Education and the future of children
While Malcolm X says “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”; Nelson Mandela says “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”. These are a powerful insight into the importance of education in our society. The government plays a major role in the education of its people, especially the children. Whether or not the government has played this role in a manner justified of commendation is not in doubt as we continue to see deterioration in the education sector both at the Federal and State government level. Successive governments pay lip service to education, which reflects budgetary allocation to the sector. Year after year, the budget for education has declined relative to the GDP and total government budget.
On September 26, 2016, I published an article in The Nations newspaper with the title: “Private participation in education is key”. In that piece, I attempted to justify why private institutions should take a front row in the operation and funding of education. I captured the reason as follows;
“One is the dearth of Infrastructure! There are also the challenges of systemic decay of values, dearth of manpower, obsolete learning methodology, unnecessary bottlenecks for new entrants, misplaced priority on the part of industry players, lack of continuity and consistency of policy, weak regulation and control, extinction of skills training for players and weak financial system to adequately support the sector.”
These challenges remain unabated almost seven years down the line. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) encourages developing countries to ensure that their budget for education does not fall below 26 per cent of their total budget. The federal government has consistently failed in this regard. Take for instance budgetary allocation to education between 2010 and 2015. In 2010, the budget was N234bn. It was 306bn in 2011 but in 2014 and 2015 it jumped to N493bn and N492bn, respectively. There seems to have been an annual increase but when you compare them to the budget size, you see a declining effect. In 2014, allocation to education accounted for 10 percent of the total budget, while in 2015 it dropped to 6.2 percent. There is also a reflection of this across the State in Nigeria.
For instance, in Edo state, in 2022 the total budget was N221bn out of which N24.6bn was budgeted for education. In 2021 the total budget was N153bn out of which N20bn was for education. The percentage of the education budget to the total budget stood at 14 per cent (2021) while it was 10 per cent (2022). From the figures above it is clear that though there is an absolute increase, the relative relationship from year to year is a decline. Also, note that it is below the UNESCO recommended limit. This has been the issue with funding education in Nigeria.
Until the government takes a decisive step in addressing the education sector, there shall continually be poor quality service delivery which is capable of damaging our children’s future. Therefore, to address the issue of poor performance, the government should imbibe the following steps to guarantee quality education.
Implement a tripod model of running schools: Government should not have businesses directly operating schools. The parties in the tripod model should involve the 1. Operators made up of Missions and/or Old Boys/Girls Association 2. The Regulators i.e. the Ministry of Education 3. The Financiers are made up of Trustees on a Spend and Earn basis. Under this model, schools are expected to be operated by their old boys/girls in conjunction with interested missions under specified terms and conditions with the ministry focusing on quality assurance purely. The Trustee shall warehouse the government budget for the sector from where school monthly expenses are reimbursed.
Adequate funding: The government should allocate sufficient funds to education and ensure that it is used effectively. Government should separate funding from the Ministry of Education for accountability. This includes investing in infrastructure, learning materials, teacher training, and support programs for students.
Teacher training and professional development: Quality education depends on well-trained and motivated teachers. The government should provide regular training programs and opportunities for professional development to enhance teaching skills and keep educators up-to-date with the latest teaching methodologies. Teacher training Colleges should be reintroduced and funded adequately. This will professionalise teaching and provide a career pathway.
Curriculum improvement: Regular review and updating of the curriculum can help ensure that it meets the changing needs of students and prepares them for the future. Incorporating practical and critical thinking skills, as well as promoting creativity and innovation, can make education more relevant and engaging. The inclusion of Vernacular and local languages will help the children think and process information in their local languages before English as is the case globally.
Enhancing school infrastructure: Providing safe and conducive learning environments is crucial. This includes constructing and maintaining school buildings, libraries, science laboratories, and computer labs. Access to modern technology and internet connectivity should also be prioritised.
Parental involvement: Parents play a vital role in a child’s education. Encouraging parental involvement through regular communication, parent-teacher associations, and workshops can foster a supportive home environment and improve student outcomes.
Access to education: Ensuring access to education for all children is essential. Efforts should be made to eliminate barriers such as gender inequality, poverty, unnecessary fees, and geographical limitations. Scholarships and financial aid programs can help disadvantaged students continue their education.
Special needs education: Special attention should be given to children with additional needs and attention. Inclusive education policies and support services should be implemented to ensure their integration into mainstream schools.
Community partnerships: Collaboration with local communities, NGOs, and other organizations can strengthen the education system. Engaging community members in educational initiatives, mentorship programs, and extracurricular activities can provide additional support and resources.
Monitoring and evaluation: Regular assessment of educational programs and policies is crucial for identifying strengths and weaknesses. This feedback loop allows for necessary adjustments and improvements to be made. The Ministry of Education should be adequately funded to acquire the skills to monitor and evaluate. The use of Inspectors, Monitors, and evaluators as visitors to schools regularly should be encouraged. The MoE should act as a true regulator with requisite skills.
Long-term planning and sustainability: Securing the future of education requires long-term planning and commitment. Educational policies and initiatives should be designed with a focus on sustainability, ensuring that improvements are maintained over time.
In conclusion, by implementing these measures, the federal government, and Edo State in particular, can enhance the quality of education, create a conducive learning environment, and secure a brighter future for its children.