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How policy flip-flop, recession jolted sector in 2016


Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education

Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education

Many who thought President Muhammadu Buhari’s first budget since coming on board would rub off on the education sector have been disappointed as policy flip-flop, forex scarcity, recession and sundry factors jolted the sector in 2016. UJUNWA ATUEYI chronicles some of the issues that shaped education in the outgoing year.

The year 2016 began with a bit of hope and a reasonable dose of scepticism, especially with the N369 budgetary allocation to the education sector, which was the largest sectoral allocation, after that of the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing.

Indeed it was the belief of some stakeholders that there would be remarkable breakthroughs in the sector, in line with the change mantra of the incumbent administration. That was not to be as several issues, ranging from political, social and economic ensured that these expectations never really came to fruition.

Budget padding
One of the first issues that jolted the sector was the Senate’s discovery of the sum of N10b hidden in the education budget. The Senate Committee on Education, which made the discovery, claimed that the sum of N9, 982,258,479 was “hidden” in the budget of parastatals, by the Federal Ministry of Education.

Sack of vice chancellors
The Federal Government’s abrupt sack of some vice chancellors, and the appointment of their replacements without following due process raised dust in the sector. Some of the affected schools include, the Federal University Dutse; Federal University Dutsin-Ma; Federal University Kashere; Federal University Lafia; Federal University Lokoja; Federal University Ndufu-Alike; Federal University Otuoke, and Federal University Wukari, without following the due process.

A brief statement signed by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu simply said that Buhari had approved the appointment of new vice chancellors for the affected universities.  Lots of civil society groups, as well as the House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education, disagreed with the government over the decision, which also saw governing councils of the affected universities dissolved.

President’s apology
Reacting to stakeholders’ concerns and criticisms on the sack and immediate appointment of new vice chancellors with total disregard to universities’ extant laws, Buhari formally apologised to Nigerians saying, “We gave a blanket order, which we had to rescind when we said all boards are suspended or dissolved. We had to go back and lick our vomit in terms of universities’ councils because we found out that according to their laws, they cannot choose vice chancellors unless the councils sit and interview candidates who want to be VCs.

“So, there is nothing wrong in saying sorry and going back on your decision. So, we said sorry and allow all the universities to continue with their councils. So, please try to bear with us as we reflect on where we found ourselves.”

ASUU demands exemption from TSA
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) challenged the government to exempt universities from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy, saying the scheme was already grounding academic activities in public institutions.

ASUU Coordinator, Lagos Zone, Dr. Adesola Nasir, one of the union’s officials that spoke on the matter said the policy was not only slowing down operational pace at the universities, but also capable of eroding institutional autonomy.

Emeritus President/Vice Chancellor, Babcock University, Ogun State, Prof. James Kayode Makinde, also described the (TSA) policy as an incongruous aberration, which negates the core obligations of university education in the country. TSA was introduced by the government to check corruption in public outfits.

Violent protests in varsities over poor municipal services
Violent protests rocked some Nigerian universities over poor municipal services including electricity supply, water and transport services. Affected schools include University of Lagos (UNILAG), Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State, University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), and Benue State University (BSU).

Ban on forex for education
While Nigerian students were protesting over poor municipal services and sundry issues, their compatriots schooling abroad were also in a quandary over the scarcity of foreign exchange for their upkeep and tuition. This was in the wake of the Federal Government ban on foreign exchange for that purpose. Buhari in an interview in Qatar said the government cannot afford to sell forex to parents seeking to fund their children education abroad. He said the high demand for forex by affected parents for the payment of their wards’ tuition abroad was putting unnecessary pressure on the naira, which in turn affects the country’s economy. Nigerians spend $2bn on school fees abroad yearly.

The sexual harassment bill
The sexual harassment bill, now law, is one issue that raised a lot of dust in the sector in the outgoing year. Championed by senator representing Delta Central, Ovie Omo-Agege, the bill received the support of many senators and groups, who co-sponsorship it.

The law prescribes a five-year jail term for any lecturer who sexually harasses a student, while heads of institutions of learning, where such activities take place would be held liable too.

With the proposed law, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and chief executives of sundry institutions would go to jail for two years for failing to act within a week of complaints of sexual harassments.

Increase in fuel pump
The removal of subsidy from petrol, by the Federal Government in May added to the burden of many schools in the country. With the country perennially in darkness owing to constant power outage, education providers were forced to jerk tuitions and sundry charges in their schools.

Proscription of Post-UTME, second interview test by NECO
Not long after the government proscribed the Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME), which it said was irrelevant, the announcement for the cancellation of the second interview test, conducted by the National Examination Council (NECO), for admission into the 104 unity schools followed in tow.   It comes into effect from the 2017/2018 academic year.

FG bans PTA levies in unity schools
Following the National Parents and Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges (NAFTAFEGC) protest over alleged school fees increment in unity schools, the Federal Government banned the collection of development levies by the Parent-Teacher Association in unity colleges across the country. The measure, according to the government, was to alleviate the sufferings of parents and the generality of students.

Nigeria in the league of non-achievers
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) report in a new edition of The Global Education Monitoring Report (the GEM Report), confirmed that Nigeria will achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 2070; Universal Lower Secondary Completion (ULSC) in 2080 and Universal Upper Secondary Education (UUSC) in the next century.

But stakeholders though sad with the development were not surprised at the report. The way out according to them is for government to match words with action.

Govt unfolds education sector reform roadmap
A roadmap for the sector titled, “Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (2016-2019), was launched within the year under review. The launch of the draft by the Federal Government indicated the commencement of yet another journey to bring the sector out of the woods. One of the areas of focus is vocational and technical training, but stakeholders are of the view that political will, faithful implementation, human capital development and constant infrastructural upgrade, remain the bulwark of a workable roadmap, and not how robust the document is.

Abolition of sub-degrees, diplomas
The National Universities Commission announced the ban of sub-degrees and diplomas in Nigerian universities, and also instructed universities to leave the running of such programmes to polytechnics and concentrate efforts on producing human capital in the core undergraduate, part-time and postgraduate courses.

ASUU issues stern warning to govt
Academic activities in Nigerian varsities for grounded for a week as he ASUU embarked on one-week warning strike. National President of the body Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, expressed dissatisfaction with the poor funding of the sector, through low budgetary allocation, which dropped to eight per cent in 2016 from 11 per cent in 2015.

The failure of government to implement the 2009 agreement, and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), are some of the reasons the union downed tools.

Schools in the throes of recession
Education managers in the country were unanimous in their conclusion that the ongoing economic recession has impacted negatively on the running of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the country. One of them, Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Anthony Elujoba, said that recession is affecting the provision of essential services as well as the effective running of universities.

His counterpart at Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, Prof. Debo Adeyewa, advised President Buhari, to seek the services of tested economic experts to help him steer the country’s economy out of recession.

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