By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
There are two recent exciting events in the country that provided sidelight to this particular piece. Fortunately, also both are education sector-specific.
First, the recent in Abuja while receiving members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the Co-Chairs, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Revd. (Dr) Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.
In that meeting, Mr President Muhammadu Buhari among other things stated that the Federal Government remains committed to honouring promises made to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to prevent disruptive strikes, engender uninterrupted academic programmes and improve funding of educational institutions.
The second has to do with another similar decision/pledge by the Federal Government of Nigeria, during the celebration of the International Day of Education, to increase Nigeria’s annual domestic expenditure on education by 50 per cent over the next two years, and by 100 per cent by 2025.
Interestingly, this piece is not the only one that viewed the comments, particularly the second development as a right step taken in the right direction.
Take, as an illustration, a statement issued and signed on Monday by Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Communication Specialist in Maiduguri, among other things, which said, “The Nigerian government has committed to increasing funding for education, which is a very important step. Far too many Nigerian children today are not in the classroom and for those who are; far too many are not getting a solid education that can translate into good prospects for their futures. This is a step forward, an increase from 5.7 per cent allocated for 2021, though there is still a long way to go to reach the internationally recommended benchmark that countries spend 15-20 per cent of their national budgets on education”.
The statement added that “at least 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest rate in the world. A full one-third of Nigerian children are not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world are Nigerian,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
Essentially, aside from what UNESCO said, there are of course in my view other intrinsic reasons why the latest moves by the Federal Government, if implemented, deserve the commendations of Nigerians.
Chronic perennial underfunding visited on the sector by the past and present administrations have as a consequence impeded public universities lecturers from carrying out scholarly research, truncates academic calendar with strike actions, laced Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector.
Most pathetically, this age-long challenge has in some public institutions of higher learning led to a thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts/proposed by the school authorities, a development that financially squeezed the life out of the innocent students and their parents while stripping our education process and outcome fairness.
Take as an illustration of underfunding, the Nigerian government’s initial budget for 2020, going by reports, was N10.5 trillion ($25.6 billion) of which N686.8 billion ($1.7 billion) was for education. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was amended. The overall budget was increased slightly to N10.8 trillion, but that for education fell to N607.7 billion. The allocation to the education of N686.8 billion worked out to 6.5% of the initial 2020 budget. The revised budget of N10.8 trillion meant that education’s share of N607.7 billion then accounted for 5.6% of the total.
According to the country’s budget office, the funding allocated to the basic education commission in 2020, in the initial and amended budgets, are as follows; the initial budget, N137.97 billion ($336.5 million) was allocated to the commission. In the amended budget, the allocation dropped to N79.9 billion ($194.8 million).
Despite these efforts, the budgetary allocation to the education sector for the said year did not scratch the surface of the UNESCO budgetary recommendation to nations, which currently stands at between 20/26%.
The above failure and failing coupled with another mirage of challenges within the sector have rendered the present move by, and celebration of the Federal Government present effort/promise as a new invention which usually comes with opportunities and challenges.
This assertion is predicated on the fact that the challenges confronting the education sector in Nigeria are hydra-headed and go beyond perennial underfunding to include dilapidated learning facilities, overcrowded classes and obsolete policies among others. A case that calls for more work, reforms holistic approach in ways that demand from the Federal Government the urgent need to go beyond this present promise.
Take as another illustration, the Institute for Statistics (UIS), the official statistics agency for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have till, when discontinued publishing these indicators in September 2020, because it had since adopted other indicators, recommended about 58 pupils to every qualified teacher. But that is not the situation in most schools in Nigeria, particularly the state/federal government-owned primary and secondary schools.
More specifically, a visit to the public schools (both primary and secondary) in some Northern and Southern parts of the country not only supports this belief but says something ‘new and different. Even in other Southern states, the situation is not different. In Lagos for example, where there is a huge demand for learning opportunities, the number of students per teacher/per class is far above the UNESCO recommendation. The facts are there and speak for it.
It is also of truth, says a research report, that there are still a huge number of those who are in these schools, but are learning nothing-as schooling does not always lead to learning. In Nigeria, it is finally becoming evident that there are more non-learners in school than out of school.
Presently also, the world is in agreement that it has not been an easy road for the Nigerian education sector. Since May 1999, when democracy re-emerged on the political surface called Nigeria, it has been a tough and tumbles ride. Even the practice of democracy in the country, contrary to earlier beliefs, has not helped to stop the pangs of challenges experienced by Nigerians in the sector.
Both the federal and state governments in Nigeria continue to allow the rate of out of school children, especially in the northern part of Nigeria, to swell in number, even when it is obvious that the streets are known for breeding all forms of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat in the forms of armed robbers; thugs, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society, Nigerians are beginning to view Government’s approach to the challenge as not yielding the targeted result.
Just very recently, it was reported that out of the seventeen states in the country with the highest number of out-of-school children, 14 of the states are in the North. The commentary also noted that if the rate of out of school children can be curtailed, it would help check the insecurity that is currently bedevilling parts of the country, and would to a large extent signal goodbye to insecurity threats across the country.
For the recent promises by Federal Government to bear the target fruit, one point we must all bear in mind is that the major problem standing in the way/preventing Nigerians from enjoying piece in the education sector is the government’s progressive non-recognition of the right to education as a human right despite their membership of a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374
Airtel to Accelerate Digital Learning for Nigerian Children
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Nigerian children have been reassured of the commitment of Airtel Nigeria to accelerating digital learning in the country.
As part of activities to commemorate World Children’s Day, the telecommunications service provider partnered with UNICEF to host Augusta Anuguo (Esther), the differently abled child star featured in Airtel’s latest TVC, Esther.
During the ceremony at the Airtel headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos, Miss Anuguo had the rare privilege to function in the capacity of Airtel Nigeria’s CEO and MD, Mr Surendran Chemmenkotil, as she emerged CEO for the day.
Using this privilege and executive powers as CEO, she remarkably led an advocacy campaign for Nigerian children, especially the differently abled, as she signed a policy for Airtel Nigeria to continue to pursue opportunities that will accelerate digital learning for all children in the country, regardless of ethnicity, location, or ability.
Impressed with her performance, Mr Chemmenkotil awarded the sum of N1.5 million to Miss Anuguo to support her education and her advocacy for Nigerian children as a key influencer.
“I am also happy to offer Miss Anuguo a scholarship of N1.5 million to support her education. This gesture is to encourage her to continue her advocacy for differently abled children as she champions their cause as a key influencer. Thank you for all you do, Anuguo,” he said.
The Airtel Nigeria boss also stated that, “Airtel Nigeria joins UNICEF and the entire world to mark World Children’s Day. As a company, Airtel is committed to Nigerian children and will continue to support initiatives that will create a better future for all children.
“We are happy to mark this day with Esther as well as all Nigerian children, and we shall continue to support platforms and initiatives that will lead to a better future for all children in our dear country, Nigeria.”
World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide and improve children’s welfare.
Egbeyinka Elizabeth Shines at 8th Glorious Vision University Convocation
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A student of the Department of Chemical Science of Glorious Vision University (GVU), Ogwa, Edo State, Miss Egbeyinka Elizabeth, was the cynosure of all eyes at the institution’s 8th convocation ceremony held recently.
Miss Egbeyinka emerged as the best graduating student with a 4.82 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), sweeping several awards and cash gifts at the event.
Business Post gathered that the brilliant student went home with the Vice-Chancellor prize for Overall Best Student, TACN Remo Area prize for Best Graduating TACN Member Student, and Departmental prize for Best Student in the Department of Chemical Sciences.
She also won Professor (Mrs) May Foluso Ogbe prize for Overall Best Graduating Female Student, Professor (Mrs) Olusola Omueti prize for Overall Best Graduating Student in Bio-Chemistry, Deaconess (Dr) P. A. Akpan prize to the Best Graduating Science Student, and Dean, COLBAS prize for Best Student in the College of Humanities.
At the programme, Miss Egbeyemi was commended for her brilliance and charged to continue to be a good ambassador of the institution by imbibing the knowledge she has acquired from the school.
In his speech at the convocation, the Visitor and Chancellor of Glorious Vision University, Pastor Emmanuel Segun Awojide, congratulated the graduating students, saying the accomplishment was worth celebrating.
He also tasked Nigerians to keep praying for the country, especially as the nation prepares for the general elections in 2023, stating that Nigeria, especially the church, is in dire need of the right leaders to steer the ship of the country to the Promised Land.
The cleric, who doubles as the National Vice President and LAWNA Territorial Chairman of The Apostolic Church Nigeria (TACN), emphasised that Nigerians must cry out to God, who he said owns Nigeria.
The man of God, represented by the Vice Chairman of LAWNA Territory, Pastor Okpako Uyeh, also used the occasion to thank members of the church for supporting GVU, which used to be known as Samuel Adegboyega University (SAU).
“Let me thank all sponsors and members of The Apostolic Church Nigeria LAWNA Territory for their overwhelming support to the growth and development of the Glorious Vision University despite the current economic hardship in the country. This sacrifice will not go unrewarded in Jesus’ name,” Pastor Awojide, who is also the National Chairman of the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN), stated.
A total of 100 students graduated with various degrees at the 2022 convocation attended by several persons. The school, established by TACN, awarded diploma degrees to three students, first degrees to 94 students and second degrees to four students.
Adeniran Praises Makinde for Allocating 18.78% of 2023 Budget to Education
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Governor of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde, has been applauded by the Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (Oyo SUBEB), Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, for allocating more funds to education in the 2023 budget.
Speaking recently on a live programme on the Oyo State Broadcasting Corporation (BCOS) in Ibadan, the state capital, the educationist said this was commendable.
According to him, education has the second largest allocation in the proposed 2023 appropriation bill presented to the Oyo State House of Assembly by Mr Makinde.
He said with a budget of N58.2 billion, the government has recorded an unprecedented affection for education.
Mr Adeniran said Governor Makinde had maintained an unbroken record of allocating huge funds for the overhaul of the sector, especially the basic education sub-sector he supervises.
“Governor Makinde’s record of allocating funds for education conforms to UNESCO standards of 15-20 per cent of the budget. In fact, this time, education is 18.78 per cent of the total budget proposal,” he said.
Speaking further, the Oyo SUBEB chief lauded the current administration for consistently maintaining an 18 per cent to 22 per cent budgetary allocation.
He insisted that this has helped the state in regular payment of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) counterpart funding and received matching grants, “enabling us to execute numerous projects in the education sector.”
“Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board has so far completed over 56 model schools and constructed and renovated over 700 classroom blocks across Oyo State, among other projects,” he affirmed.
He, therefore, appealed to residents of the state to re-elect Governor Makinde for a second term, saying his efforts to make Oyo better could be further actualised with continuity.
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