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Of education and its hunchback problems

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
28 July 2021   |   3:30 am
Never mind whatever antidote the government of day may wish to administer to bring back education’s lost glory even when the remedies looks more like challenges in the education sector.

A cross section of Nigerian undergraduates

Never mind whatever antidote the government of day may wish to administer to bring back education’s lost glory even when the remedies looks more like challenges in the education sector. However, the nation has in recent times been pleasantly informed by President Muhammadu Buhari why the education sector urgently needs more funds.

We cannot suppose from this statement as a ploy to silence stakeholders agitating for adequate funding of the education sector. In any case, such information from government quarters is as constant as the northern star, and therefore, not new. Hence, one of the pre-occupations of the Buhari administration has been its continued desire to make phantom promises on education by reassuring Nigerians how his government would strengthen the education sector.

The other day, the President once again in Daura, Katsina state promised while receiving the Vice Chancellor, Professor Akpofure Rim-Rukeh of Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) Effurun, Delta state, that his administration would allocate an increasing share of resources to improve learning in the country and reform the educational sector. But to all intents and purposes, these promises do not seem to be entirely backed by action, as education remains in continued deterioration.

A government that is serious about education or is desired to spend more would reveal such ambition in its annual budget. Better still, take the bull by the horn and declare an emergency in the education sector to send a clear message of action to the stakeholders. For instance, in this year’s budget, the government only apportioned 5.6 per cent to the education sector out of a total of N13.6 trillion budget. Indeed, it is difficult to evaluate the wretchedness and ugly state the Buhari government and indeed past administrations has made education become nowadays. It is a shame that Nigeria, the so called, giant of Africa is nowhere near the UNESCO 26 per cent funding stipulation for education reading from the nation’s 2021 budget.

Funding has become a great challenge and dysfunction that continue to impede the growth and the realisation of education potentials in the country. Despite the ruling governments continued promise and desire to uplift education, it still enmeshed in the missteps of past administrations. It is not enough for President Buhari led administration to keep reinforcing what is already known that education can pave way to end poverty and used as the key to a secured future. What is required is action plan to pull out education from the doldrum state.

So far, so predictably, you might say that the catalogue of woes is compounded as the education sector is entering unfamiliar territory. In the recent past, we have seen how insecurity has played a part in further causing harm to an already worse education situation. In the north eastern part of the country, millions of school children are out of the classrooms, while hundreds are in captivity having being kidnapped or abducted in their various schools by bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. The ruling government, no doubt, has to deal with the issue of insecurity arising from Boko Haram insurgents knowing that their first cardinal objective is the dislike for western education. Insecurity has created an unassuming fear in the society and caused majority among school age pupils in the entire northern region to refuse to attend school. Given the state of insecurity in the country, government cannot achieve much success in the education sector if and when the sector is adequately funded. Therefore, would the ruling government still have to allocate increasing share from the budget to the education sector in the face of Boko Haram’s threat to education? The question hardly diminishes the fact about the horrible state of the education sector. But, notwithstanding, the Buhari administration has the opportunity to set a good record for incoming governments to emulate.

An increase in education fund is more likely to set the key for the development of the country’s human capital. In the same breath, much as funding is necessary to uplift education standard, we should not downplay other critical hunchback that are not amenable or a quick-fix solutions.

It is common knowledge that the quality of the teaching personnel is also central to the education system challenges. It is, therefore, disheartening that majority among teachers are poorly trained and many of those who take up teaching jobs do so at the absence of employment in their qualified profession. Also, the constant call for strike action in the education sector reveals that, the nation’s teachers seem not to be impressed about their wages and condition of service. Government should make it as priority the adequate payment of teacher’s wages, and retraining teachers because it goes a long way to help in the journey to revamping the sector by bringing out the best in the teachers. The shabby treatment of teachers and the general belief that teacher’s reward awaits them in Heaven has also exposed to a great extent, about the present low standard of education in the country.

Addressing the circumstance where funding is hampering education, in this case, the petroleum varsity potentials, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Rim-Rukeh, called on spirited Nigerians to support the institution as educational sustainability and progress of the country especially universities was being threatened by sole dependence on the federal government. However, in the face of all these challenges, will education die? No it shall not. But if the deterioration continues unabated, let the policymakers know that history will judge, not only by the principles they endorse but by their actual conduct and actions towards education.

It is indeed heartwarming to know that the ruling government appears self compelling to adequately fund education, but the basic objective should be centered more on action than mere lip-service. The sore taste in the nation’s education sector could be a lot better than what currently obtains, if the system of education has not being severally midwifed by the introduction of foreign calendars that revised the curriculum of schools at close intervals. The government is required to fashion an appropriate policy action to redress the deteriorating standard of education in the country before it becomes too late.