Funding, teachers’ motivation, infrastructural devt top stakeholders’ expectations in 2022
With the dawn of a New Year, stakeholders in the nation’s education sector have called on government to prioritise funding of the sector, infrastructural development, provision of teaching and learning aids to enhance.
Besides, they held that aside improved funding; teachers should be well motivated to attract the best brains to the profession.
The year 2021 has gone with its usual challenges. Aside poor budgetary allocation to the sector over the years, the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted learning across the world, had forced schools to embrace virtual learning.
In his 2022 appropriation bill submitted to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari, defence and security got N2.41 trillion, which amounted to 15 per cent; infrastructure N1.45 trillion or 8.9 per cent; education N1.29 trillion or 7.9 per cent; health N820 billion or five per cent; and Social Development and Poverty Eradication N863 billion, or 5.3 per cent of the entire allocation.
President Buhari had projected N16.39 trillion aggregate expenditure for year 2022, which is 12.5 per cent higher than the 2021 budget. A breakdown of N16.39 trillion estimated budget showed that recurrent spending for the projected year is N6.83 trillion, representing 41.7 per cent of total expenditure and 18.5 per cent higher than the 2021 budget.
From the estimate, aggregate capital expenditure of N5.35 trillion is earmarked, representing 32.7 per cent of total expenditure.
In Education, N108.1 billion was provided for the Universal Basic Education (UBE) N1.2 billion for rehabilitation of classrooms/hostels, N392m as takeoff grants for six federal science and technical colleges; N4.5b as scholarship allowances; and N2b as payment to 5,000 Federal Teachers Scheme Allowance.
However, the challenges confronting the sector have remained a source of concern among stakeholders, who have stressed the need for government to be proactive in measures towards fixing the sector.
National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, regretted that successive governments at all levels have continued to toy with the business of education.
Osodeke said for any country that wants to develop, the most important area government should focus on is education.
“It was so in this country from the 50s to the 70s, but somewhere along the line, we got it wrong; we abandoned education and started pursuing things that cannot lead to national growth, that is why we are where we are today. There was a country where mass of our people who have enough money are taking their wards outside the country, because our education system is in a shambles, we are spending too much on education pilgrimage, people are going outside the country to study, using the money we should have used in developing the country to pay fees abroad, the ASUU chief said.
He tasked government at all levels, including local, state and Federal to make funding of the sector a priority. At least, up to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) recommended budget allocation of at least 25 per cent, and if they cannot meet that, should increase to 20 or 15 per cent.
In addition, Osodeke said the idea of proliferation of universities and polytechnics should stop. He urged government to fund existing ones to ensure that children are well trained for the world of work, to be globally competitive and relevant.
“Let local government officials, who superintend over primary education, tour primary schools, while states should focus on secondary and state-owned tertiary institutions. States with four to five institutions should go back to the drawing board, let them merge the schools and reduce to one university per state, for those operating multiple campuses, let them turn those campuses to secondary schools and fund them properly so that they can produce graduates that can compete anywhere in the world.
“At the federal level, government should focus on tertiary education and fund it adequately to discourage youths from going abroad. Finally, there should be discipline. All the agencies of government should be scrutinised to curb corruption, indiscipline and excessive spending. Besides, monies recovered from looters should be used to fund education system.“From ASUU, we have unresolved issues with government and we expect government to address all pending issues to have a strike-free year. Specifically, we expect government to ensure that UTAS is applied for payment of salaries of university teachers, we also expect that government will sign the agreement reached with the union, which takes care of funding, autonomy and infrastructural development.
On his part, National President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Anderson Ezeibe, said the union expects the government to honour its agreement with the union to have a stable academic calendar.
He said: “We will like to see significant improvement in terms of funding, we will like to see government committed to honouring agreements and sign the bill on dichotomy against Higher National Diploma (HND) holders. We don’t want to see government renege on agreements willingly signed with the union because anytime government violates this agreement, the result is strike and that is disruptive.
“We want government to be more responsible and responsive in terms of fulfilling agreements it willingly entered into. Those agreements are not self- serving, they are entered into to improve the sector and the nation at large because no nation can grow beyond its educational development, so when we get into these agreements with the government, it is for the good of the nation because a lot of the issues are about the sector, about policy issues and framework, things that will make the sector meet its mandate to the Nigerian people. Government should try to give the right priority to education,” Ezeibe added.
On her part, former education minister, Chinwe Obaji, said going by the recent document released by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board on the number of illegal admissions, government should focus on the activities of the nation’s tertiary institutions, with a view to checkmating their excesses.
She also canvassed improved funding of the sector while kicking against proliferation of universities.
She said: “The ministry should be tough and get things right. Why is government opening new universities all over the place? In 2005 when we determined the carrying capacity of the 75 universities at the time, we could only admit 148,000 students after the post –UTME, we could not find those students to admit. Today, we have over 200 universities, where are the students? Government should stop licensing universities, states should also stop establishing universities, let them fund the ones they have.
“Government has done very badly in the education sector because it is not enforcing discipline. What has government done to checkmate activities of illegal universities? Have they been prosecuted? There are some private institutions that do not even have competent lecturers,” Obaji added.
A Professor of History at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ayodeji Olukoju, said the most important thing for government to do this year is to assess the sector.
Presently, Olukoju said government has no data on how many people are out of school, how many have been produced as graduates, how many have attended technical schools, and opportunities in the industry.
He said: “I think we need to have a database that should be upgraded consistently. We cannot go anywhere without knowing where we are, and should do so at the level of local government. We need to have a reliable database on the state of education in Nigeria.
“In doing that, we are going to identify gaps because education is not just for its own sake; it is to procure knowledge, which in itself is not power, it is when you apply it that it becomes power, therefore, we never can move forward until we are aware of where we are and what we should have done that we did not do. It is when we identify the gaps that we can decide on what to do, short, medium and long term.
“I think the greatest challenge we have is that we have a huge number of people who are out of school already, because in the whole of northwest and north east, too many of them are out of school, how do we get them back to school? Part of that challenge, focusing on northwest and northeast, is security. How do we solve the problem? What I’m saying is let’s identify gaps and find local solutions. What works for southwest may not work for north central, let us find out from people in the different regions their peculiar challenges because in some places, they don’t have enough teachers, while in others, they have teachers but are not competent. In some places, there are no laboratories at all and in many public universities, there are no teaching facilities. They are supposed to be teaching with Power Point application but how many of those places they call lecture rooms have these facilities? Are the lecture rooms conducive? Are they ventilated? Something as simple as public address system, they don’t have, people are still using their voices to shout in 2022. It is that bad.
“The first thing to do is let us identify the problems, and proffer solutions. There are things that money can solve, there are those that we have to develop capacity. Let us talk to experts on way out but let us localise the solutions. The solution in Lagos may not work for Akure or Ondo. There have to be a solution that is applicable. For instance, in Ondo State, the governor woke up one day and said he wanted to set up mega schools, he was thinking of Lagos, which is peculiar. As we speak, the mega schools have collapsed, because it was taken out of context,” Olukoju added.
In her submission, an educationist, Dr. Joke Omololu, expressed concern about the challenges in the sector, saying it has become so pathetic.
According to her, “No serious government spends less than seven per cent of its budget on education. I am convinced that we have wicked decision makers involved in budgeting for education. I don’t expect better from rulers whose children are being educated abroad while they feed fat on governance expenditure. Very sad indeed.”
Omololu said if government officials educate their children in Nigeria, they would invest more in the sector, adding that for the country to get the foundation right, there is need to get the best brains in the profession by developing centres of excellence, innovation hubs and education communities.She noted that if teacher training is revamped and the best brains are guaranteed the best quality of life that will encompass comfortable housing, uninterrupted power supply, resident support and a maximum of 30 minutes travel time to and from work, as well as the best educational wired resources with teaching capabilities, they would be enticed to resign from their stressful jobs with poor-work balance and relocate to these hubs, centres and education communities.
“Nigeria can actually revert to the days when Africans came to study in our highly esteemed institutions. The huge capital flight from the exodus of Nigerians studying abroad and government’s failure to invest more in the sector can be likened to a terminal disease that needs to be reversed urgently. The needful should be done sooner,” Omololu said.
A public analyst, Emmanuel Ndoka, stressed the need for government to make education its priority and fund it appropriately.
Ndoka reminded that children are the future of the nation and any society that does not give priority to education is putting the future in jeopardy.
He said: “Efforts should be made to put more funds into education. They should not show lackadaisical attitude towards funding the sector. If they are not educated, they will not be appointed into office. During their own time, they enjoyed scholarship and many other things.”
He added that emphasis should be placed on practical skills acquisition and vocational education that would make youths to be employers of labour rather than job seekers.
He lamented that most graduates are jobless because they lack vocational skills. “Efforts should be made towards the provision of laboratory equipment for skills acquisition in schools. Once this is done, many people will not be running after white-collar jobs again.
On his part, former President of Lagelu Grammar School old students association, Jacob Adetoro, stressed the need for government to bring together critical stakeholders who can proffer solutions to the problems confronting the sector.
He also stressed the need to adequately motivate teachers to attract the best brains to the profession.
“When you increase funding to the sector and teachers are not motivated, you cannot get the best of results, let teachers feel that they are part of the system and appreciate what they are doing so that they can put in their best. Their salaries might not be sufficient, but let them feel important,” Adetoro stated.