By Jerome-Mario Utomi
To understand more fully where this second part is headed, I will encourage readers to search and read a report titled; Scientific and Technological Innovations In Biafra (1967-1970), as it also gave a big helping hands to the first part and chiefly provided the step by step accounts of how the nation’s education sector originally/fundamentally went into ‘trouble.. With this point highlighted, let’s focus on other accounts as history further points at how successive administrations in Nigeria (military and civilian alike) defined learning too narrowly in a manner devoid of process and outcome fairness.
Beginning with the military era, there are so much accounts of how past military administrations visibly contributed to the present education sector crisis in the country. Out of many, one captures it perfectly. The account by Former Secretary of Afenifere and NADECO, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, at the University of Lagos Political Science’s Department symposium with the theme; X-Raying 50 Years of Military Intervention in Nigerian Politics, held at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium on Wednesday 2, 2016.
He stated in parts; What the Nigerian State offers today as education is a deception and a fraud for which the Military must be held accountable. …..The Military has oppressed, humiliated and exhibited its contempt for education in many ways. Remember, the Ali Must Go, ABU killings, the OAU Massacre at Ife, the Ejection of University Lecturers from their Official accommodation, incessant strikes etc. The Military constituted itself into a superior class by setting up its own social services-salaries, school institutions, retirement benefits; particularly for the senior ones….They cornered Nigeria in perpetuity. He concluded.
While his position is filled with valid points, the departure of the military from the nation’s political space over two decades ago and advent of democracy have however, not changed the education sector fortune. In fact, many are of the view that if the present is juxtaposed with the past, the experience of the past becomes a Child’s play as the sector at the very moment is fundamentally confronted with issues that centers on the phrase ‘uneven resource distribution’, misguided priority and insensitivity of government to education need of Nigerians.
This awareness again brings to mind two separate but related commentaries as most conspicuous examples.
First comment came a few years ago from Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, when she according to media reports, disclosed that Nigerian legislators and the government spent about one trillion naira since 2005. To the critical minds, Oby’s position may to some extent not be viewed as newsy considering the fact that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, also a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had earlier in a reports almost said the same thing when he disclosed that 25 percent of the nation’s budget was being sent on the federal legislators, apparently at the expense of basic social infrastructure like education.
Now, in the opinion of this piece, If 25% of the nation’s budget is invested in the education sector, think about what that could do for our kids if we invest that in our schools?. ‘Think of how many new schools we could build, how many great teachers we could recruit, what kind of computers and technology we could put in our classrooms. Think about how much we could invest in math and science so our kids could be prepared for the 21st century economy. Think about how many kids we could send to college who’ve worked hard, studied hard, but just can’t afford the tuition’.
Simply put, Nigeria’s education sector, which is supposed to be the major and fastest agent of change and civilization, is as a result of these failures, presently burdened and overwhelmed.
To further demonstrate this fact, with the nation’s current population of over 195.9 million, 45 per cent of which are below 15 years, there is a huge demand for learning opportunities translating into increased enrolment. This has created challenges in ensuring quality education since resources are spread more thinly, resulting in more than 100 pupils for one teacher as against the UNESCO benchmark of 35 students per teacher and culminating in students learning under trees for lack of classrooms.
Going a step further to prove how out of order the sector has turned out to be in the past few years, strong evidence abounds that in the 2017 Appropriation Act, N448.01 billion representing 6.0 per cent of the N7.30 trillion budgets was allocated to education. Similarly, the budgetary allocation for education in 2020 is N671.07 billion constituting 6.7%. Of the N671.07 billion allocated to the Federal Ministry of education, the sum includes the statutory transfer allocated to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which is N111.79 billion. UBEC intervention funds as we know are focused on collaboration with other state actors towards improving access to basic education and reducing Nigeria’s out-of-school children. When compared with 2019, there is however a 44.37% increase in capital expenditure. Yet, a shortfall in the UNESCO’s benchmark.
Moving away from lamentation to finding solution to the deteriorating education sector, it is important to underline the fact that if Federal Government want progress and development for the nation, there is no reason why everything that will lead to success must not be done.
To catalyze the process, this is the time to recognize that any successful nation/leadership owe its success to certain causative factors. If it loses sight of these, the success of such nation/leadership or survival may soon be in jeopardy. Foresighted leader and nation don’t forget for one moment that education sector holds the keys to the success and development of any nation both socioeconomically and scientifically. And I hold the opinion that It will definitely be tough to make progress as a nation with the way education sector is presently handled here in the country.
To avert the above forecast, government at all levels must urgently commit to mind that globally; ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict. It is a natural conflict built into the system. Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look at strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families. Strikes are called as last resort. And any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and, such society will sooner than later find itself degenerate into chaos.
Another important point that the present administration must ponder on to help understand the need for truce with NAU/SSANU is that university workers (academic and non academic staff alike) not ‘only teach errant students, but they also parent them, pamper them wherever that is called for, discipline and guide them, take the worst attitude in them and turn it into something more engaging and productive, yet, they are barely acknowledged by society, let alone giving them their just rewards. Many suffer from depression, psychological trauma, and even suicidal tendency out of a sense of inadequacy at various intervals. They work so hard for so little’.
Lastly, for the sector to again produce excellent graduates in different fields of human endeavors it needs to be adequately funded; its policies reworked to meet the 21st-century demands. Above all, as argued elsewhere, government must find ways of returning schools created, funded and run by the regions which they forcefully took over as such venture has turned out to be negative.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374