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Funding, Hybrid Learning Top Stakeholders’ Expectations for Tertiary Institutions in 2022
With the dawn of a new year, experts in the education sector explained why politicians should eschew corruption for the continued survival of public institutions, demanding more funds for the education sector. They called on tertiary institutions to promote hybrid learning and offer more relevant courses to make Nigerian graduates globally competitive. Uchechukwu Nnaike and Funmi Ogundare report
The education sector suffered an unprecedented setback last year, caused by the prolonged ASUU strike, impact of the COVID-19, insecurity in schools, especially in the northern part of the country, and poor budgetary allocation. Towards the end of 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2022 N17.126 trillion appropriation bill into law.
He also signed the Finance Bill 2021, which he said is critical to executing the 2022 budget. The 2022 budget, valued at N17.126 trillion, was transmitted to the president by the National Assembly on December 24.
Buhari had submitted the draft proposed 2022 budget of N16.391 trillion to the joint session of the National Assembly on October 7, 2021, while calling on the legislators to give it a speedy consideration.
A breakdown shows that N869 billion was for statutory allocation, N3.8 trillion for debt servicing, N6.9 trillion and N5.4 trillion for recurrent and capital expenditure, respectively.
For the education sector, N875,925,404,037 (which includes a UBEC allocation of N139,236,349,701) out of a total budget size of N16.9 trillion, was allocated.
Analysis of the 2022 Appropriation Bill showed that the sector got a 5.3 per cent allocation which falls below last year’s percentage of 5.6 per cent.
The development did not go down well with some stakeholders who said that explains why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will continue to go on strike and why there is an infrastructural deficit in tertiary institutions, among other challenges in the sector.
Some experts told THISDAY that the federal government had not paid serious attention to education over the years, given the paltry budgetary allocation.
The Head of Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Africa, Toru-Orua (UAT) Bayelsa, Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, worried about the paltry budgetary provisions for education, to the extent that many universities have monetised honorary doctorate degrees to raise funds.
“It explains why government reneges on its several agreements with ASUU since 2009. It explains why many academics no longer take their teaching and scholarly research serious,” said Ayakoroma. “It is generally believed and rightly too that the standard of education is falling in the country. How will it not fall when the morale of lecturers is ebbing by the year? How do we address these anomalies?”
He explained that the best any government can give to its citizenry is good education, adding that the government should honour its agreement with ASUU and know that whatever funds released to federal universities are to improve critical infrastructure and enhance the working conditions of the lecturers.
Ayakoroma mentioned the dire need for increased admission opportunities, with less than 30 per cent of candidates offered admission into higher institutions due largely to the lack of critical infrastructure in the existing ones to absorb more candidates.
“We can imagine what vocations the about 70 per cent disappointed candidates have gone into over the years: Yahoo-yahoo, armed robbery, drugs, alcoholism, sexploitation, kidnapping, terrorism, and so on,” he pointed out. “It is imperative for government to invest heavily in the education of the youth, our future leaders, for a guaranteed, prosperous future of the Nigerian nation.”
A lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Bunmi Ajibade, emphasised the setback the education sector witnessed in 2021.
“It has never been this bad in the history of Nigeria. One of the greatest problems is the issue of insecurity, particularly in the north-western part of the country. School children were indiscriminately kidnapped in states like Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina,” stated Ajibade.
He noted that is one region literacy rate is the least, adding that with the incessant kidnapping in the region, parents may be reluctant to send their children to school. Hundreds of millions of naira, Ajibade added, was demanded as ransom from many impoverished parents.
“In spite of the frequent attacks by bandits and kidnappers, security agencies seemed helpless in arresting the situation. Section 14 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes it clear that the security and welfare of Nigerians shall be the primary purpose of government. With the security situation, particularly around school premises, it is clear that government has failed in its primary responsibility to the citizens. With huge security votes annually, we cannot see the impact of government in the protection of the citizens, especially the young people. These children, who have been kidnapped and made to go through harrowing experiences, are traumatized. They may never have faith in the Nigerian system. So, the long-term impact of insecurity will be devastating,” the don stressed.
He stressed the need for government to increase its surveillance activities to preempt attacks on schools.
The Vice-Chancellor, Samuel Adegboyega University, Ogwa, Edo, State, Prof. Babatunde Idowu, stressed that a critical review of the sector would reveal that “a lot has gone wrong.”
“However, going forward, there must be deliberate efforts to rescue the sector at all levels. First, the federal and state governments must find a way to keep to the recommendations of UNESCO as regards funding the education sector,” he said.
The VC recalled that other smaller countries have kept faith with adequate funding for the sector, adding that what the federal and state governments have budgeted for education in the 2022 fiscal year leaves more to be desired.
“Until we take the funding of education seriously, things will continue to go wrong. It is heartbreaking to find out that the government has literally abandoned the idea of infrastructural development in the university,” stated Idowu. “Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) is now the only agency paying little attention to it. Interestingly, we have argued that TETFund should be expanded to accommodate research opportunities in private institutions. The argument that private institutions are personal businesses cannot stand.”
He regretted that the government seems to have forgotten that the tax that is used to fund the public institutions through TETfund comes from the private sector, adding, “apart from this, do we have a private and public labour market for graduates? These students and lecturers are all Nigerians, and they should be treated equally.”
The VC expressed concern about the frequent ASUU strikes, which he noted has left a sour taste in the sector.
“It is a mockery that university teachers go on strike every year because of funding. It is a lasting shame. Going forward, the government must listen to ASUU and other unions across all levels and see what could be done to change the ugly narrative,” he pointed out.
Idowu also lamented the high exchange rate.
“Without this, the little that is provided will be consumed by the exchange rate. I am a researcher, and I buy materials for my laboratory works,” he explained. “The rising exchange rate can make this impossible. All these things point to one thing; government insensitivity to the sector. The government at all levels must pay attention to the sector with a view to making it better. Public institutions must not die. Politicians should take their corruption far from the sector. Look at public primary and secondary schools; they have no teachers. Something must be done very fast,” the VC added.
The Vice-Chancellor, Anchor University, Lagos, Prof. Joseph Afolayan, stated that the surge of COVID-19 in 2020 brought about a global crisis still plaguing the world.
“Over 200 countries have had to seek ways to cope socially, economically, environmentally, and medically. Unfortunately, the education sector has also faced significant setbacks, especially in developing countries like Nigeria,” Afolayan explained. “However, universities have started to incorporate distance learning, but with its attendant challenges.”
One of such challenges, he noted, is inadequate facilities to meet the population of students. He said the distance learning approach has not been all that effective.
“We must brace ourselves for future challenges such as this pandemic or similar. In other words, the following issues are indispensable for our education system: promotion of hybrid learning, allocation of more funds to develop the IT sector of our tertiary institutions,” he added.
Given a large number of prospective candidates for higher education, Afolayan noted that tertiary institutions should consider offering more relevant courses in engineering, data science, management, entrepreneurship, social services, and medicine.
In addition, learning materials should be available online, and with this should come an improvement in internet connectivity on the campuses, he urged. Overall, to survive the pandemic chaos, he called for the development of adequate and functional digital infrastructures. This, he believes, is more needful as the future of education will most likely be distant learning, which has its benefits.
Afolayan wants IT taught in secondary schools to prepare students, noting that the virtue of discipline, diligence and resilience should be inculcated into youths.
The Registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said the challenge experienced last year brought out the ingenuity and resilience of Nigerian teachers.
According to him, the federal government invested a lot of resources in digital literacy training programmes for Nigerian teachers to assist them in coping with the challenges of the pandemic.
Through the TRCN, with funding support under the Global Partnership for Education, the Federal Ministry of Education commenced training of trainers on digital literacy and online teaching for 480 master trainers in 16 states. This will extend to training 30,000 teachers in the selected states in 2022.
“TRCN also organised digital training for teachers in the South West and North East in 2021. We shall continue with this training in 2022,” stated Ajiboye.
Ajiboye said the agency would not relent on the mandatory continuing professional development training programmes, especially in teachers’ core subjects (English Language, Mathematics and ICT).
TRCN’s focus in 2022 is to strengthen teachers’ professional development through digital education.
“We believe that the Nigerian classroom needs total and complete revolution in terms of content delivery and pedagogy,” he explained. “TRCN will also continue to pursue the issue of teachers’ welfare, especially as it concerns the full implementation of all the welfare package approved by President Mohammadu Buhari for Nigerian teachers in 2020. Some aspects are already being implemented, but we will strive for full implementation, including getting all the laws to back up the packages.”