2013 budget: Rescuing education (2)

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A FURTHER breakdown showed that while personnel allocation increased by N38.584bn, overheads got N1.836bn and capital N3.231bn, respectively.

Disturbed by the huge gap between amount for capital and recurrent expenditure, the Senate Committee on Education has had to query the large percentage of the Ministry’s budget voted for recurrent expenditure to the detriment of capital expenditure for infrastructure in the sector.

The Chairman of the Committee, Uche Chukwumerije, observed that the distribution of funds between recurrent and capital posed challenges of slow pace in infrastructural development in the relevant agencies and institutions. This should equally be noted in the course of the implementation of the 2013 budget.

Secondly, there are instances of large variances between budgetary provisions and actual expenditure in the sense that budgetary pronouncements are often not backed by fund releases.

For instance, the Federal Ministry of Education received a total capital allocation of N5.49bn in 2011, out of which N3.688bn was released, while total commitment was N3.497bn and actual draw down was N2.699bn.

Similarly, stakeholders have also called for a review of how to share financial responsibility for primary education across levels of government but the issue has never been fully resolved. It has been argued that there is an apparent lopsidedness in the funding of various sub-sectors, with higher education having 30 per cent of the entire allocation.

The United Nations Development Programmes has noted that if the current trend continues, the target of achieving universal primary education by 2015 will be missed by at least a decade and this slide might lead into having 47 million children out of school in 2015.

Already, 46 countries have been identified to be going backwards or will not meet the target until after 2040, as these countries account for 23 million of the 110 million children that are currently out of school in developing countries.

It is will not be out of place to mention that the Universal Basic Education, UBE, guidelines provided that every primary or junior secondary school in Nigeria is expected to have one general science laboratory for elementary science and domestic science, one ventilated improved toilet for a maximum of 40 pupils or students per toilet and, one teacher to handle only 40 pupils or students in a class.

These criteria are far from being met due to poor funding. In fact, in many primary schools, pupils sit on the bare floor in a classroom. Most secondary schools lack classrooms, libraries, laboratories and equipment. This trend should be curtailed.

The scrutiny and timely passage of the 2013 budget should be the needed tonic in the life of the nation’s comatose education sector. The National Assembly should be thorough in carrying out this crucial assignment.

Issues of budget implementation, monitoring and evaluation are very critical. These responsibilities cannot just be left to the executive and the legislature alone.

There should be independent bodies to monitor the implementation of the budgets.

The media and civil society organisations as well as universities should be empowered to monitor and evaluate budget implementation and give their independent assessments without hindrance.

The National Assembly should pass the necessary legislation to empower the non-state actors to be at a vantage position to do so.

It should be realised that budgets should not just be rituals and the reeling out of figures from self-assessment of performance.

Therefore, Nigerians deserve to get answers on how far the 2012 budget has been implemented, as this will, no doubt, serve as the baseline for the successful implementation of the 2013 budget.

The executive arm of government should also take very seriously, the remarks made by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that there should be strict adherence to budget implementation.

For now, it must be collectively agreed that the state of education inNigeriais lamentably poor and replete with enormous challenges, requiring the adoption of sincere and pragmatic approach in turning round the situation around.

Mr.  ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from Federal University of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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