By Saad Yushau Shuaib
ONE of the most important Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Since education transforms lives, it is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development.
Unfortunately, Nigeria, one of the signatories to the global goals, is not doing enough in funding education which is a human right for all. The meagre allocation for education in the proposed 2020 Budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari is alarming.
The annual federal budget which sums up government’s revenue and expenditure for a fiscal year, which traditionally runs from January 1 to December 31 each year, has not been adequate for the educational sector.
We should realise that the budget gives a detailed spending plan on financial activities, especially on goods and services like education, healthcare, power, roads and security of life. It also influences many facets of monetary policies on interest rates, exchange rate and economic growth.
Despite the humongous size and rapid increase in the annual budget, the allocation to the educational sector has steadily been depreciating over the years. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, in one of its reports disclosed that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world with 10.5 million children not being educated. Is it not sad that our best university in Nigeria only ranks “401” in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings?
In its ‘Education for All, EFA, 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges’, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, recommended that 15 to 20 per cent should be allocated to education in the national budgets of developing countries. It also proposed that governments should spend between four per cent and six per cent of GNP on education.
The obvious decline in the budgetary allocations for education in the 2020 budget is worrisome as most funds are allocated to security, works and housing. Even the 2019 budget for education fell below the 15 to 20 per cent minimum recommended by UNESCO to developing countries.
Despite this recommendation by UNESCO, the education sector in 2019 got N620.5bn (about 7.05 per cent) of the Federal budget not reaching the 15 to 20 per cent benchmark. Over the years, Nigeria’s educational budget allocation has been hovering between five per cent and seven per cent which I strongly believe is inadequate to curb the menace of low level of education, large percentage of out-of-school children, dilapidating infrastructures and poor teaching staff.
Surprisingly, President Buhari has on several occasions emphasised on the need for heavy investment in education. In a meeting with the Nigerian community in France during a visit in November 2018, Buhari said his government was reviewing investments in the entire infrastructure of the country with a desire to make more funds available for education.
Similarly, during a courtesy visit by the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young in August 2019, Buhari told his guest that he was more concerned towards investing more on health and education.
While inaugurating the postgraduate centre of excellence at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, President Buhari said it was no longer a secret that the state of facilities in institutions of higher learning had not kept pace with the requirements of the ever-growing population of students and other stakeholders or with modern methods of learning.
He, therefore, assured Nigerians that his administration was committed and determined to continue to fund vital institutions, even in the face of limited financial resources.
With all the promises by President Muhammadu Buhari, there are higher expectations that adequate budgetary provisions would be made to the education sector.
It is, therefore, necessary to urge the members of the National Assembly, NASS, to review the budget estimate and and provide adequate funding to the educational sector.
Rather than engaging in political rhetoric and promises, public officers should consider priority areas of needs encompassed in the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, UNSDG, where education is of one of the most important priorities and focus areas.
Quality education does not only develop human skills and knowledge of the people or labour force of the country but it is also a source of economic activities that attracts foreign investments as well as foreign investors and students.