African Outlook Online

Dayo's Standpoint

Whither Education in Nigeria - 2

Whither Education in Nigeria - 2

 

By Dayo Balogun

The pivotal importance of education in the global world we live in today cannot be overemphasized. The simple truth is that there is no country in the world that can achieve meaningful and sustainable development without adequately and appropriately investing in the education of its children and youth.

This is simply because the children and youths of today constitute an essential demographic component of what can be referred to as the next generation powerhouse.

 

The next generation of productive component of the population whose contribution to our gross domestic product (GDP) in Nigeria is vital. The wellbeing of today’s children is significant not only for their lives but also children they in turn bring into the world and the sort of society they form and live in.

 

If the overview of Nigeria 2013 budget announced last month by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is anything to go by, education is definitely not one of Nigeria`s budget priorities in 2013. Dr Okonjo-Iweala stated that the priorities of the 2013 budget include cost of governance, debt management, infrastructure investments, job creation, support of the development of the manufacturing sector, gender empowerment and sports development.

 

She rightly pointed out that one of the six areas of budget priority, Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit remains one of the binding constraints to growth in the economy but failed to highlight the importance of education to meaningful sustainable development. If Nigeria is to achieve meaningful and sustainable development, there is need to urgently and very importantly re-double effort and focus on education and allocate adequate resources to education.

School Assembly grounds where the students are supposed to gather before school resumes

It is important to note here that simply allocating huge sums of money to the education sector or achieving UNESCO recommendation of at least 26% of Nigeria's budget devoted to education does not mean problems bedeviling education in the country are being tackled. Allocations need to be judiciously targeted and used to address areas where problems have been identified.

 

As I pointed out in the first part of this article, N400.15Billion was allocated to education in 2012 out of federal government budget. In the year 2013, another N426.53Billion has been budgeted by the federal government. Additional several billions of naira has been allocated to education in each of the 36 states of Nigeria. Rivers - N64Billion, Ogun - N44.3Billion, Lagos - N65.9Billion, Zamfara - N5.7Billion, Bayelsa - N28.4Billion, Taraba - N43.44Billion, Sokoto - N17.6Billion, Kogi - N7.2Billion, etc., Meanwhile, the huge allocations and spending have not resulted in any significant progress because between 70% and 90% of allocations continue to be spent on recurrent expenditure as opposed to needed focus on tangible and much needed infrastructures.

School Well: The drinking and other usage water source

As lion’s share of the tens and hundreds of billions continues to be budgeted and expended on recurrent expenditure at the state and federal government levels it is important to ask what exactly these funds get spent on? Spokespersons for federal and state governments are usually quick to respond that the major recurrent expenditures are spent on teachers’ salaries. But, is it true that the larger percentage of recurrent expenditures on education goes to salaries, in a country whose teachers are amongst the least paid in the world? Majority of teachers in public schools are paid between N15,000 and N25,000 monthly. Some are even paid as low as N8,000 monthly!

 

Lecturers in both state and federal tertiary institutions are also reported to be poorly paid with some earning as low as N42,000 monthly basic salary. The basic average monthly salary of a professor in a public Nigerian tertiary institution is reported to be as low as N62,796. Not only are the salaries of teachers, lecturers, professors and non academic staff very low but their salaries are often irregular.

 

The condition for teaching and learning in many public educational institutions is grossly unacceptable when compared to conditions of similar institutions in other countries across the world where education is taken more seriously.

 

There are many educational institutions that lack adequate laboratories for teaching and research, up-to-date books and journals and failure to regularly send teaching staff on short courses to improve and enhance their competencies. As a direct result, no Nigerian polytechnic or university has attained any remarkable position in the world global rankings. In fact, it can be said that many of these tertiary institutions that should have been citadel of higher education merely exist on past glory.

A school staff room where teachers have there working spaces before going into classrooms to teach

The problems in Nigeria`s educational sector not only exist in all levels; primary, secondary and all other forms of tertiary institutions, the problems keep getting worse by the day. There is scarcely any provision for state funded public nursery schools. Public education for the disable children and youths is almost non-existent. In fact, I can safely state here that government ministries at federal, state and local government levels either does not know the true magnitude of educational problems Nigeria faces today or the country`s educational sector is been systematically left for the private sector to gradually take over and run.

 

Although it is true that Nigeria's educational sector continues to suffer from poor funding as I have earlier stressed, the major problems facing education in the country are lack of up-to-date data for planning, embezzlement of funds, corruption in high and low places and government at federal and state levels reneging on mutual agreements between it and the unions of the educational institutions which often lead to unending strikes.

A classroom

In a country where there is no reliable and watertight strategy for the registration of births and age falsification is rife, it is not uncommon for ministries of education not to have reliable and regularly updated data that can be used for educational planning. For instance about 1.2 million candidates out of the over 1.7 million candidates that applied to sit for this year's Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) are not likely to gain admission into the tertiary institutions for the 2013/2014 academic session according to Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai, Minister of Education as if the government of Nigeria is just learning of the existence of these candidates.

 

The data usually used by education ministries is usually out of date or inaccurate. It’s not rocket science; there is a very important need for federal and state ministries of education to not only have reliable data on the number of children enrolled in schools at any given time.  There is also a need for good data, on the number of teachers/lecturers employed to teach them, and a regularly updated audit of infrastructural facilities, but more importantly, a reliable data on the number of children who will be entering school in coming years as well a regularly updated information system to capture and ascertain problems being faced by the educational institutions at all levels.

 

It now apparent that it is not only politicians that have been or presently in power that have given up on Nigeria's educational sector, Nigerians have given up too. Instead of mounting pressure on government to be accountable and responsible in tackling the problems in our educational sector, a growing number of Nigerians now prefer to either educate their children in fee paying private schools in Nigeria or send them overseas to be educated at tremendous cost.

Decaying structures visible everywhere

The amount spent on private nursery, primary and secondary education is not known as at the time of writing this article but over N159Billion is estimated to be spent annually by Nigerians in neighboring Ghana on University education for about 75,000 Nigerians attending tertiary institutions in Ghana. According to Mr Ike Onyechere, the Chairman of Exam Ethics International, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Nigeria spends about N1.5 trillion annually on Nigerian students studying abroad. I wonder where Nigerians would have sent their children if these foreign countries to which they send them in the pursuit of further studies, had not looked after their educational sectors!

 

It is not surprising Nigerians value foreign educational qualifications more. Standards and quality of education in Nigeria's public schools have fallen drastically. It is very sad that we know the problems in our educational sector as many have highlighted the problems in different fora across the world, but we have not started dealing with the problems.

 

It is high time there is simple and focused vision and policy on education in Nigeria. It is high time Nigerians put pressure on government at all levels to take education more seriously and not feel that privately educating their children in private educational institutions within and outside Nigeria is the solution to the problems in the educational sector. It’s time we stop treating teachers with contempt and return to the old days when teachers were held in high regard. It’s time to motivate our teachers and lecturers especially those in the areas of Sciences, Mathematics and English. It’s time to prioritise funding and investments in education at all levels and make sure funds allocated get to areas to which they have particularly been allocated and not private bank accounts in Nigeria or foreign countries.

 

It is simple, if Nigeria continues with this “I don’t care attitude” irresponsible approach of handling our educational sector, meaningful and sustainable economic and technological development will continue to be unattainable and Nigeria will continue to be a third world backward country.