At a recent education summit in the United Kingdom (UK), President Muhammadu Buhari made a pledge to increase Nigeria’s budget for the education sector by 50 per cent in the 2022 and 2023 Appropriation Bills. The summit, which was scheduled to underscore the urgency of enhancing educational facilities especially in developing countries, gave the leaders an opportunity to commit to five-year pledges to support efforts aimed at transforming education systems in up to 90 countries and territories.
In a document titled, Heads of State call to action on education financing ahead of the global education summit, Buhari stated, “In this regard, we commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and up to 100 per cent by 2025 beyond the 20 per cent global benchmark. Let us, therefore, raise our hands in solidarity to build a more secure and prosperous future for our children.”
He further affirmed his commitment to improve learning outcomes in the country by ensuring equitable access to quality and inclusive education for all citizens, with particular emphasis on the girl child. Similarly, the President endorsed the call for more efficient use of resources and to significantly increase investment in education by strengthening institutions, promoting greater adoption of technology, building the capacities of teachers as well as mobilising additional financial resources through legal frameworks and deliberate intervention on a sustainable basis.
As a newspaper, we consider this pledge heartwarming and progressive considering the humongous education gap in the country. And this couldn’t be any more terrible than the fact that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa.
The minister of state, Education, Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had earlier in the year, while inaugurating “better education service delivery for all (BESDA)”, in Katsina, lamented that Nigeria has an estimated 10,193,918 children out of school. This was to emphasise the extent of the decay in the system.
In the university system, the situation is not different. A recent report by Webometrics, a respected authority in the ranking of universities globally, revealed that no Nigerian university made it to the top 1,000 universities in the world. The report states that the highest ranked Nigerian institution, the University of Ibadan, is placed 1,258 globally and number 18 on the continent of Africa, far behind universities from South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.
In terms of knowledge production through research, “Nigeria’s universities produce only 44 per cent of the “scholarly output” of South Africa and 32 per cent of Egypt. This is even though Nigeria has nearly four times more universities than Egypt and over six times more than South Africa.” The situation is even more worrisome with the current allocation to education in the current budget.
Nigeria budgeted 6.3 per cent of its 2021 national budget to education. A sum of N742.5 billion out of the total N11.7 trillion budget was allocated to the ministry out of which N615.1 billion is proposed for recurrent expenditure covering personnel and overhead costs while N127.3 billion is devoted to capital expenditure. This scenario does not just paint a disheartening picture but underscores the enormity of the task ahead.
Experts in the sector aver that part of the problem of insecurity in the country is caused by the inadequate funding of human capital development. They also insist that the army of out-of-school children provide recruiting resource base for criminal elements. We have, also, on this page, canvassed this opinion just as we urged the government at all levels, to review their education policies so as to arrest the decline.
It is also important to stress that the president’s pledge on education funding, commendable as it is, can only become meaningful if the right steps are taken to ensure that the basic things required are put in place. This is in view of the reality that the country is high on formulation of policies but low on the discipline to implement them. This makes the expectation from the president’s UK pledge very high indeed. He owes himself and this administration a duty to leave behind a lasting legacy of improved education standard.
To meet this expectation, the next steps taken by the administration in this regard will be insightful. The nation anticipates proactive measures on the part of the government, especially the Executive and Legislative arms.
In our considered opinion, it is over-stating the obvious with regard to the relevance of quality education in human and economic development. In this age that ideas rule the world, any nation, particularly a developing one does not need to be reminded that investment in education is a worthwhile venture.