Who bears Nigeria’s education brunt?
Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to adequately fund education in a London conference a few weeks ago, this supposedly ray of hope has evoked different shades of opinion surrounding education. However, it is important to commend Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, for his blunt comments on challenges facing the education sector and the girl-child education in the country. Also, for calling a spade by its name as he rightly pointed out those who should be blamed for the nation’s education woes during a two-day forum the other day, themed: “National Dialogue on Girls: Towards A Girl-Friendly Nigeria”.
Indeed, I would not at all be surprised if many stakeholders in the education sector in the land are themselves in any way happy about the continued squabble between the three tiers of government with regards to make out who should give education its preferred treatment by way of adequate funding.
No doubt, Nigerians cannot but be mystified by the way and manner governments, local, state and federal, chose to neglect education in the name of whose responsibility it is to fund it. In recent years, education like many other sectors or ministries have faced serious threats that can be traced to several factors which subsequently on many occasions stops on governments’ doorstep. Therefore, for the federal, state or local governments to continue in their circle of blame about whose obligation it is to adequately fund education is worse than unfair and it is an unintelligent excuse before the eyes of the public court. In trying to shield itself from the education quagmire, the federal government claim to be guided by the belief that Nigeria is operating a federal system of government, therefore, education deserves greater attention from state and local governments respectively.
Even a lay man knows that, the federal government is only trying to absorb itself from blame as it pretends to be the beautiful ostrich by kicking up sandstorm over education with such cheap excuses. However, to drive the argument home, the Vice President Osibanjo noted: “This has to be made clear. Even when comparisons are drawn between Nigeria and other countries, the tendency is to assume the federal government can legislate that states should do a particular thing but that is not possible…” The three tiers of government does not need to be told before recognising the fact that education is under threat and a state of emergency should be declared in the country to rescue it.
For many, the continued deteriorating state of education in the country among other factors such as insecurity, unemployment and poverty has rendered over 6.9 million school age children out of school. Also, it is a matter of regret that in the twenty first century, as Vice President Osinbajo noted, social and cultural prejudices in some regions continue to militate as problems against the girl-child education in Nigeria. Of course, this has helped to increase the illiteracy rate among adults, youth population and subsequently remained as a major impediment to the country’s development aspirations.
It is obvious that, to manage matters relating to education is mainly the business of government. Until government and its officials begin to take responsibility and demonstrate the necessity to adequately fund education and bring back its lost glory, the nation’s development may continue to remain elusive.
Until recently, the education sector has not been this badly challenged. In the present circumstance, what sense does it make to allow the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) to embark on another strike action? Well, in case you are not aware, ASUU has asked Nigerians to hold President Buhari responsible for another academic crisis as the administration allegedly breached the agreement it had with the union in December, 2020. It is worth reiterating that governments past and present do not place much value on education.
Hence Nigeria remains far behind the UNESCO funding threshold for education pegged at 26 per cent of annual budget. Despite the many political promises made by the Buhari administration, nowhere has the promises rang more hollow than in the education sector.
Obviously, the ASUU’s warning brings to bear another unsettled momentum waiting to evolve and slow down the education train in the country. Thus creating set-back on the only special benefit the poor masses derive from government by making citizens go through rough patches in seeking education outside public schools.
It is worth mentioning that, for years the federal governments’ position on education, particularly its negotiations with ASUU has reached a point to be considered as a huge joke. This is because the latter seems to pretend to negotiate knowing it would not implement the resolutions reached on the negotiation table. Of course, the outcome has over the years been an academic calendar of unpleasant surprises. Again, government penchant for being arrogant in its tinkering that the best way to address strike action is to invoke ‘no work, no pay’ rule. In any case, this has not only failed to achieve its goals but has worsened the already bad situation.
Education, as is well-known, is the key to unlock nation’s development. Therefore, government should stop pointing finger but come together and move education forward through adequate funding.