A civil society group, ActionAid Nigeria, has pledged to monitor the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to increase the budget for the country’s education sector by as much as 50 per cent over the next two years and by 100 per cent by 2025.
Mr Buhari, who made the pledge in a document titled; “Heads of State Call To Action on Education Financing,” said the step would ensure that Nigeria’s investment in the sector meets up with a globally acceptable standard of 20 per cent budgetary allocation to education.
The forum was the global education summit in London which was co-hosted by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The summit sought to give opportunities for leaders to make five-year pledges to support global partnership for education (GPE’s) work to help transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories
The commitment, if implemented, will form a clear departure from the Buhari administration’s consistent poor budgetary allocation to education since he was sworn in for the first term in 2015.
About the commitment
The Nigeria’s President’s declaration reads in part; “I join my brother, His Excellency, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya to affirm our commitment to improving learning outcomes in our respective countries by ensuring equitable access to quality and inclusive education for all our citizens, with particular emphasis on the girl child.
“We fully endorse the call for more efficient use of resources and to significantly increase investment in education by strengthening institutions, promoting greater adoption of technology, building the capacities of our teachers, and mobilizing additional financial resources through legal frameworks and deliberate intervention on a sustainable basis.
“In this regard, we commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and up to 100 per cent by 2025 beyond the 20 per cent global benchmark. Let us, therefore, raise our hands in solidarity to build a more secure and prosperous future for our children.”
Budgetary allocations to education since 2016
Though Mr Buhari was sworn in for the first term of four years in 2015, his first budget was prepared and presented to the National Assembly in the year ahead of the 2016 financial year.
But unlike the president’s new commitment, ActionAid noted that its analysis of Nigeria’s budget prepared by Mr Buhari’s administration has shown a consistent decline in the overall allocation to the education sector with only 7 per cent allocated to the sector in 2016.
According to the organisation, whereas the size of the nation’s budget has increased since 2016, the amount allocated to education has been on the decline, with 5.61 per cent in 2020 and 5.68 per cent in 2021.
ActionAid, however, noted that the 2021 allocation was still lower than the mere 7 per cent that the president allocated to the sector in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
“Walk the talk”
But in a statement signed by ActionAid Nigeria’s country director, Ene Obi, a copy of which was made available to PREMIUM TIMES, the group called on relevant individuals and organisations to ensure that the president does not default in his pledge.
According to the organisation, it is important to ensure that the president takes the necessary steps and actions to back the commitment.
The statement reads in part; “Nigeria is a signatory to many international instruments on the delivery of quality education, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as such, we expect to see a directive to all relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to prioritise and commence the process of incremental budgeting to actualise the commitment.
“We are particularly delighted that the commitment responds to the call for governments to take actions to increase the SHARE of funds allocated to and spent on free, quality, inclusive public education. This is very critical for the transformation of the sector and will help in placing the country on the path to sustainable education for all.”
The group said it is unfortunate that even before the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted teaching and learning in schools, and the increased insecurity across the country, Nigeria has been a host to more than 10.5 million out-of-school children.
“Finally, the government must ensure it works with relevant organisations to enable greater scrutiny of future allocations by publicly publishing education budget and expenditure.
“To attain the SDG for education, it would be critical to not only increase the funding for education but also ensure that it is targeted at projects and programmes that are aimed at addressing the out-of-school phenomenon especially for girls and other marginalised children, improve learning outcomes and increase the nation’s stock of human capital that can be transformed into job creation. We want to encourage that there has to be quality provision of gender responsive public service facilities in all schools,” Mrs Obi added.
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