Sometimes in July 2021, at the recently concluded education summit in the United Kingdom (UK). President Muhammadu Buhari promised to increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years. Critically interrogate the issues around this pledge exploring the impediments, possibilities, and potential benefits.
1.1. The 2021 Education Summit in Uk: Aims & Objectives
1.2. The Global Education Summit, also known as (GPE) is a shared commitment platform among world leaders to end the world’s learning crisis. It is a global partnership and fund; solely dedicated to helping children in poorer countries; have access to quality education, opportunities to unlock their potential, and building a better world.
1.3. The 2021 summit, tagged; (Financing GPE 2021-2025) held in the United Kingdom, was a vital time for the world to come together and promote quality education for all children. At the summit, world leaders made 5-year pledges to support (GPE) work and help transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories.
2.1. The President; promise to increase the annual domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years.
2.2. At the summit, President Muhamadu Buhari promised to increase the annual domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years. The main question is, will this not be one among thousands of empty promises from the President; if not an empty promise, what will that achieve in the light of the recent education crisis crippling the education sector?
The educational status-quo in the country
2.3. The status-quo in the country’s education system is appalling, one step forward and ten steps backward. Tens of millions of Nigerians are half-educated, and about 30% of the population, amounting to around sixty million Nigerians are illiterate. Day by day, the standard of education falls abysmally, quality education in Nigeria is getting expensive and fast becoming a luxury exclusive to the few affluent. The government no longer gives priority to education, as the budgetary allocations for education shrink every year.
2.4. Private individuals are being proactive at starting schooling businesses; to bridge the gap and, make a profit from the government incompetence to provide quality and affordable education; thereby, the citizens who can afford it have to pay more for education, and those who cannot afford it, are left with no other choice than to drop out.
2.5. The crisis in the education sector is not just about the low funding; the state of insecurity in the country is a; major crisis; in the backward nature of the education sector. In many parts of Northern Nigeria, schools are been shut because it is not safe for children to be in school. On the other hand, schools that are struggling to function are challenged with parents’ scepticism and tension at sending their wards to school, kidnapping school children for ransom in broad-day-light while actual learning is going on in classes is now a business venture in the country.
3.0. The issues and the pledge:
3.1. It is no news that poor funding is the major problem facing the Nigerian education sector; I believe it is the reason for the President’s pledge. Nigeria’s 2021 fiscal budget was estimated at N13.08 trillion with N742.5 billion allotted to education; 5.6 percent, the lowest Percentage allocation since 2011. Nigerians are not in shock, neither surprised at the ridiculous budget allotted to education, a President who was rumoured not to even have a high school certificate in the first place, what more premium do you expect such individual to place on education?
3.2. In the early hours of Tuesday, the 24th day of August 2021, news broke out that the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) HQ in Kaduna was attacked by “bandits”, Three men were reportedly killed; many injured and receiving treatment, and a couple of others kidnapped. Nigerians are been asked to call them “bandits” that are going about their daily business rather than “terrorists”. These bandits have incessantly attacked schools and places of learning, making it impossible for studying to take place in some parts of Nigeria. The NDA is supposed to be the most secured institutional place of learning, yet it was unsafe, what then is the hope of an average Nigerian in the face of insecurity viz-a-viz our educational places. Insecurity over the years has been a major challenge to the growth of education in Nigeria. Hopefully, it won’t end education in the nation.
3.3. Poor Governance is another issue facing the education system in Nigeria, low quality of education, poor remuneration and benefits for teachers, employment of unqualified teaching staff, poor educational policies, and so on. Research conducted in November 2017 by; Aina Jacob Kola, Nathaniel Nnawo Gana, and Ibitomi Oluyemi Olasumbo: “The lack of good governance in Nigeria and its impact on functional science education”1 reveals that Nigeria is still backward in science and technology practices and education due to poor governance. Indeed, poor governance has not only caused the nation poor education but also sabotaging its development.
3.4. Flowing from poor governance is corruption, cancer that has eaten deep into every sector of the nation’s fabric. Corruption did not neglect the education system in Nigeria, in fact, it has taken over the education system, employees, appointees, civil servants, and stakeholders at all education ministries in the country practice corruption as a way of life in the country’s educational system. Common practice is payment for a result, examination malpractice, certificate forgery, aiding and abetting in exam-malpractice, all these corrupt acts have reduced the quality of education in the country.
3.5. Lack of responsibility and control in the education system is another challenge or crisis in the education sector, it seems like no one is responsible or in control of anything in the country’s educational space. Rather, those who are to take responsibility to find whom to blame for their incompetence.
3.6. Education has become politicized, with no equality, fairness, and justice in the system. A vivid example is the 2021 entrance cut-off mark into the unitary schools,2 a disparity between a child from Anambra state and another from Zamfara. An Anambra pupil is expected to make 139 marks for both males and females and a Zamfara pupil has 4 marks for males and 2 for females. “While a candidate from Anambra State has to struggle for 139, a candidate from Zamfara is looking for just 4 marks. Yes, the quota system is indeed meant to allow educationally disadvantaged regions of the country to access quality education, but that gap is insanely ridiculous.
3.7. In Nigeria, the educational system is nothing to write home about due to its poor infrastructure, archaic and inadequate learning facilities, coupled with unqualified teachers which, result in the falling standard in the education system
3.8. The Nigerian education system has been overshadowed with a high level of indiscipline and malpractices, ranging from; admission racketeering, exam- malpractice, sexual assaults between lecturer and students, sex for grades, insolence, and so on.
3.9 The list of crises in the education system seems unending, from poor funding, insecurity, poor governance, corruption, lack of responsibility and control, politics with education, poor infrastructure, indiscipline, poor parenting, and so on.
4.1. Now, it is high time we spoke on the impediments to the President’s pledge. Nigeria has a Total Public Debt Stock which comprises of the Debt Stock of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), thirty-six (36) State Governments, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) stood at N33. 107 trillion or USD87. 239 billion3. A debt- invested nation that wants to increase annual domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years does not only sound sarcastic, but another empty promise; a typical attribute of the present-day government.
5.1. I am not an Apostle of doom, so I would say perhaps this is possible if our “chief borrower”, China, decides to borrow us some funds to achieve this laudable project or increase taxation or fortune becks on the country and international oil price increases, in all of these, there is a possibility for the pledge to be fulfilled.
6. 1. In the light of the pledge coming to reality, the potential benefits are as follows: reduction in illiteracy, effective communication skills, rights of the child, Improved learning skills, reduction of poverty, creates jobs, public health, impact on democracy, and so on, which shall be discussed seriatim:
6.2. An increase in domestic expenditure will increase the number of beneficiaries of basic education if the funds are not embezzled and properly managed. Although, Universal Basic Education, otherwise known as Primary Education is mandatory under Nigerian laws. However, the sad reality is that not every child is a beneficiary. The basic education was targeted at every child accessing free, universal, and mandatory basic education regardless of age, sex, ethnic or religious backgrounds, language, or status but there are lots of children out of school because of financial constraints or religious sentiments. The resultant benefit of this is that more children will have access to basic education if properly funded and increase the literacy level in the country.
6.3. Funding basic education will inevitably imbue in the learners how to interact and relate with people around them, promoting a form of peer education where children from different backgrounds come together in the four walls of a room to receive basic teachings and learnings that would impact on them positively. One cannot downplay the importance of age group interactions, most especially one that is centered around learning and education.
6.4. Another thing basic education does, is to help enlighten the learners on their basic universal human rights and the right to basic education is one of them, creating a self- aware community in terms of basic rights. Also, it helps at reducing or perhaps eradicating entirely the gender inequality issue which gives the male gender advantage over the female. Right to basic education guarantees that every child irrespective of their sex, age, ethnic or religious beliefs, language, or status have a free, universal, and compulsory basic education which would see to a more civilized, developed, and well-informed nation.
6.5. Basic education helps to improve the learning skills of young learners on key subjects that would be of great importance to them in the future. Subjects that would be further studied in the secondary and tertiary institutions would propel them towards their career path. Improved learning skills thereby raise creativity and productivity which would develop the society.
6.6. Let’s not forget that an idle hand is a devil’s workshop, for every child that is out of school, is a potential criminal or terrorist. If education can receive proper funding, most especially in the Northern part of Nigeria free from corruption, embezzlement, miss-appropriation and the general shenanigans that come with governance and management in Nigeria, the issue of insecurity, terrorism, banditry, killings, Boko- haram, and so on ravaging the territory will reduce at a high rate. In summary, quality and accessible education will promote the security of the country.
6.7. Having the proper funds for quality basic education will help reduce the illiteracy rate drastically and in the long run reduce poverty in society. Illiteracy is a major factor of l high rate of poverty in any society, when individuals are opportune to have quality basic education, they become more aware and enlighten to various opportunities around them, they get more skilled to be able to take on better jobs and more proactive at task and problem-solving.
6.8. Again, when education is well funded, it affords the ministries at all levels to be able to employ qualified and well-trained teachers, staff, and other ancillary support mechanisms. To have a quality education, the services of a qualified teacher are needed. Meaning, a well-funded education scheme will create job opportunities. This helps to reduce the existing unemployment; under-employment rate and it contributes to the economic growth of the country.
6.9. The benefits and impact of a well-funded education system on the democracy of any nation cannot be over-emphasized. Quality education helps to impact democracy, human rights, governance, and political stability, and other contending social issues; through increased learning and understanding, citizens tend to understand ways to solve problems and mutual understanding between groups in conflict without resulting in violence. Without properly funded education, building a well-informed, responsive, and responsible community will be hard to achieve.
6.10. Lastly on the potential benefits of a well-funded education system: it gives room to quality economic growth; quality learning brings about creativity and productivity of the learners that would positively contribute to the economic growth of the nation. It is a common saying that; “You cannot give what you do not have”.
Quality basic education is important as it is a remedy at solving societal and governmental challenges problems such as illiteracy, ignorance, religious violence, insecurity, poverty, economic sabotage, extreme ideologies, and political servitude and it is the path to a healthier society.
Way Forward and Suggestions:
I would conclude this writing by penning down some famous sayings of Nelson Mandela, a former South African President, and legend:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”
“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
“No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
In the light of the fact that indeed no country can really develop unless its citizens are educated, goes more to show why t is imperative for the President to keep to the pledge of increase the domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years.
It is highly ridiculous that Nigeria: with a plethora of education crises, will place education on such a low budget with little or no priority; no wonder why the country is ending in the path of destruction. Never late than never, the nation is coming to its senses and getting to realize the benefits of properly funding its education system for socio-economic development and growth.
Save the education system, secure the future of your country and create a better world.
Oluwafemi Ayeni a Human Resource and Administrative Manager with Teleperformance Nigeria wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org