Thirty-one years after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, recommended that developing nations give up to 25 per cent of their annual budget to public education, Nigeria’s allocation to the sector is still less than 10 per cent.
Consequently, of the N55.3 trillion allocated to the education sector by the federal government in the last six years (2016-2021), only N3.5 trillion had been given the sector, and this represents less than ten per cent.
In comparison, though Ghana and South Africa have not actually met up to the recommended 25 per cent by UNESCO, they have done far more than Nigeria, allocating a maximum 23 per cent and 16.7 per cent respectively.
In 2016, of the total budget of N6.06 trn, the sum of N369.6 billion or 6.7% of the budget was allocated to public education in the country.
In 2017, N550 bn or 7.38% was allocated to education out of N7.29 trn budget, while in 2018, N605.8 bn or 7.04 % was given to education out of N9.2 trn budget.
In 2019, N620 bn or 7.05% was allocated to education out of the budget of N8.92 trn, while in 2020, N671.07 bn or 6.7% was given to education out of N10.33 trn budget.
This year, N742.5 bn or 5.6% was allocated to education out of a budget of N13.6 trn.
On the other hand, according to reports by the World Bank, Ghana allocated 23.81% of its national budget for education in 2015, 22.09% in 2016, 20.1% in 2017 and 18.6% in 2018.
For South Africa, it has kept increasing allocations to the education sector from R246 billion or 16.7 % in 2018, R310bn in 2019, R 387bn in 2020 and projected that it’ll hit R416 bn by 2023/24.
Though South Africa’s allocations in the period varied from 14.4% to 16.7% of the total budgets in the years under review, the performance was much better than Nigeria’s.
Recall that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO recommended in 1990 that developing economies should allocate between 20-25% of their national budgets to the sector.
It based the recommendation on the need for the developing nations to use education to bridge the gap between them and developed nations.
Commenting on the situation, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said rather than the country moving forward regarding education, it is marching backward.
“All our agreements with the government all these years have always contained the clause that government should progressively increase allocation to the sector so that we can get to the international standard of 26% to the sector. Unfortunately, instead of us marching forward, we are marching backward. Over the years, the allocations to the sector keep going down.
“We have this problem because our leaders don’t taste of the bitter pill the situation forces down the throats of ordinary citizens. Their children are not here schooling. If they were here, they would know how it feels. The only way is to force them to bring their own children and wards here to school.
“I plead that Nigerians should not leave the fight for ASUU to fight alone, this is because the implications of the poor funding of the sector are on us all. Right now, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. Such children would fight back when they grow up. They may believe that the society abandoned them.
“Banditry, kidnapping and other vices are on the increase because poorly trained, poorly educated people are increasing in number daily and they are not prepared for the best ways to face the challenges of life.
“Unfortunately, our leaders have divided us into classes, the rich and the poor, the privileged and the less privileged. They reserve the best jobs and positions for their own children and wards. I hope the Nigerian people will fight back and not leave it to ASUU alone,” he said.
Former President of the Oxford and Cambridge Club of Nigeria, an association of alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Mr Timi Austen Peters, noted that without adequate funding of the sector, Nigerian universities would not be able to produce graduates that would be world beaters.
“Oxford, Cambridge and other great universities produce graduates that have been well equipped to face life squarely. They are breeding grounds for global businesses and start ups that are renowned. Adequate attention and funding should be given to the education sector if we want to really grow as a nation,” he said.
Reacting to the poor funding of the education sector and that Nigeria lags behind neighbouring countries such as Ghana, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, wondered when Nigeria would get it right regarding the sector.
The South-West Coordinator of NANS, Kappo Samuel Olawale, who spoke with Vanguard, chastised the government for paying lip service to the sector.
“We keep repeating the same thing. And the way we are going, we may not get it right. Is it not a shame if a country like Ghana is taking education more serious than us. If our education system is not adequately funded and provided for to train the citizens, then how do we make judicious use of the human resource we always tout as an advantage?
“When we cannot produce those who would give the nation the desired future and leadership, what then becomes of the future of the country? The sector must be well funded, the stakeholders motivated too. Our universities, for instance, are over crowded and there is lack of basic infrastructure.
“It is the poor funding from the government that has led to these universities offering different and numerous part time programmes. The intention is to raise money to augment government’s subventions,” he said
Also speaking, the National President of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPS, Mr Anselm Izuagie, described the current situation as deplorable.
“The truth is that what you put in is what comes back as the output. We are not doing enough regarding budgetary allocations to the education sector. Education needs more funding than it is getting now and it is pitiable if smaller nations like Ghana are committing more to the sector than us. We are all seeing the results. Nigerians are rushing to the country among others to get tertiary education.
“ But how many Nigerians can afford that? Let us even put aside the huge sums we lose to such countries by our people paying for education there, we must also consider the fact that quality education will put such nations ahead of us in the long run. Let us say we cannot meet the 26% of budgetary allocation to the sector as suggested by UNESCO, are we also saying 5 or 6 percent is what we can do?
“There is nothing stopping us from getting to at least 20 percent allocation level. Now, the President has attended an international conference where some promises were made, we pray that the promises are fulfilled. If that is done, we will all be better for it,” he stated.
Speaking in Lagos few days ago at a book launch, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said government was trying its best in the funding of the sector.
“It is not that bad as some people think. Apart from the allocation to the Ministry of Education, there are other means through which government funds education. We have the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, we have the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, we even have interventions by agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC among others.
“We are not saying we have got to the level we want to get to, but the government is trying its best in the circumstances we are now. We all know that the funding of education cannot be left to the government alone. Other stakeholders should also make their own contributions,” he said.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari recently attended a global education summit in London where world leaders made commitment to increasing budgetary allocations to education in their countries.
The Global Education summit, co-hosted by British prime minister, Mr Boris Johnson and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, successfully generated about four billion dollars out of the targeted five billion dollars for the transformation of the education sector in low income countries, including Nigeria.
At the summit, President Buhari pledged to increase the budget for the education sector in Nigeria by as much as 50 per cent over the next two years.
The Nigerian leader stated: “We commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and up to 100% by 2025 beyond the 26 per cent global benchmark.”