the target by enrolling two million children yearly.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, made this known, during the unveiling of Education Sector Short and Medium Term Blueprint/Work Plan on the implementation of Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) document.
At a two-day retreat attended by states commissioners for education, permanent secretaries, chairpersons of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), directors and heads of parastatals and agencies in the education sector, Adamu said the government would embark on sensitisation of traditional rulers and religious leaders on the need to inform their communities of the benefits of formal education.
He added that there will be ‘crackdown’ on substandard primary and secondary schools across the country.
According to the document, by the end of 2020, about N3 billion would have been committed by 19 states, “outside the intervention of the federal government to ensure the enrollment of over two million school-age children who are not in school.”
The document also shows that states are expected to commit another N2.4 billion in 2021, N2 billion in 2022, N1.5 billion in 2023 and N1.1 billion in 2024 respectively towards addressing the problem.
However, the challenges confronting the sector have remained a source of concern among stakeholders who have stressed the need for the government to be proactive in its measures towards fixing the sector.
The ASUU President regretted that most state governments like the federal government, have continued to toy with the business of education by turning their backs on the UBEC intervention funds which requires state government to provide counterpart funds to enable them access the two per cent of the country’s consolidated revenue kept with the federal government.
This he noted has in no little measure, compounded the problem of out of school children.
On the IPPIS, he said the move by government is capable of turning Nigerian scholars into a laughing stock within the global academic community.
According to him, “Nigerian academics will not fold their arms and allow that to happen. We owe it to history and to this nation to defend the university system. If we fail to do so, nobody will do it for us.”
He said such failure in the university system “will not just hunt us collectively, but over localise Nigerian scholars.”
In her submission, the Principal Consultant, Lonadek, Dr. Ibilola Amao expressed concern about the challenges in the sector, saying that it has become so pathetic.
According to her, “No serious government spends less than 7 per cent of its budget on education. I am convinced that we have the most wicked and deliberately wicked decision makers involved in budgeting for education. I don’t expect better from rulers whose children are being educated abroad while they feed fat on governance expenditure. Very sad indeed.”
She asked why a whooping sum of N37 billion should be budgeted for the renovation of the National Assembly and N48 billion on education saying: “Is this logical in a country with teaming youth and a high population of illiterates, most especially in the north?
Amao said she believes that if government officials educate their children in Nigeria, they would invest more in the education sector, adding that for the country to get the foundation right, there is need to get the best brains teaching by developing centres of excellence, innovation hubs and education communities.
She opined that if teacher training is revamped and the best brains are guaranteed the best quality of life that will encompass comfortable housing, uninterrupted power supply, resident support and a maximum of 30 minutes travel time to and and from work, as well as the best educational wired resources with teaching capabilities, they would be enticed to resign from their stressful jobs with poor-work balance and relocate to these hubs, centres and education communities.
“Nigeria can actually revert to the days when Africans came to study in our highly esteemed institutions. The huge capital flight from the exodus of Nigerians studying abroad and government’s failure to invest more in education can be likened to a terminal disease that needs to be reversed urgently. The needful should be done sooner,” the principal consultant stressed.
The Principal of CMS Grammar School, Lagos, Reverend Olubusola Sofekun stressed the need for government to be proactive in its actions by making education its priority and funding it appropriately.
“Government should be proactive because the children are the future of the nation and any society that does not give priority to education is putting the future in jeopardy. Efforts should also be made to put in more funds into education. They should not show a lackadaisical attitude towards the funding of education. If they are not educated, they will not be appointed into office. During their own time, they enjoyed scholarship and many other things.”
He also said emphasis should be placed on practical skills acqusition and vocational education that would make youths to be employers of labour rather than job seekers.
According to him,”many of our graduates are jobless because they lack vocational skills. Once they can start, many people will not be running after white collar jobs again. For instance, in this school, we do carpentry and bricklaying right from junior secondary one (JS1). So efforts should also be made towards the provision of laboratory equipment for skills acquisition in schools.”
The President of Old Grammarian Society (OGS), CMS Grammar School, Mr. Olu Vincent stressed the need for the government to bring together the critical stakeholders who have ideas to proffer solutions to the problems confronting the sector, adding that teachers must also be motivated.
“When you pump money and the teachers are not motivated, you cannot get the best of results, let them feel that they are part of the system and appreciate what they are doing so that they can put in their best. Their salaries might not be sufficient, but let them feel important.”