…Education in free fall!
…FG to declare emergency
By Clifford Ndujihe
AS recent as the mid-1990s, Nigerian universities, especially the first generation ones, attracted students from Cameroun, South-Africa, Kenya and Ghana, among others, as well as foreign lecturers.
Today, the reverse is the case. Apart from lecturers, in large numbers, leaving Nigeria for greener pastures in what has come to be referred as ‘brain drain,’ thousands of students are also leaving the country to study abroad even in neighbouring countries like Ghana and Benin Republic.
The Director, Centre for Open, Distance and e-Learning, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Musa Aibinu, said, recently, that about 23,000 lecturers leave Africa every year with Nigeria accounting for the bulk of the number.
Poor funding has been identified as the major reason for the rot and challenges in the education sector, especially tertiary education, which has led to frequent strikes by teaching and non-teaching staff since the early 1990s.
Indeed, the Federal Government’s allocation to the education in the last 10 years has been miserly. Out of a budget of N55.19 trillion, only N3.90 trillion or 7.07 per cent (see table) was allocated to the sector.
In 2009, the Federal Government allocated N221.19 billion (7.25 per cent) of its N3.049 trillion budget to education. The figure was reduced to 4.83 per cent in 2010 when education got N249.09 billion of the hefty N5.16 trillion appropriation.
There was a marginal improvement in 2011 when education got N306.3 billion (6.16 per cent) of the N4.972 trillion budget. The marginal improvements continued in 2012 (8.20 per cent), 2013 (8.55 per cent), and 2014 (9.94 per cent) until 2015 (7.74 per cent) when a significant drop in allocation to education was recorded.
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari’s first full year in office, the sector had its second-worst allocation in 10 years when, of the N6.061 trillion budget, only N369.6 billion (6.10 per cent) was appropriated for education.
However, there was a slight rise in 2017 (7.38 per cent) and if the 2018 proposed N8.612 trillion is approved, education will get N605.8 billion or 7.03 per cent.
Poor conditions of service
For many years, teaching and non-teaching unions in tertiary institutions have been complaining about poor funding, poor conditions of service and welfare, over which they have embarked on industrial actions on several occasions almost on a yearly basis.
Between 1992 and 2017, university lecturers went on strike 20 times, with the attendant adverse effects on education at the tertiary level in the country. The industrial actions were embarked on following the failure of government to implement agreements reached with the academic union.
Between 1992 and 1999, there were seven strikes by the lecturers, including industrial strikes, trade dispute, internal strikes, and nationwide strikes, and between 2010 and last year, there were 13 strikes.
There were several agreements signed between the Federal Government and the lecturers’ umbrella body, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in 1981/82, 1992, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2013 which were not faithfully implemented by government.
In his article: ‘The Significance of ASUU 2009 Strike’, Dr. Femi Aborisade, an activist, noted that the 1981/82 Agreement between FG and ASUU contained, among others, the establishment and acceptance of the principle of collective bargaining as the main mode by which terms and conditions of work of academics would be determined.
The 1992 Agreement was on university autonomy and academic freedom, and the 1999 Agreement dealt with academic allowances and other terms and conditions of work. The aim was to address the twin problem of the rot in the Nigerian education system and brain drain.
The 2001 Agreement focused on three items: Salaries and conditions of work, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom. It contained a clause that the Agreement would be reviewed every three years.
This meant that it was due for review in 2004. Despite many reminders and pressures by ASUU to get government to review the 2001 Agreement in 2004, government refused to provide an avenue for re-negotiation, which prompted another round of strike leading to the 2005 Agreement where the government gave an undertaking to constitute its Negotiating Team by May 3, 2005, to review the main agreement of 2001.
This was never done until 2006. More negotiations and re-negotiations were done in 2007, 2009 and 2013 all “directed towards ensuring that there is a viable university system with one rather than multiple sets of academic standards.”
The situation was so bad in 2013 such that, at a stage, lecturers at the three main levels of tertiary education – universities, polytechnics and colleges of education – were on strike for over six months.
ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union was forced to embark on its last strike because the Federal Government failed to implement the 2009 Agreement and 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and that after series of meetings with the Minister of Education and the National Assembly on the need to respect the Agreement and the MoU, it got no tangible results on key issues.
Expectedly, lack of tangible results on key issues over the years had adverse effects on the standard of education in the country.
No Nigerian varsity among top 1000 universities
Currently, Nigeria has 146 universities (36 federal, 44 states and 66 private); 83 polytechnics (21 federal, 38 states and 24 private); and 82 colleges of education (22 federal, 46 states and 14 private).
Unfortunately, none of the country’s universities is ranked among the first 1, 000 universities in the world, according to Webometrics Openness ranking, in the first half of 2018. Only the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, (1433) and University of Ibadan, UI, (1613) are among the first 2, 000 universities.
Less than 50 Nigerian universities were ranked of which nine – University of Ilorin, UNILORIN (2114); Covenant University, CU, (2161), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, NAU, (2173); University of Port Harcourt (2190); University of Lagos, UNILAG, (2243); University of Calabar, UNICAL, (2333); Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, FUNAAB, (2364), Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, (2372) and Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, (2473) were among the first 2, 500.
The Openness ranking is based on research output or volume of research articles published. It refers to the total number of pdf files of a university according to Google. It relies on information (statistics) of web publications of a university for a specific period of time available on Google scholar.
Nigerians spend $2bn on school fees abroad
Faced with recurring strikes, irregular academic programmes, among others, many Nigerians are trooping out of the country to seek further education to the detriment of the country’s economy.
An online media, InfoguideNigeria.com, outlined seven reasons Nigerians troop abroad for tertiary studies. They include low quality of Nigerian higher institutions due to poor funding; incessant strikes; preference for foreign certificates; better job opportunities; advanced teaching methods; and opportunities to combine study with a job.
As of February 2016, the Chairman Senate Committee on Tertiary Institution and Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Senator Binta Masi, said Nigeria was spending over $2 billion (about N720 billion) annually as capital flight on education abroad.
Speaking in Abuja during the commissioning of Federal University of Lafia, FUL, Nigeria Research and Education Network, NgREN, Masi, who frowned on Nigerians travelling to other African countries to get educated, said Nigeria was getting it right on the initiative of the research and education network.
Nigerians in Ghana, American, UK, Indian, others universities
As of August last year, there were 1, 202 Nigerians studying various academic programmes in Indian universities, according to the Association of Indian Universities, which, in a report, ranked Nigeria as fifth in the biggest sources of international students in the country’s academic institutions behind Nepal (5,480).
US Consul-General, John Bray, said, on September 29, 2017, that no fewer than 10, 000 Nigerian students were among over one million international students admitted into United States’ universities in 2017. “This year, the number of international students in the United States climbed to over one million globally. More than 10 ,000 of these students are from Nigeria. That is more than the year before but there could be more,’’ he said.
In 2016, Nigeria ranked among countries with highest number of students in Canada, according to the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Perry Calderwood, who said that no fewer than 9, 000 students were studying in Canada.
Calderwood, who spoke at the opening of the 12th Canadian Education Fair in Abuja, said: “Figures from Canada’s immigration authorities show that in 2014, over 8,600 Nigerians were studying in Canada. These numbers have grown rapidly from just 800 in 2002. Nigeria represents the 8th largest source of foreign students and their presence enriches Canadian educational institutions and society.’’
Nearer home, Nigerians schooling in Ghanaian higher institutions are estimated to be 75,000, with a former Minister of Youth Development, who is now the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, saying that Nigerians spend N300 billion annually in Ghana and an estimated N162 billion annually in the United Kingdom on foreign tertiary education. He estimated Nigerian students in the UK to be over 19,000.
Emergency on education
Responding to the rot in the education sector, Minister of Education, Professor Adamu Adamu, said recently that the Federal Government will declare a state of emergency in the education sector, this month.
“By the end of April, we are proposing there will be a declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector all over the country. We request all the state governors to do same in their states and we hope that, once this is done, our educational sector will improve.
“I will also meet with the governors to appeal to them to give special emphasis to address the problem of the low standard of education especially at primary level,” he said while receiving the Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello and some members of his executive at the Federal Ministry of Education Headquarters in Abuja.
Timeline of ASUU Strikes
1999 – Five months
2001 – Three months
2002 – Two weeks
2003/2004 – Six months
2005 – Three days
2006 – Seven days
2007 – Three Months
2008 – Seven days
2009 – Four months
2010 – Five months, seven days
2011/2012 – Three months
2013 – Six months
2016 – Seven days
2017 – One month, six days
Poor funding of education hurts development – Prof. Okebukola
By Dayo Adesulu
TO save the education sector and drive development, President, Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi-Africa), Professor Peter Okebukola, has stressed the need for adequate funding of the sector by all tiers of government.
Okebukola, who is also Chairman of Council, Crawford University, and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Caleb University, lamented the education funding deficit and urged that 15 per cent of the budget should be allocated to education.
Reacting to the Sunday Vanguard report on Federal Government’s poor allocation to education in the last 10 years, he said: ‘’I must commend the Vanguard team for the research data provided. By the way, I am the President of the UNESCO-established Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) in Africa and working with the Association of African Universities, we recently concluded a study on sustainable models of funding education in Africa.
‘’A straightforward answer to your question is that education in Nigeria has huge funding deficits. This is why the communiqué of the Presidential Retreat on Education held on Monday, November 13, 2017, attended by Mr. President, Vice-President and all the Ministers, implored the Federal Government to henceforth commit not less than 15% of the budget to education and encourage other levels of government to do so. Besides, funding interventions from agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), among others, should be accurately captured and included in a coherent framework of educational funding.
‘’The communiqué further cautioned on one-size-fits-all funding model and urged that funding should be made context specific. All stakeholders especially the private sector and industry should be part of this funding model, especially for research. The statistics the Vanguard research team provided is only one side of the story and does not give the full picture of budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria.
The Vanguard data is only the federal government side. Since education is on the concurrent legislative list, the 36 states and the FCT also provide budgetary allocations to education. We can only see the full funding picture if we have the aggregate from the federal end and those of the states and FCT.
We should note that the load which requires funding which the federal government is carrying in education, relative to the states is low. The federal government does not own a single primary school. The states have over 75,000.
The federal government has only 102 secondary schools; states have 14,000. The federal government has 41 universities; states have 46. The foregoing regardless, the federal is underfunding the education sector which is the fulcrum and propellant for development. Over 90% of the states are also not paying sufficient funding attention to education. Overall, both the federal government and the states need to do better in terms of funding the sector.
‘’It is important to stress that the 26% ascribed to UNESCO as the minimum budgetary level for education is a myth. It is only Nigerians that quote this percentage which does not exist anywhere else in the world, even disowned by UNESCO.
What government should do is to significantly improve funding to education if the goal is to leverage on education for rapid socio-economic development. In improving funding, we should install a robust anti-corruption mechanism into the education system so as not to expand the horizon for ‘chop’ when the budget is increased”.