It is often said that “no nation can rise above the quality of education of its citizenry.” This is to buttress the argument on the importance of education to nation building. Education is the bedrock of all-around national development. Education is a vital instrument for human and economic advancement and should not be taken for granted. As the nation celebrates its 58th independence anniversary, the status of the nation’s education system has continued to be a source of worry for many. Nigeria’s education system, just as its government, has been characterized by instability for years now. Consequently, many policies that would have set a pace for growth in the sector, are either left in shelves forgotten, or are sometimes implemented only by half. This has left the sector looking like a shadow of itself. The nationalists who fought for the nation’s independence had no arms and ammunition, but fought through the power of the pen which they derived from education. These nationalists such as the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, knew the importance of education and worked hard to not only entrench education in the nation’s life, but also used it to liberate the land.
Thus, the power of education that our foremost nationalists wielded influenced the early government of the 60s to invest in qualitative education which brought about great impact on the nation. Schools at that time were well funded with the universities enjoying quality and basic infrastructure as students were motivated by the government to study.
History has it that few universities at that time, like the University of Ibadan which was established in 1948, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka which was established in 1960, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria which was set up in 1962, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, which became an ivory tower in 1962, the University of Lagos which was also established in the post-colonial era of 1962, and the University of Benin which took root in 1970, were the best universities in Africa. But the reverse seems to be the case now as the nation’s tertiary institutions battle to grace the list of the first 10 universities in Africa.
In a recent release by the Times Higher Education World University Ranking, University of Ibadan was the only university in Nigeria to be included in the first 20 universities in Africa, at number 16.The ranking is a global university performance schedule to ascertain research-intensive universities in all of their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The nation does not only grapple with the state of its tertiary institutions, but also faces the challenge of increasing number of out-of-school children which is presently threatening to shoot to 15 million as against the 11 million that was recorded in 2015. Data obtained from the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has pegged the number of such children in Nigeria at 11 million. There are even fears in some quarters that with the insurgency in the North eastern part of the country, as well as other crisis in other parts of the country, the figure would have increased far beyond 11 million.
In 1999, the federal government introduced a programme, the Universal Basic Education (UBE), which was aimed at providing greater access to basic education and ensuring quality basic education.One of its objective was to ensure that uninterrupted access to free and compulsory nine years formal education was provided the early learners. The sad irony is that even with the introduction of this laudable programme, Nigeria still has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. Insecurity, poverty and instability in many states of the country over the last decade, have contributed to the rise of this negative figure.
Recognizing the unquestionable importance of education to global development, the United Nations recommended that 26 percent of each member nation’s budget be allocated to the sector. But sadly, Nigeria is yet to meet up with the recommendation. This year’s allocation for education was N102.9bn which was a meagre amount considering the crucial role that education plays in all developmental schedules. In 2009, the Federal Government allocated N221.19bn to education. The figure was N249.09 billion in 2010, N306.3bn in 2011,N400.15bn in 2012, N426.53bn in 2013, N493bn in 2014, 492bn in 2015 and dropped to N403.16 in 2016. In 2017, the figure was N455.41bn. All of these, have done little or nothing to uplift the nation’s education system.
The Minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, noting the dangers that might accrue with the disregard of the educational sector, lamented continually, that gross underfunding of the education sector, especially when compared to the education sector of other sub-Saharan African countries. He even warned that the federal government would have to spend significantly more, if it would achieve its goals as a change government. Except for Sokoto and some other few states which budgeted 26 per cent of their states’ budget to education, allocation to the sector by other states of the federation states’ allocation fell below 10 percent of their annual budgets.
Many stakeholders have raised alarm over the level of funding of the education system adding that if nothing is being done urgently, the education system in the country try will continue to deteriorate. The president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Biodun Ogunyemi, in a recent interview with LEADERSHIP, stated with the amount being allocated to education, the much needed changes were still far from being achieved.
Ogunyemi had stated that if the Nigerian government kept paying lip service to the transformation of education in the country, the sector would continue to wallow in backwardness.
He further stated that before a problem can be tackled, it must be assessed first, adding that the government does not have the political will to solve the problem in the sector.
“Until they show us the concrete steps that they are going to take to solve the problem, we will not believe anything they say about education again. You cannot address the problem, until you assess the situation.
The first thing that needs to be done is to assess the situation. What is the state of the Nigerian education sector? That’s the first question we need to ask ourselves,” he said.
No doubt, the union had continually engaged the government in strategizing towards seeking solutions to the lingering crisis in the sector and has been vocal in its demands for a prompt address of the menace, while it urged the government to take quick action or be confronted with another strike action. Prior to the Independence Day anniversary, the federal government had announced the release of N20bn to Nigerian Universities.
However, the union has asked the federal government to effect the payment of N1.1tn which had been earmarked for the funding of public universities for the last six years.
Speaking during a press briefing in Jos, the Plateau State capital, the coordinator of ASUU, Bauchi Zone, Prof. Lawan Abubakar, stated that the approved N20bn for the universities will not be able to bring about the needed change in the sector. “What will N20bn do for the 64 public universities in this country?
What we want now is the N1.1tn. That is the amount that the government should release; not the N20bn,” Abubakar said.
speaking in an interview on poor funding in the sector, the General Secretary of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Anderson Ezeibe , stated that poor funding was the number one problem of polytechnics and colleges of technology, and expressed fear that if nothing was done urgently, colleges of education would continue to churn out teachers who have nothing to offer, thereby compounding the nation’s problem. Ezeibe explained that the polytechnics and the colleges of technology “have a particular niche which is the technological and technical education,” and lamented that such courses were always capital intensive and that many of such institutions were short of fund.
“In these institutions, there is a mandate of 70:30 ratio in favor of science and engineering courses. What that means is that every polytechnic or college of technology must have a minimum of 70 per cent of its programme in science and engineering courses while 30 per cent can be on business studies. The technological courses, that
is the science and engineering courses, are capital intensive because they require a lot of equipment,” he said.
The general secretary noted that for these institutions to return to their past glory, there was serious need for the injection of funds as equipment for engineering, sciences and environmental courses were expensive. Furthermore, teacher professionalism and the quality of teachers in the nation’s education system have continue to be a source of worry to stakeholders, as some teachers had joined the teaching profession as a last resort. It is one problem that needs to be tackled urgently as teachers are drivers of quality education.
However, registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof Josiah Ajiboye averred that the Council was working towards bringing about an end to quack teachers in the system.
“We set up a technical committee to develop the implementation strategies for the road map. It was an in-house committee. They are already working now. We have started implementing some aspects of the road map, but the full implementation commences immediately the technical committee submits the report.
“Teacher professionalism cannot be sacrificed for anything because we need qualified teachers in both private and public schools and we must continue to sharpen our teachers to make sure they bring out the best.
“The challenge we have is that the teachers have continued to stay on the same spot over the years and there is need to rejig the profession. That is the reason the teaching profession is important because the ultimate goal is to improve the teacher’s professionalism and quality delivery,” he had said.
Although the federal government had introduced programmes and policies in the sector, more still needs to be done. The school feeding programme in some states of the federation has been adjudged to have helped increase the enrollment of children in school.
The federal government through the ministry of education early this year, flagged-off the Annual National School Enrollment Campaign aimed at sensitizing parents and stakeholders on the need to enroll school-age children into pre-primary and primary schools.
Though the education sector has recorded many successes, especially in technological advancement such as the introduction of Computer Based Test (CBT) in the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), and other innovations introduced by WAEC and NECO, so many areas of the education sector need urgent intervention and attention.
Even with all these developments, it is not yet uhuru for the nation’s educational sector. If the saying that “no nation can rise above its education system is anything to go by, then Nigeria has to brace up with the responsibility of returning the nation’s education sector to its past glory.
As the nation marks its 58th independence anniversary, it is the hope of Nigerians that this milestone will mark the beginning of a new dawn for not only the education sector but the nation as a whole.
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