Sunday, 24th September 2023

Stakeholders decry poor allocation to education sector as it continues to slide

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu); Murtala Adewale (Kano); Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri); Ann Godwin and ObinnaNwaoku (PortHarcourt); Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos), Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
27 January 2022   |   4:31 am
Amid calls for improved budgetary allocation to education by both Federal and state governments, successive administration at all levels in the country have failed to heed the call.

• Kano struggles under poor infrastructure
• Ondo allocation reduces by 3%
• Stakeholders decry low attention to sector in Rivers
• Allocation on downward trend in Anambra
• Education among top three in Oyo

Amid calls for improved budgetary allocation to education by both Federal and state governments, successive administration at all levels in the country have failed to heed the call.

The sector has continued to deteriorate over the years due largely to inadequate funding. This in fact, has resulted in poor infrastructure, lack of teaching and learning tools, increase in number of out-of-school children and producing less competitive graduates.

While appeal to the Federal Government to increase its allocation to the sector, at least, to meet United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) recommendation, has consistently been rebuffed, the situation is not different in states as funds earmarked for the sector have been very low, thus hindering the provision of basic infrastructure and provision of needed tools to make learning conducive, which is a threat to the nation’s social and economic development.

[FILES] Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Photo: LEAKBLAST

The state government said it has taken steps to reposition the sector through massive infrastructural rehabilitation and increase in budget size.

This has manifested in renovation of some school blocks and provision of learning facilities. The interventions, however, are still miles away from realising a functional education system in the state.

The last three years in the state had recorded significant improvement in education budget. From N109m in 2019 to N169m in 2020 and N292m in 2021.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 2020 budgetary allocation to the sector downwards, these estimates hardly address the plethora of challenges confronting the system due to non-release of approved funds and inability to faithfully execute projects whose funds were released.

It was gathered the sector enjoys between 40 to 43 per cent release yearly, a development considered too meager to effectively address the numerous problems. Yearly budgets of the state have continued to record unfulfilled projects among outstanding ones they were meant to execute.

There was a case of construction of dormitories in the three senatorial zones of Enugu State, to provide conducive learning environment for students captured as part of outstanding project in last year’s budget. Till date, no project has been executed.

There were also provisions for construction of 20 classroom blocks with an office in all the 17 councils; reconstruction, furnishing and equipping of science laboratories in secondary schools, among others, that are still hanging till date.

Only few months ago, reports trended about the scale of dilapidation in some schools across the state, where students either study under leaking roof or with inadequate furniture materials.

Aside from infrastructural gaps, poor remuneration have driven male teachers away from the school system in the state, especially at the primary school level. It was gathered that even when there was no discrimination against any gender during interviews, male teachers have refused to teach in primary schools, forcing the state government to resort to begging them.

Lamenting the development recently when he addressed stakeholders, the commissioner for education, Prof Uche Eze, said it was a serious challenge for education at the primary level. He noted that almost 100 per cent of teachers at the primary level were females.

He said: “Our major challenge is that at the primary level, males have refused to come forward to teach. Very soon, we will be talking about gender inequality. In fact, we are begging our male graduates to please come and teach in primary schools.

“There are roles that female and male teachers will play in schools. We are not discriminating against male teachers, we are even begging them, but they have refused to show any interest. We need them in our classes to complement female teachers. I went to a school where a female teacher was practically begging me to bring even if it is one male teacher.”

Turning to Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Eze charged them to assist in addressing this challenge.

He, however, noted that the state government had made significant improvement in the sector when compared with what it met on ground in 2015. Eze identified areas of improvement as regular supply of reading and practical materials, construction of desks and chairs, recruitment of teachers and massive infrastructural development with construction of new classroom blocks and rehabilitation of old ones.

An educationist based in the state, David Uchegbu, told The Guardian that the problem with the sector is not yearly budgets “but release and implementation of approved allocations.”

Uchegbu said if the state government had kept up with the several educational provisions, the sector would not be where it is at the moment. “We will not be talking about infrastructural deficit and increase in the number of private schools that has become preference of most parents in the state.”

He lamented that the worst hit in the imbalance were schools in rural areas, which have continued to lack quality teachers.

“There is what we call School Based Management Board (SBMB), where communities are now allowed to provide teachers to augment the ones provided by the state government. Has that ever been the case? I am aware that in Enugu State, it is now difficult to get a male teacher in primary schools, even if the person is a young graduate. That is because; they cannot be part of a system that cares less about their welfare. How much is the salary of a primary school teacher in the state? We have a situation where the minimum wage is approved and paid, but it is paid to certain categories of workers. Primary school teachers are excluded. How do you think the best can come no matter how beautiful the buildings are when there is discrimination in payment?

“So, I’m thinking that government should declare emergency in education. Let there be stakeholders’ summit on education. But before you do that, government must be willing to accept and implement recommendations. Take a census on the amount of private schools in Enugu State, does that not tell you that there is a problem? Within those who manage and implement our education policies are proprietors of these schools. The truth is that he or she would always dilly –dally with programmes that will uplift public schools to enable his or her private entity run. These are the challenges and many more,” Uchegbu said.

A principal of a community secondary school in Agbani, Enugu West local government, who pleaded anonymity, said successive governments have paid lip service to issues of education over the years.

She noted that education is not only about good school buildings and study materials, but hygiene and well-being of students.

“Could you believe that there are many schools where students don’t have toilet facilities? There are several schools where you don’t talk about water. So, as much as these things are not available, the sector cannot function.”

Governor of Kano State. Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje PHOTO:Twitter

In Kano, emphasis is on provision of new classroom blocks to accommodate pupils and make learning more conducive; free meals for primary school pupils to boost enrollment and the recent policy on free and compulsory education to reduce the number of out-of-school children.

However, government’s protections are not always executed to letter, perhaps, due to inadequate resources.

In 2019, Kano State earmarked over N18 billion for education out of N219.97 billion; in 2020, it was N49.9 billion out of N206 billion, while N37.8 billion was for 2021 out of N147.9 billion.

The sector is still largely lacking in terms of quality teachers, infrastructure and enrollment.

A budget tracking expert, Abdulrahman Abdu, lamented that despite the resources allocated to education, poor release of funds remains a critical challenge that has crippled expected positive performance.

Besides, the education consultant with Open Government Partnership (OGP) noted that over two million population of pupils in Kano lack basic amenities for qualitative learning.

According to him, apart from poor allocation to the sector, releasing funds is a major challenge. For instance, in 2019, allocation stood at 11 per cent, which is far below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) recommendation of 26 per cent, while funds eventually released was not more than five per cent.

“ Similarly, in 2020, allocation to education was 25 per cent but amount released did not rise above three to four per cent. The challenges were attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools and businesses were shut down.

“The situation did not changed in 2021 even though the implementation of the third and final quarter is still running. Despite over 27 per cent allocation, the funds released are not up to four per cent.”

Although government had consistently announced construction of new classrooms and enforcement of free education, Abdulrahman insisted that only 1,700 classrooms were repaired, leaving pupils in congested classrooms. Besides, he declared that little has been achieved in the area of teacher training, provision of infrastructure and instructional materials.

The commissioner for education, Sanusi Mohammad Kiru, was not available to state the position of government

Uzodinma. Photo/FACEBOOK/govtofimostate

FACTS available from Imo State ministry of education showed that budgetary allocation to the sector in the last three years has recorded a downward trend.

In 2019, allocation to the sector was N29.2 billion, with personnel cost at N6.8b; overhead cost N750m and capital cost N21.6b. In 2020, it came down to personnel cost N1.5b, overhead cost N8.4b and capital cost N8.4b. In 2021, further reduction was witnessed with personnel cost at N284m, overhead cost N1.4b and capital cost N16.1b.

During the administration of Rochas Okorocha, the sector received a boost with construction of pre-fabricated one-storey building in the premises of each public school in all the 305 wards in the 27 local government councils.

Okorocha also gave pupils and students in public school money, while bags and school uniforms were also distributed free.

Teachers were directed to wear black and white uniforms just like their counterpart in the civil service.

At some point, adhoc teachers were employed and paid N10,000 monthly to complement government teachers. However, the scenario changed when Okorocha left office.

As at today, about 1,000 teachers in various LGAs are complaining that they are yet to receive salary since February 2020, when governor Hope Uzodimma took over. While some of them are dead, others have resorted to doing other businesses to feed their families.

However, the state government, through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, said those who are yet to be paid were those who were not captured in the data base.

Education sector in the state appears to be in comatose, as many teachers are complaining of irregular payments, while some school children study under trees due to non-availability of classrooms.

One of the teachers in Orlu zone, who has not received her salary since February 2020, who identified herself as Nkechi, said there may not be improvement in the sector until when teachers are well remunerated.

Her words: “It is simple to understand. There is no way the sector will grow without paying teachers. Are we going to be teaching with empty stomach?”

Another teacher, Ngozi, who teaches in one of the public secondary schools in Owerri capital city, told The Guardian that teachers’ reward should start from the world and not in heaven.

She said: “Until politicians, governors and education policy planners and implementers come to terms with the fact that teachers and school environment should be taken care of, the sector will not experience any change.”

Ernest Uzoma, also a teacher, is of the view that adequate attention should be given generally to anything that revolves around education in the state. “There should be no lip service to it. Our leaders should understand that teachers taught them and made them what they are today. Unfortunately, teachers are almost the least paid,” Uzoma lamented.

She advised that the improved working condition for teachers promised by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the last world teachers’ day should be implemented and cascaded to states.

Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike

SOME stakeholders in Rivers State have decried low attention to the sector, saying the state government has not given the sector the prime attention it deserves.

They stated that education is the way to secure a great future and curb societal vices plaguing the nation and hence; requires crucial commitment.

The Guardian investigations showed that the state government has not invested much in the sector compared to other infrastructural developments.

A look into the state’s appropriation law showed, that out of N530, 81b proposed for 2020, N49.71b was earmarked for education, which represented nine per cent of the entire budget, while in 2021, N30.4b, representing 6.7 per cent was allocated from the N448.6 billion budget.

The Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, said the present administration has been spending huge resources to provide quality education in the state’s public schools.

Though the state government has renovated some schools, a visit to some public schools in Onne, Rumuekini, showed that they are under staffed. A teacher who spoke in confidence told The Guardian that in normal situation, a teacher should handle at least 40 pupils but he said, due to lack of teachers, he is handling over 60 pupils.

At Model Primary School, Rumosi, and Community Secondary School, Rupoku in Obio/Akpor council of the state, there were dilapidated infrastructures like broken ceilings, as well as non-availability of teaching materials to make learning conducive.

Consequently, the students take turns to learn in order to be accommodated in a class. One of the teachers told The Guardian that they have written letters to the state government concerning the challenges, but nothing has been heard.

Speaking on the state of education, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said education is not the priority of the present administration because it has been totally neglected.

According to Peterside, “education is the way to secure the future and you see the manifestation of Governor Nyesom Wike’s lack of interest in the sector. Today, Rivers State students cannot access their results because the state government is owing the National Examination Council (NECO). In Etche, there are no teachers for critical subjects because there is no employment of teachers since inception of this government.”

He further pointed out: “Many schools have been shut due to lack of teachers, the governor said he did not want schools to charge anything, but he has not given them the impress to run the schools, most of which are not functional and cannot compete in the 21st century Nigeria.”

While noting that prime attention to education would help address social and security challenges, an educationist, Lawrence Chukwu, called for urgent employment of qualified teachers into the state’s public schools.

Chukwu said: “It is embarrassing that at this point in time, we lack teachers, ignoring the importance of education. I am urging the governor to employ more teachers and send those already employed for training. We have many qualified teachers looking for jobs.”

Meanwhile, some parents in Etche council of the state have lamented lack of teachers in schools in the area and called on men of goodwill and lovers of education to employ teachers that would teach the children, especially at community Primary School, Mbanifo.

But in a statement by Ebeku, the government assured of commitment to the development of education in the state.

Ebeku noted: “In 2021 alone, over N1b was paid to sponsor candidates in public examinations, including WAEC, NABTEB, JAMB, and NECO. No other state in the country does this. If there is any technical issue of concern, interested persons should contact the ministry of education to verify before making statements that mislead the public.

“It is important to state that the state government places premium on education and goes to great length to ensure all is well in the sector. Even Federal Government examination agencies, such as NECO and JAMB, are provided free office accommodation and operational vehicles,” Ebeku said.

ANAMBRA State government’s budgetary allocation to education in the last three years has been on a downward trend.

In 2020, N8.3 billion was allocated to the sector, N1b for World Bank assisted State Education and Intervention Programme (SEPIP); N1.44bn for special projects in secondary schools; N1.4bn as emergency fund to the state Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB), while N2.4bn was for infrastructure and capacity improvement in the state owned tertiary institutions.

In 2021, budgetary allocation to the sector was N5b, with N3.15b earmarked for basic education and special projects in secondary schools, N0.8bn for ASUBEB, while infrastructure and capacity improvement in state-owned institutions got N2.17bn.

For 2022, out of N3.23bn allocated to the sector, N3.33b was earmarked for basic education and special projects in secondary schools; N201m to ASUBEB, while N2.67b was set aside for infrastructure and capacity improvement in state-owned institutions.

Reacting to the development, the state Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof Kate Omenuwa, said the 2020 budget was considered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when global economy slid into recession.

“The country slid into COVID-19 crisis with falling per capita income, high inflation and governance challenges. Nigeria was affected, including Anambra State. It is not just education that is affected. Post-COVID-19 created economic downturn in other sectors. So, the budget we have for 2021 and 2022 are within the constraints of the pandemic.”

In his contribution, Head, Department of Philosophy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said, “if allocation to education is poor, there will not be enough funds to promote gender balance as more boys will go into business. If education budget is reducing, it means Anambra has not keyed into United Nations sustainable development goals concerning the sector.

“The essence of governance is to make life easy by providing people’s needs. The legacy we can give to the next generation is education.

IN Plateau State, educationists have lamented the setbacks the sector has suffered in the last six years due to lack of attention by the state government.

According to Damian Dantaro, an educationist, tertiary institutions in the state have been going on and off strike over non – payment of pensions and other allowances, while primary school teachers are also being owed arrears of salaries.

Besides, he expressed regrets that infrastructural facilities are in deplorable state.

He said: “Government has not opened up employment of teachers at the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions for more than a decade. Pupils sit on the bare floor in some schools to receive lectures. The sector only enjoyed little support from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and Education Trust Fund ( ETF) about 10 years ago, which gave the schools some facelifts, but currently, they are in a poor state due to lack of maintenance.”

ABIA State’s yearly budget for years 2019, 2020 and 2021 were N141.9, N136.6 and N131.9 billion respectively, while allocations to education from the above figures, excluding tertiary institutions were N6.5b, N6.8b and N6.1b respectively. The state’s average yearly budget to education is N6.4 billion. This is far below United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) recommendation that 15-20 per cent of budgets of developing countries like Nigeria should go to education.

An educationist and Director of Rock Kids Academy, Umuahia, Mrs Chinwe Ugele, lamented that Nigeria has never met this requirement, hence, it keeps voting less than 10 per cent of its national budget to education.

“It got worse with the present administration, whose allocation to education has hovered between five and seven per cent.“

To effect a change, she stressed the need for government to adequately fund education in the country, develop a uniform national curriculum, strengthen its supervisory ministries and provide necessary infrastructure.

An official of the state ministry of education, who spoke on condition of anonymity attributed problems in the sector to inadequate funding.

Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde. Photo: TWITTER/SEYIAMAKINDE

In the 2020 fiscal year, out of the total budget of N213.78b, education received 22.37 per cent, which amounted to N47.82 billion, while in 2021, the government allocated 21 per cent to the sector out of N268b total budget.

For the 2022 appropriation bill of N294.51b, the government earmarked N54,116b representing 18.37 per cent of the total budget to education.

Increased allocation to the sector and various policies introduced have boosted enrollment and reduced the number of out-of-school children.

According to experts, increase in budgetary allocation to the sector as well as employment of teachers at primary and secondary levels was commendable.

Director, Educational Advancement Centre (EAC), Bodija, Ibadan, Dr. Muyiwa Bamgbose, said increase in allocation to the sector has changed the face of education in the state.

He said: “The greatest problem of success is, however, success itself. The success of today is a challenge for tomorrow and most likely, the product of yesterday. There should be no relenting if the success stories must continue.”

On his part, Dr. Emma Jimoh, an educationist and public affairs analyst, said: “A major concern is how much could be achieved with the budgeted sum in terms of purchasing power or value? Reality is that late Chief Obafemi Awolowo had already put successive governors in trouble with his difficult-to-beat education policy in the old Western Region from which Oyo state emerged. Ten per cent allocation to education was simply a statement of willingness to return to the glorious past, but government today is still struggling to catch up with yesterday.”

Jimoh identified underfunding as the greatest challenge confronting the sector, especially as schools lack capacity to generate alternative funds.

Bamgbose, on his part, said the idea of free education, which does not require any sacrifice from parents could backfire as government cannot do it alone.

On what government can do to boost learning and enhance qualitative and globally competitive sector, Bamgbose urged government to mobilise stakeholders and encourage their participation.

On his part, Jimoh canvassed collaboration with other stakeholders in the sector due to practical inadequacies of government at solving all problems.