Expectations on FG’s proposed subvention for education students
The decision of the Federal Government to pay N75, 000 stipend per semester for students undergoing degree programmes in Education in public universities is generating mixed reactions among stakeholders.
While many, including Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) lauded the move, others, especially students expressed doubts over government’s sincerity and readiness to sustain it.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who announced the package said Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) students will get N50, 000 stipend per semester as part of government’s deliberate effort to attract the best brains into the teaching profession as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the package was aimed at promoting quality education in the country, and urged the 36 states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to support government’s efforts.
Adamu said his ministry would collaborate with state governments to ensure automatic employment for education students on graduation.
According to the minister, “Undergraduate students of B.Ed / B.A. Ed/ BSc. Ed in public institutions are to receive stipends of N75, 000 per semester, while NCE students will get N50, 000 as stipends per semester.’
However, since the announcement, opinions were divided on the initiative, while many commended government’s gesture, others queried the capacity of government to begin and sustain the initiative.
For instance, registrar and chief executive officer, Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof Olusegun Ajiboye, said the efforts are geared towards reclaiming the lost glory in the nation’s education sector.
He however noted that the planned payment of the stipends would only come with appropriate terms and conditions.
Ajiboye, while reacting to inquiries on modalities for implementation of the pay package, especially in the face of dwindling revenues in the country, said the guidelines are currently being finalised by the national implementation committee, adding however that the implementation would not commence until 2022.
The TRCN boss said; “Apart from the bursary, we also have a rural housing initiative and allowances for teachers who may be posted to remote locations as well as teaching practice allowances for both students and lecturers, among others.”
On sustainability, the registrar said Nigerians should not doubt the Federal Government on whether or not it can sustain the initiative.
He said apart from currently working on terms and conditions to be attached to some of the welfare packages, government is also considering putting in place appropriate laws and regulations to avoid policy summersaults.
“We are aware that one of the major challenges governance faces in Nigeria is policy summersaults. So, we are working towards ensuring that legislators pass relevant laws towards ensuring their permanence.
“And apart from that, some of these packages will be enjoyed by only those who satisfy some specific terms and conditions. And we have already concluded that some of the packages will be directly handled by existing funding parastatals like Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund),” the registrar added.
On its part, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has described government’s decision as a welcome development.
Chairman, Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) chapter, Dr Christopher Echereobia, described the initiative as a step in the right direction, given the fact that education is the bedrock of excellence in all fields of human endeavour.
Echereobia, a senior lecturer with the Department of Crop Science and Technology, noted that successful countries had got it right with their education systems, adding that the approved funds, if properly channeled, would alleviate the sufferings of poor students and encourage aspiring ones to consider a career in education.
He, however, called on government to take urgent steps to ensure that the funds are disbursed to intended beneficiaries.
“To pay stipends to students of education is a welcome development and a step in the right direction. This will encourage more students to pursue career in education thus strengthening the foundation for a greater Nigeria.
“I urge the Federal Government to put necessary machinery in place so as to ensure that funds for this purpose are not diverted to the wrong purse,’’ he added.
An education consultant, Nnamdi Okoli, said the initiative is a great idea to make teaching attractive. He lamented that Nigerian teachers have been underestimated for a long time, hence no student is willing to go to higher institution to study education.
Okoli noted that if the country must move forward, priority attention must be paid to teacher education and students studying education.
On his part, an educationist, Alani Onifade, said if government must be sincere, the nation has the will and financial muscle to implement the proposal.
A teacher at Community Grammar School, Wasimi, Lagos, Ojo Arulogun, said the decision to give stipend to education students would improve the career esteem of teachers. “They want to ensure that those who have the passion for teaching go for it.”
But an educationist, Dr Tomi Ogunsi, said while the initiative is laudable, implementation and sustainability may constitute problems. “It is a laudable idea but would government be able to sustain it? She queried.
A 300-LEVEL student of education at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ronke Thomas, said most students undergoing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are being owed, same with ASUU and other non-teaching staffs in tertiary institutions. “If government is owing these people, students will not be an exception. How many times has government made promises and fail? For me, I think it is a mere political statement, which cannot stand the test of time.”
Others wondered the modalities government would adopt in the payment system, and expressed fear that it may be hijacked by politicians.