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2013 budget: Rescuing education

IT is widely acknowledged that education remains the bedrock for the development of any nation. Simply put, education is the driving force behind the socio-economic advancement of any serious nation.

What this means is that a nation will continue to be pariah until education is made to take its pride of place in the scheme of things and so, no country can develop beyond the level of its education.

InNigeria, one might not be wrong to submit that the policies of the successive governments in the country have added little value to educational advancement, which has been ravaged by a myriad of problems, which keep worsening by the day.

Perhaps, the most severe of the problems is poor funding – which directly or indirectly leads to other perennial setbacks – shortage of quality staff, dearth of infrastructure, inadequate classrooms and offices, proliferation, insufficient admission spaces, examination malpractice, cultism, brain drain, inadequate laboratories for teaching and research, shortage of books and journals, indiscipline, low remuneration, inconsistent and ill-conceived policies.

It is saddening that on the average, Nigeria spends less than nine per cent of its annual budget on education when smaller African nations like Botswana spend 19.0%; Swaziland, 24.6%; Lesotho, 17.0%; South Africa, 25.8%; Cote d’Ivoire, 30.0%; Burkina Faso, 16.8%; Ghana, 31%; Kenya, 23.0%; Uganda, 27.0%; Tunisia, 17.0%; and Morocco, 17.7% .

An overview of this sector shows that the total federal allocation to education had been on the decline from 11.13 in 1999 to 7.0 per cent in 2001, meaning that the share of both the Gross Domestic Product and total government spending have fallen over time.

The allocation of a declining fraction of the GDP to education invariably poses a serious danger to the country’s long-term growth and development prospects.

This has raised the pertinent question of whether the decrease in these measures of educational expenditure is a result of too-small-a-share of total public financial resources being allocated to those levels of government which have most responsibility for the sector.

Since the late 1970s, when the tuition and feeding fees were introduced and government got enmeshed in crippling effects of International Monetary Fund/World Bank loans, the lots of education have actually gone from bad to worse.

In responding to the problem of chronic under-funding, Nigerian public universities had adopted an array of cost-sharing measures, to survive. Even at take-off, many institutions were never paid their statutory subventions, grants and allocations.

For instance, students’ contributions were obtained through a multitude of fees imposition – tuition in state and private institutions, acceptance, registration and certification, caution, sports,  identity cards, late registration, examination, laboratory, transcript, and medical centre registration fees, among others –  as these fees vary in amount paid from one university to another.

The condition for teaching and learning in many institutions is grossly unacceptable. This largely accounted for why no Nigerian university has attained any remarkable position in the world global rankings.

On the other hand, contributions from the private sector to education inNigeriawere limited to the endowment of prizes and professorial chairs, and other voluntary donations.

Campaigns to raise endowment funds in Nigerian universities dated as far back as the 1950s when theUniversityCollege,Ibadanstarted an endowment drive. From 1988 to1994, theUniversityofIbadangenerated approximately N22.02 million from endowments and grants.

It was widely believed that in the desperate bid to survive the financial crunch, many universities resorted to unconventional means of survival, including conferring honorary degrees to questionable people.

The government’s inability to adequately fund all tiers of education has created basis for the authorities of institutions to impose various obnoxious charges and fees of the students. This has made education the exclusive preserve of children of the few rich and the privileged. Often times, they are sent to school in first rate institutions abroad. This should not be.

The role played by intervention agencies such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund is meaningful but is still a far cry from the needs of this critical sector of the nation.

It was, therefore, cheering news that the Jonathan administration has decided to toe the right track in the nation’s aspiration of attaining the actualisation of the 26 per cent minimum allocation to education, a benchmark recommended by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The President had already submitted the 2013 budget christened “Fiscal Consolidation with Inclusive Growth” to the National Assembly for passage into law. The proposed budget allocates N426.53 billion to education out of the total national budget of N4.9 trillion.

All things being equal, it is expected that with the prudent management and release of funds, the state of our education is expected to be better. But previous experiences have shown that this optimism may not be so unless  necessary measures are put in place to ensure that the proposed budget becomes real.

To begin with, a sizeable amount should be set-aside as capital expenditure. For instance, in the 2012 fiscal year, the sum of N400.15 billion, representing 8.43 per cent of the budget was allocated to education. Out of this, N345.091bn (82%) was allotted to recurrent expenditure, while a meagre N55.056bn (18%) was for capital expenditure and N317.896bn was proposed for personnel cost, while N27.192bn was for overheads.

The main ministry had a budget proposal of N5.491bn, allocated to MDGs – N2.173bn; parastatals – N5.196bn, universities – N14.411bn, colleges of education – N4.555bn, while unity colleges got N7.663bn.

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

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