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
Who Will be Peter Obi’s Minister of Education?
By Akachukwu Ifeanyichukwu
The public education sector of Nigeria is currently in a critical state as staff unions of federal universities have been on an unending industrial action for the last five months.
Federal institutions are dilapidated as they are poorly funded and the approved funds are rarely used for the approved task. If elected on February 25, 2023, the Peter Obi-Yusuf Datti Baba Ahmed-led administration will have to face the uphill task of rebuilding the sector from the foundation and this would be done by who he appoints as the Minister of Education if he is given the mantle of leadership.
During his tenure as Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi revitalized the education system of the state using strategic partnerships with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU).
The state was the first to procure and distribute more than 30,000 computers to secondary schools, including 22,500 from Hewlett-Packard (HP).
The Managing Director for the Personal Systems Group at HP described the deployment as the biggest of such projects in the Middle East and Africa.
The Anambra State Government provided Microsoft Academies to more than 500 secondary schools, which the Head of Microsoft in Nigeria described as the biggest such deployment in Africa so far.
The State provided Internet access to more than 500 secondary schools, which were characterized by the Director of Galaxy Backbone as “incomparable to any in the country.”
More than 700 buses were given to secondary schools in the state by the government. Boreholes were provided in schools all over the state and lastly, numerous classrooms were built in all the 177 communities of the state. This led Obi to receive awards from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other prestigious organizations.
Here is a short list of the qualified members of the Nigeria Academia for the possible post of Minister of Education:
Emeritus Professor Umaru Shehu (North)
A must-know name in the Northern region of Nigeria is Professor Umaru Shehu, a distinguished physician, academic, and administrator, who is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN).
Professor Shehu, who was educated at the University of Ibadan and Liverpool, is a distinguished fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College. He was a pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the Ahmadu
Bello University, Zaria from 1977-1978.
From 1978-1980, he was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Chairman of the board of management of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan between 1991 and 1994. He was also Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the Bayero University, Kano, and the University of Lagos between 1993 and 1999. He has also chaired the boards of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and STOPAIDS.
A one-time president of the Academy of Science and consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), Professor Shehu holds the prestigious national award of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). A world-renowned scholar with many publications to his credit and membership in international and local professional bodies, Professor Shehu is a Professor Emeritus of Community Medicine, at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Professor Kayode Adebowale (West)
A popular name in the Western academia of the country is Kayode Oyebode Adebowale, a Nigerian professor and scientist and the 13th Vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan. In October of 2021, he became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, having formerly served as the deputy vice-chancellor (administration) of the school and as the Dean of the Faculty of Science in the same institution.
Prof Kayode Adebowale was born on January 11, 1962, and he is a native of the Gateway State, Ogun, in Western Nigeria. He had his primary education at St. Marks Primary School, Oke-Ijaga, Ijebu Igbo between 1967 and 1972 while his secondary was at Ayedaade Grammar School, Ikire between 1973 and 1978. He bagged his BSc in Chemistry in 1984 from the University of Ibadan at the age of 22. He received his Master’s degree and PhD from the same university in 1986 and 1991 respectively. He began his academic career as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Ibadan and became a professor of Industrial Chemistry in 2006.
He was once a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology. He has a record number of 137 published and peer-reviewed scientific papers, 14 conference papers, and 3 technical reports. He was formerly the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), at the University of Ibadan.
Professor Aniebiet Inyang Ntui (South-South)
A name strongly involved in Nigerian academia is that of Professor Aniebiet Inyang Ntui, an international author in the field of Library and Information Science and the current university librarian of the University of Calabar.
Ntui holds a BSc (Ed), Dip (Computer Techniques), M.Ed., MLS, and a PhD in Library and Information Science. She has over 20 years of experience in the library and classroom of the University of Calabar, Nigeria. Professor Aniebiet is an Associate of the European Union Research Initiative – Europeana, the University of the West of Scotland’s Centre for African Research on Enterprise and Economic Development, and the University of Glasgow’s UK-COP 26 Universities Climate Network. She is also a Fellow of various international library associations and institutions. She has served as a Consultant of Information Management to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank. She is a recipient of the Nigerian Library Association, the 2020 Award of Excellence, and the 2021 Award of Honour for her contributions to the development of librarianship in Nigeria.
She is one of the Most Read Researchers in Nigeria according to information available on the Web of Science Site.
Who do you think will eventually become a member of the Obi-Datti cabinet if he is eventually elected as President of Nigeria?
The Unending Valentine Gift
By Ohore Emmanuel
Since the inception of the Nigerian democracy in 1999, the educational sector has gone on strike more than 16 times.
The back and forth between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the umbrella body of the teaching staff of Nigerian public universities and the Nigerian government has been an unsettled fight but at the end of the day, it is the Nigerian students that suffer for it.
Could we say that the same political actors that enjoyed free education are now the ones deliberately punishing the Nigerian student?
Is it safe to admit that it is because most of these politicians’ children do not attend our own public institutions hence, the reason they are not keen on solving this long-time issue?
Every government since 1999 comes in and blames the previous government for its irresponsibility. Our educational system is ranked one of the least in Africa and it is also worthy to note that most of our certificates are not accepted abroad, not to talk about us infiltrating our own problem with the dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and BSc.
The first ASUU strike was during the regime of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1988 and ever since then, ASUU goes on strike like a yearly festival.
During the 2020 pandemic period, a two-week ASUU ‘warning’ strike (March 9 – 23, 2020) was embarked on due to the underdeveloped educational system. Most higher institutions in Nigeria were unable to adopt e-learning and for the 10 months students were at home, but immediately after schools resumed in early February 2021, most schools had to compress their academic calendar to enable them to meet up.
Since Feb 14, 2022, the Nigerian students have been at home. ASUU has continually accused the federal government of not implementing the 2009 agreement on conditions of service and funding of the universities. “Revitalization” through massive funding and ASUU has continued to stress the importance of “genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.”
For a decade now, the 2021 budget for education is the lowest. It is a sign that this government places no value on our educational system.
As time goes by, the youths are gradually losing faith in this system.
The argument between these two elephants has lasted for over 5 months. The Presidency seems to have accused the Minister of Labour of being unable to solve the problem while the Minister has accused the striking lecturers of sabotaging the system.
Over the weekend, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, was appealing to the Nigerian parents to plead with ASUU because the government can no longer solve this problem.
The failure of this government has made so many students divert their passion for studying to survival. Many have gone on to learn skills and trade.
According to UNESCO, there are currently more than 70,000 Nigerian students studying outside the country, with the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada the leading destinations.
While 2023 elections are at the corner, the current government that could not solve this problem for seven years is now promising to solve it in less than 6 months to the end of its tenure in office.
This unending Valentine gift served by this administration will not only destroy the lives of our teeming youth but propel us as a nation with no vision.
Ohore Emmanuel is the lead team at Forthman Educational Foundation, Abuja. He is also a PGDE student at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)
Anxiety as ASUU Further Extends Strike by Four Weeks
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has again extended the ongoing strike by four weeks with effect from Monday, August 1, 2022, to give the government enough time to resolve all outstanding issues with the lecturers.
This was disclosed by the president of the union, Mr Emmanuel Osodeke, in a statement on Monday.
The ASUU leader stated that the body conveyed an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the University of Abuja on Sunday.
“Following extensive deliberations and taking cognisance of the government’s past failures to abide by its own timelines in addressing issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MOA), NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for four weeks to give the government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues. The roll-over strike action is with effect from 12.01 am on Monday, 1st August 2022,” the statement read.
Specifically, NEC recalled the government’s failure to conclude the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), pay outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), release the agreed sum of money for the revitalization of public universities (Federal and States), address proliferation and governance issues in State Universities, settle promotion arrears, release withheld salaries of academics, and pay outstanding third-party deductions led to the initial declaration of the roll-over strike on 14th February 2022.
The group said it “observed that non-signing of the draft renegotiated 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement more than one month after it was concluded by Professor Nimi Briggs-led Committee is further tasking the patience of ASUU members nationwide.”
it was further disclosed that the “cumulative indifference by the political class gave vent to a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity which now threatens the seamless provision of educational services in the country. The unceremonious closure of educational institutions in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), following the recent attack on Presidential Guards, betrays a panicky measure to addressing a malignant ailment. Nothing short of a comprehensive overhaul of the security architecture of the country will sustainably address the problem.”
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