Despite the challenges faced by Nigeria’s education sector and calls for the government to increase funding to the sector, President Muhammadu Buhari is proposing to give the sector its lowest allocation in 10 years, when measured as a percentage of the total spending plan.
Mr Buhari presented the 2021 budget proposal to the National Assembly over two weeks ago. Out of N13.08 trillion budgeted for next year, N742.5 billion was allotted to education.
That is just 5.6 per cent, the lowest percentage allocation since 2011.
In the breakdown, N579. 7 billion is for personnel cost, N35.4 billion for overhead cost, while N127. 3 billion is dedicated to capital expenditure.
The headquarters of the federal ministry of education was allotted N65. 3 billion and the Universal Basic Education, which supervises education at the primary and secondary levels got N77.6 billion. The remaining was shared across other institutions under the ministry.
The proposed budget has passed through the second reading in the Senate.
The Nigerian education sector has been poorly funded in the past years, falling below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation recommendation.
According to documents provided to PREMIUM TIMES by the spokespersons of UNESCO, Shola Macaulay and Alice Ateh-Abang, in 2018, the international benchmark is 15-20 per cent.
The document was titled ‘Education for All, EFA, 2000-2015: achievement and challenges’ and ‘World Education Forum 2015 final report’.
According to the document, the Dakar framework recommended governments to take lead in increasing financial commitments to EFA, with the EFA high-level steering committee proposing that 15 per cent to 20 percent of annual budgets be earmarked for education.
The global organisation says it recommended the budgetary benchmark to enable nations to adequately to cater to rising education demands.
In the last decade, the highest the sector has education was 10.7 per cent in the 2015 budget which was proposed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. Since then, none of the appropriation bills passed has surpassed that.
In 2011, the sector was allocated N393.8 billion — 9.3 per cent of the total budget while it got N468.3 billion — 9.86 per cent of the 2012 budget; N499.7 billion representing 10.1 per cent of the total 2013 budget; N494.7 billion – 10.5 per cent of the 2014 budget and N484.2billion – 10.7 per cent of the 2015 budget.
In 2016, the education sector got N369. 6 billion — 7.9 per cent of the total budget, N550. 5 billion was allotted in 2017, representing 7.4 per cent of the total budget; N605.8 billion in 2018 -7.04 per cent ; N620.5 billion – 7.05 per cent of the 2019 budget and N671. 07 billion (6.7 per cent) in the 2020 appropriation bill.
The poor funding of the sector has contributed to the deplorable state of federal institutions with many facilities due to renovation.
This paper had reported how most of the nine halls of residence in Obafemi Awolowo University, mostly dilapidated, were neglected for years until some of them were considered for renovation in 2018.
Earlier this year, the school’s University Vice-Chancellor, Eyitope Ogunbodede, called on all stakeholders in the education sector to do everything within their power and means to assist the university in putting in place more structure and infrastructure.
Asides the decaying infrastructure, the incessant strike actions embarked upon by workers is one of the evidence of the poor funding of the sector.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and other workers’ unions in the education sector have on several occasions protested the non-payment of Earned Allowance, salary arrears and other welfare concerns.
The most recent is the agitation by the ASUU members for their Earned Allowance and proper funding of the sector which has spanned for more than six months.
It is the major factor for the continued closure of universities even after the federal government had declared that schools can reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reacting to the proposed budget, Adeola Egbedokun, a lecturer in OAU and the Branch Chairman of ASUU in the school, described the federal government as being insensitive to the concerns of the sector.
“We have always stated from time to time that the budgetary allocation to education is meagre and inadequate compared to what is allocated to other sectors, especially what is allocated to somewhere like the National Assembly,” he said.
“A government that is keen about developing the nation will invest in education but we have an insensitive government that is not even thinking about developing this nation at all. What they are concerned about is developing their pockets. That is not the way to go.”
Mr Egbedokun also noted the nexus between adequate funding and quality education.
“How will you allocate 5.6 per cent of the budget to education? That is very, very absurd. We cannot have quality education. That is the highest level where the larger percentage of the workforce is produced,” he said.
He added that the government should stop telling schools to look inwards, restating that a school is a knowledge-generating entity and not a revenue-generating venture.
Hassan Soweto, an education rights campaigner, said that the present government cannot provide the reformation expected in the sector.
“The Buhari/ APC government, much more like its capitalist predecessors, does not have any interest in making quality education available. The consequence of that is what we are seeing with the youth restiveness,” he said.
He said the #EndSARS protest can be more successful if proper funding of education and provision of quality education at all levels is part of the agitations.
“That can only be achieved by struggle but also building a political alternative to end capitalism. If in the last decades Nigeria cannot fund the education sector well, then it is beyond individuals. It is a problem of the system and not the individuals.”
“Rather than going up, it has been nose-diving,” Mr Soweto lamented.