The education sector is still under the stranglehold of poor funding
The education sector is still under the stranglehold of poor funding. Stakeholders in the education sector lament the dwindling fortune of the sector due to poor funding by successive governments, writes CHUKWUDI AKASIKE
For decades, little or nothing has been achieved in the education sector by successive Nigerian leaders who observers believe have only paid little attention to the sector. This is despite the promises made by politicians during electioneering campaigns that they will give education the deserved priority in the country’s polity.
While primary and secondary school systems have gradually slipped into comatose with many private schools springing up on almost every street in the country, the government-owned universities system which absorbs the majority of Nigerian students may face a similar fate.
Currently, the strike embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the fact that other bodies like the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions are getting set to down tools are stark realities that all is not well with the tertiary institution in the country.
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Stakeholders in the sector have put the blame on the Federal Government and Nigerians who refused to insist that the right thing must be done to ensure the proper funding of primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Nigeria earmarks between five and seven percent of its budget to education, a far cry from the much-talked-about 26 percent expected to develop the country’s education sector.
Consistently, varsity lecturers have been on industrial action over issues that border on the failure of the Federal Government to fund the university system and improve the welfare of lecturers. The situation, according to ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has forced varsity lecturers to leave Nigeria in droves to other countries where tertiary education is taken seriously.
Osodeke had told Sunday PUNCH that while countries like Ghana, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America were paying their varsity lecturers attractive and competitive salaries, the case remained different in Nigeria. He explained that though university lecturers were always employed from all over the world, Nigeria was experiencing a deficit because foreign lecturers were no longer seeing the need to teach in the country due to poor remuneration.
Osodeke specifically said while a professor in a Nigerian university earned $700 per month, his counterpart in Ghana was paid $3,000, adding that in the United Kingdom, a professor would go home with between £8,000 and £10,000 per month.
He said, “A professor is earning about $700 a month in Nigeria; would he leave the UK where he is earning between £8,000 to £10,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? Would he leave Ghana where he earns between $2,000 and $3,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? No! That is the deficit.
“So, when Nigerians are going to teach in other countries, nobody is leaving these countries to teach in Nigeria as we had in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. That is why we are having this shortfall.”
Speaking on the deplorable state of the education sector, former chairman of ASUU, University of Port Harcourt Branch, Dr. Austen Sado, said the people must share the blame in what has befallen the educational system, even as he added that the government had completely abdicated its responsibility of funding education.
“Education began to lack the financial vigor to reinvent itself. But this did not just happen without the connivance of the Nigerian public. Many of the people who have been in power in this country were beneficiaries of free and quality education in Nigeria. At some point, it was noticed that the government was deviating from taking its responsibility in education seriously. The government acquiesced by silently following along that trajectory. So, the public is also guilty of that.
“The other stakeholders in the education sector; whether they are students themselves or even teachers at all levels, have also some form of the blame for not being eternally vigilant to watch over developments in the education system. People are now more interested in when they graduate or when their children graduate other than the benefit that education has to deliver for the development of this country.
“So, everybody is guilty. Until everybody sees education as his or her own responsibility, revamping education in this country will be a very tough task. Even when you put a lot of money into the system, if those driving the educational policy don’t have the right mindset, we can still have a lot of money, but do garbage in, garbage out.
“In Nigeria, the government has seen how easy it is to abdicate its responsibility to primary and secondary education, and the next target is the university. The only way forward is funding public universities because the public universities are where you see ordinary Nigerians. But the government appears not to be interested, and they are privatizing everything,” Sado lamented.
Speaking further on the solution to the situation, he said, “The way forward is for us to realize that education is the bedrock of development, and government should ensure that we fund education from primary to secondary and to the tertiary level in order to make it certain that there is control over what we deliver. We must ensure that we move with time. We appear to be behind the rest of the world as far as education is concerned.
“We must bring education up to par with what is happening in the First World so that our children can begin to have a feel of what it means in an information technology-driven era.
“The truth is that disaster is no longer waiting to happen. You can see that Nigeria currently trains its manpower, but cannot deploy technology to keep them here and make them work effectively and efficiently. So, they go out. That’s a disaster. Go to our educational sector, a lot of Nigerians are leaving because the environment is not conducive.
“What do we have left? Maybe the only thing that is working for us now is terrorism. There is a correlation between what is happening in Nigeria and its educational system. If we were to ramp up our education, then you would see that this level of insecurity will reduce. So, when you take away the pen from them, of course, they will grab the guns.”
Similarly, Prof. Beke Sese, specifically said Nigeria’s education system had collapsed. Sese added that the majority of the citizens were bearing the brunt of bad governance in the country.
“ASUU saw all these coming. That was why for many years, right from 2009, ASUU has been going on strike. If you check ASUU strikes all these years, it has never shifted emphasis to the condition of service of its members; it has always been funding, revitalization, NEEDS assessment in order to save the system.
“It is in this 2022 that we are now putting the issue of our condition of service as part of the conditions. It is not even pursued separately; it is part of the 2009 demands. From all indications, if successive governments could understand the body language of ASUU, know the objectives and the reason why they go on strike always, all they (FG) should have done was to be proactive by doing things even before ASUU talks about it.
“In such a way, the government would have sent a signal that it was interested in education. But each time ASUU goes on strike, at the end, they will come and sign MoU, MoA, and three weeks after, government suspends everything and everybody goes to sleep and they will go back to square one.
“You can see that even when the government cannot fund the existing universities; it is considering establishing more universities. I have never seen this level of delusion. These people are shameless. Look at how Nigeria is today; the country has never had it so bad.
“These politicians rather than face the problem squarely and solve it, are talking about the 2023 election. Somebody recently, sent a bill to the House of Representatives, demanding that public servants, government officials; President, governors, ministers, and National Assembly members, should desist from sending their children abroad. You can see the way they vehemently opposed that bill. The country is finished; this country is finished.
“Nigerians should have seen it that these people have no interest in education. It is the duty of the government to fund education. So, they (the government) have failed woefully and they don’t need to put the blame anywhere. But the only way I can blame the masses is their inability to force the government to do the right thing,” Sese, who is a lecturer at Niger Delta University, stressed.
He described Nigeria as one of the most docile nations in the world “where our elasticity for suffering is almost limitless. There are some countries in this world that cannot tolerate one-twentieth of what Nigerians are tolerating. People are dying in installment in this country.”
He added, “Is this not the same country where we export crude and we import fuel? Many things in the country are wrong, and yet, people move around as if everything is okay. That is the only way I can blame the people. It is a small percentage of the Nigerian population that is putting us under this kind of stress. If Nigerians were up to their responsibility, they would not allow the ruling class to destroy the country to the level we find ourselves now.”
Lending his voice to the dwindling fortune of the education sector, the Coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Rivers State, Enefaa George will pointed accusing fingers at the President, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Assembly, said they had not done enough to improve the sector and make Nigerians smile.
George will observe that rather than use the commonwealth of the nation to fund education and other sectors, the lawmakers worked out jumbo pay for themselves while the government continued to give excuses for the poor funding of relevant aspects that should help Nigeria to develop. He wondered why the President, state governors, and lawmakers enjoyed expensive lifestyles without minding the comatose state of the country’s education sector.
He said, “For us in the civil society space, the buck stops at the table of Mr. President. Every other person, according to our law, is just working for him. The legislators should also be blamed. Both the Presidency and the legislature have always told us that there is a paucity of funds, the oil price is fluctuating, yet these persons still go home with jumbo pay.
“When the President’s son was ill, we saw how they flew him to Europe for treatment. Our political leaders are still going about in their usual jamboree. From the state governors to the federal legislators to the Presidency, they go about in exotic cars. They still earn more than legislators in Europe and America. Instead of reducing or being moderate in their expensive lifestyle and funding the education sector, they are deep into various expensive lifestyles t funded with public funds.
“They don’t want to fund the education sector so that they can steal enough money. They also want to destroy public universities so that the private universities owned by their close relatives, spouses, and girlfriends will flourish. Instead of funding our education sector, they prefer to spend huge resources on frivolities. We use this opportunity to say that we should go back to the unicameral legislature so that the country can save money. The lawmakers’ job should be on a part-time basis. That is how it is done in other climes.”
For Jackson Omenazu, the Chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, the government failed the youth when it prevaricated on issues concerning the development of the education sector. Omanazu explained that the structures housing public universities in the country were nothing to write home about, observing that most of them were currently in a decrepit state.
Warning that the situation in the sector has forced ASUU to go on strike, he added that the rot therein had made tertiary institutions a breeding ground for cultism. He urged the government at all levels to take education seriously, saying without education, no nation would be able to find its feet as far as national development was concerned. He lamented that the situation appeared to be irredeemable after the government had consistently refused to adequately fund education for decades.
He said, “I think both this government and successive governments in this country have failed Nigerian youths. A nation that alienates its youths is a nation that is planning for a combustible society. It is very sad that our educational system is already in the mortuary and waiting to be buried. A nation that refuses to develop its education sector is a nation that is planning to fail.
“While other nations of the world are investing in the education of their youths, Nigeria is cultivating illiteracy. This is the only nation where a legislator earns more than a dean of a faculty in the university. This is the only nation where a House of Representatives member earns higher than a vice-chancellor of a university. It is only in Nigeria that you see a councilor earn far higher than a principal of a secondary school. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria today, we have brilliant children, but nobody is aiding them to achieve their aim. Why is the budget of the National Assembly more than the budget of 10 universities in Nigeria?
“So, we have already planned to fail as a country. We must declare a state of emergency in the education sector. It is the failure of successive governments and not only the current government. Nigeria has leaders without vision because there is no leader with a vision that ignores the education sector of his country. Such so-called leaders should have no business in government. I see them as meddlesome interlopers in governance.”
Credit: Punch Newspaper