By Dayo Adesulu
PRESIDENT Mohammadu Buhari’s June 12 speech has not ceased to generate reactions, as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS and other stakeholders in the academia have said he cannot lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years without investing in qualitative education. They also suggested the way forward to achieving the president’s dreams for the unemployed youths.
The President, in his speech had said: ‘’With leadership and sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
Speaking with Vanguard, they argued that the larger population of our country who are youths need urgent attention.
United Nations estimates as at June 16, 2019 revealed that the population of Nigeria was 200,760,398, adding that the median age in Nigeria is 17.9years. Nigeria ages structure revealed that between 0-14 years is 42.54 per cent, 15-24 years- 19.61 percent, 25-54 years-30.74 percent, 55-64 years- 3.97 percent and 65 years and over is 3:13 percent.
UNICEF also says that about 10.5 million Nigerian children between the ages of 5-14 are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-old regularly attends primary school and only 35.6 percent of children ages 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
Upgrade varsities facilities
The experts believe that if facilities in these universities are upgraded to international standard, it would not only accommodate more students, but also boost our knowledge base for research that would boost the country’s economy.
They therefore posited that empowering the youth through qualitative education is key to national economic development. According to them, the Buhari’s administration in the past four years has not shown respect for the sector in his budgetary allocation for education. Surprisingly, education got only 7.05 per cent from the 8.9 trillion in the 2019 budget.
Similarly in 2018, only 7.04% of the 8.6 trillion was allocated to education. In 2017, the allocation was lower than the 7.4 percent that the government gave the education sector in the N7.4 trillion 2017 budget. In 2016, the sector which got N369.6bn from a total national budget of N6.07t was described as still the lowest since 2012.
Building intellectual capacity is key
In his reaction, ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi said: “I don’t think it is possible to lift people out of poverty without building their intellectual capacity. For as long as Nigerian government continues to pay lips service to qualitative education, our people will remain in the shackles of ignorance, diseases and poverty.
“If the Federal Government means what it is saying, it must set examples by doing what other development ambitious countries of the G8 countries are doing by devoting nothing less than 20 percent of its yearly budget to education.
“The Federal Government must also enforce extant policies and laws such that the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) and provide free education at levels.
The message of empowerment through the instrumentality of education must resonate with other tiers of government, particularly among State Governments who flagrantly violate the UBEC law that calls for counterpart funding of the nine-year basic (primary and secondary) education in the country.
“ASUU strongly believes that education is the catalyst to any meaningful transformation in individuals, their communities and our nation. “Qualitative education will give our people the skills, knowledge and other forms of competencies to cope with their personal challenges and this will crystallize in nation building and national development. Sound education provides opportunities for people to realise their full potential socially, culturally, technically and economically.”
FG assured us of 15% budget on education, says ASUP
On his part, Ex-President of ASUP, Dr. Chibuzo Asomugha said: “Shortly before the 2019 Budget Proposals were submitted to the National Assembly, the then Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu had assured us that the federal government had resolved to henceforth commit a minimum of 15% of the nation’s budget to education.
“It came as a surprise to see the education budget still left as low as 7%. The N620.5bn budget for education will cover the entire gamut of the sector: the sub sectors, the institutions and the agencies. No nation serious about wholesome development of the education sector does this. “The only significant input in education, and that at the tertiary level, is from TETfund. This grievous underfunding is made manifest in the dire dearth of infrastructure, ill-equipped classrooms, sub-par personnel capacity, and poor quality of graduates at all levels.
“The failure of our educational system is further worsened by the lowering of standards which originates from the basic level and eventually runs the entire gamut. The strictures of a poorly diversified economy drive a restless youthful population toward the uncoordinated stampede for certificate-acquisition.
“Our education system now produces certificate-clutching graduates who cannot fit into the labour market.
‘’While the major challenges of our educational system are multi-faceted and fundamental in nature, I believe that a veritable starting point for a reversal is requisite political will from government toward recording definite changes.
FG should focus on teachers training
Teacher training should be focused on with priority attention. Archaic institutional, administrative and legal frameworks should be overhauled with a view to injecting efficiency into the system. Good intentions and politically spangled pronouncements will certainly not make things better.”
Check rising figure of out-of-school children
Speaking in the same vein, the Director, Distance Learning Centre, DLC, University of Ibadan, Professor Oyesoji Aremu said:’’Taking people out of poverty itself is a function of many factors, chief of which is qualitative education. The foundation of which should be well laid and sustained. Unfortunately, this seems not to be so in the country. For example, Nigeria is currently said to have about ten million out-of-school children. If nothing is done to check this rising figure, it may double in the next ten years.
‘’Nevertheless, the Federal Government could reduce the tide provided Education Sector is well funded. Unfortunately, this is not so; and there seems to be no commitment to increase the budgetary allocation to education. The state governments are equally not helping the sordid situation of education in the land. More than what is committed to education, the Federal Government should show more commitment. The Federal Government should also be more proactive by ensuring that allocated funds are judiciously utilised. Countries that are above the throes of poverty are not only showing great commitment to funding of education, they are also pragmatic about it. The reason they compete and rank among the best in the world.
On his part, the Distinguished Professor of History, UNILAG, Professor Ayodeji Olukoju said: ‘’The Buhari administration should have short, medium and long term plans, hinged upon strategic investments in teacher training, vocational education and skills acquisition.
‘’He should align this with targeted investments in energy sector (electricity), ICT infrastructure (internet) & SMEs. Give tax breaks to start-ups firms that employ and retain a set figure of new workers per annum. The government should promote made in Nigeria products in the spirit of “Nigeria First.”
Speaking further, he said, government must increase percentage of budgetary allocation to education by two percent each year over a five-year period; dedicate 25 percent to basic education; create special fund for socially and economically disadvantaged students; increase internet connectivity; reward excellence in teaching, learning and research; FG to collaborate with state governments to address peculiar regional and local peculiarities and avoid duplication of effort and waste; involve non-governmental stakeholders in monitoring fund disbursements, project execution and assessing progress.’’
Meanwhile, the President, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comr. Danielson Bamidele Akpan said:’’The federal and state government should be committed to development in all facets. There should be infrastructural development, institutional strengthening, human and capacity building, healthcare, security and most importantly education.