May 24, 2023

Tinubu’s inheritance: Any midas touch to solving problems confronting education?

Tinubu’s inheritance: Any midas touch to solving problems confronting education?

By Adesina Wahab, Education Editor

Government is a continuum and as the Buhari administration steps aside, the Tinubu administration is stepping in.

Therefore, the incoming administration is expected to inherit the assets and liabilities of its predecessor, especially in the education sector which has been bedevilled by a lot of problems in the recent past.

The issues include the high number of out-of-school children, school safety, access to education, provision of facilities, the welfare of students and teachers, and funding of the sector among others.  

Out-of-school children, OSC.

Even the figure the federal government gives, that is,10.5 million, is still rated as the highest in the world, though some international agencies say the figure is about 15 million.

Recently, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund, UNICEF, said with the 10.5 million OSCs, it means one in every five OSCs in the world is a Nigerian. UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said, “While the education crisis in Nigeria is affecting children across the country, some children are more likely to be affected than others: girls, children with disabilities, children from the poorest households, in street situations, or affected by displacement or emergencies, and children in geographically distant areas are all disproportionately affected by the education crisis.”

Commenting on the situation, the Executive Secretary of, the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Dr   Hamid Bobboyi, reeled out some of the steps being taken by the government to redress the situation: “There is no doubt that the out-of-school children issue has always attracted the attention of the federal government, thus the various efforts at tackling the menace.

Efforts in this regard include reinforcing the implementation of the UBE programme in partnership with states towards ensuring that all children of school-going age acquire a minimum of basic education, strengthening inter-agency partnerships and specific programmes that target various categories of out-of-school children and involving the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education (NMEC), National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE), among others.

However, much still has to be done to get more children from the street to the classroom.  

School Safety

Until that fateful day of April 14, 2014, when 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were abducted by insurgents, many people thought schools were safe havens for students and whoever steps into them. After the dastardly act, thousands of students have been kidnapped in Dapchi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, and many locations across the country.  

To emphasize how topical and political the issue became, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, said during his inauguration on May 29, 2015, “We can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.”  

A member of the #BringBackOurGirls, BBOG, Coalition, Yemi Adamolekun, said during the ninth anniversary of the incident that, “Our hearts remain broken at the failure to close this shameful chapter in our country’s history as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari in his address to the nation in 2015 and various times subsequently. The last report we received on the status of the Chibok Girls in October 2022 is as follows: 276 were abducted,   57 escaped, 107 were released, 16 were rescued (by the Military) and 96 still missing.”

To underscore how unsafe our school environment has now become, a report by UNICEF said in 2021, there were 25 attacks on schools. 1,440 children were abducted, and 16 children were killed. In March 2021, no fewer than 618 schools were closed in six northern states (Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger, and Yobe) over the fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. The closure of schools in these states significantly contributed to learning losses for over two months.

Following the abduction of the Chibok girls, the federal government, in conjunction with donor agencies, launched the Safe Schools Initiative, SSI, with over $30 million earmarked for the project. However, rather than schools becoming safe, the situation is getting worse.  

Access to education

Added to the problem of out-of-school children, which affects children unable to acquire primary school education, the figures of pupils transiting from primary to secondary school and students moving from secondary school to tertiary institutions, are not cheery news.  

A report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, titled “2021 Women and Men in Nigeria statistical report,” said candidates who sat for the Senior Secondary School Examination conducted by the National Examination Council, NECO in 2018 were 1,036,644. In 2019, 643,462 males sat for the exam and 515,484 females also did. In the WASSCE conducted by the West African Examination Council, WAEC in May/June 2018, 1,571,536 wrote the exam, 1,590,107 did it in 2019, and in 2020, 1,538,340 candidates wrote the exam.

However, regarding admission to tertiary institutions, of the 1,653,127 candidates who wrote the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, in 2018, 582,593 were offered admission. In 2019, 1,886,488 wrote the exam and 608,859 were admitted.  

The situation leaves over one million candidates not admitted every year. That has led to the exodus of Nigerians to Europe, North America and even African nations to acquire knowledge at higher institutions. A major disadvantage of that is what we saw in Ukraine last year and what we recently experienced in Sudan.  

Availability of facilities  

To show how dire the non-availability of facilities in the nation’s schools has become, UBEC said recently that 50% of schools at the basic education level in Nigeria lack furniture.  

The ES, Hamid Bobboyi, who said this in Abuja at a one-day Civil Society Organisations CSO-Legislative Round Table Meeting where some National and State Houses of Assembly members were present, noted that the rising student population requires the provision of more facilities.  

If the furniture is lacking, what about teaching aids and others? The deplorable situation is not limited to public primary or secondary schools, a visit to some private schools, that have come to bridge the gap, would show ramshackle classrooms and decrepit facilities, especially in rural areas.  


To determine what would be the adequate level of funding is not easy, but it is held generally that developing nations like Nigeria should devote 26 per cent of their budgets to education for some years to be able to play catch up with developed nations. Out of the national budget of N17 trillion in 2022, only 7.2 per cent was allocated to the education sector. It is, however, higher than the 5.7 per cent allocated for the sector in 2021. This is a far cry from what Ghana does, about 15 per cent of her budget, or South Africa, which is about 20 per cent. Take note, in Nigeria, allocation does not mean all would be released.  

Funding universities for instance has always been a challenge for the government. In 1974, the two federal universities then, the University of Ibadan, UI, and the University of Lagos, UNILAG, got a total of N136.4 million as grants from the government. In 1976, when the FG took over the then University of Ife, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the University of Benin, seven new universities were set up in places like Ilorin, Sokoto and others, the 13 universities were only given N260 million. Various steps were taken to find means of funding the universities with the setting up of the Ogundeko Commission, but that did not proffer the expected solution. The agitation by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, led to the establishment of the Education Tax Fund, ETF, which has now become the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund.

For basic education, the collaboration between state governments and UBEC to provide some leverage regarding funding has not achieved much. No thanks to the habit of some state governments who misappropriate counterpart funding or even refuse to provide theirs, thereby making the commission blacklist them. By the start of May, this year, over N46.2 billion matching grants were yet to be accessed by some state governments.  

Welfare issues

At the primary and secondary school levels, teachers have been at the mercy of the government regarding their welfare. A couple of years ago, President Buhari, on the occasion of the annual Teachers’ Day, announced a series of welfare packages for teachers. Most of the items such as special salary structure, special allowances and more are yet to be implemented. The increment in retirement age from 60 to 65 and service years from 35 to 40, are still on the drawing board for teachers to enjoy. The Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Comrade Hassan Akintoye, pleaded that if it is the increment in retirement age or service years, state and federal governments should at least implement it.  

At the tertiary education level, workers, teaching and non-teaching in the employ of the FG, are now at daggers drawn with it over their exclusion from the 40 per cent pay rise implemented by the FG for workers in the public service system. 


ASUU, NUT, students, parents and other stakeholders in the sector are expecting better fortune for the sector this time around. Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos State pioneered the construction of mega schools which were named Millennium Schools across the state. He boasts of never losing an election, but if he wins the battle of taming the (lions) challenges devouring the education sector in the country, he would probably record one of his greatest victories.