Like other sectors of the national economy, Nigeria’s education sector may not fully recover from the debilitating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic any time soon as insecurity, especially violent attacks on schools by non-state actors, has complicated the woes bedeviling it.
Following the suspension of its nine-month-long industrial action in December 2020, and the ease of lockdown by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, Nigerians had hoped for a return to full activities in the education sector in 2021. But many ugly events proved the optimists wrong in the out gone year.
While many tertiary institutions battled to adjust their academic calendar for the year due to the disruption by the COVID-19-induced lockdown, some states, especially in the northern and south-eastern part of the country, were confronted with ceaseless attacks on schools by bandits, forcing such states like Kaduna, Zamfara, among others, to shut down schools.
Violent attacks on schools
Basic education, regarded as the foundation for lifelong learning and human development, is free and compulsory in Nigeria, according to the Universal Basic Education Act, 2004.
But this subsector seemed more troubled in 2021, raising concerns over a possible increase in the number of out-of-school children, whose current figure of more than 10 million ranks highest in sub-saharan Africa.
Nigeria’s number of out-of-school children is currently put at 10,193,918, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the minister of state for education, announced in June 2021.
The North-west part of Nigeria which already has the highest share of the figure also witnessed a series of attacks on schools, leaving pupils scared to return to classrooms.
According to SBM Intelligence, at least 1,436 pupils and 17 teachers were abducted between December, 2020 and October, 2021.
For instance, Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara and Yobe States are part of the top 10 states that make up over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s out of school children, and they all recorded cases of mass kidnapping of pupils during the year.
Recently, at the Children’s Manifesto launch, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that the persistent attacks on educational facilities and abduction of students and teachers have left more than 12 million children currently traumatised and afraid of going back to school, especially the girl-child.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also estimated that at least one million pupils did not go back to school in October 2021 due to insecurity.
However, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the commission supervising basic education in Nigeria, received less than 10 per cent of the total education budget in 2021.
Due to the many months of lockdown across public tertiary institutions due to COVID-19 and prolonged ASUU strike affecting the universities in 2020, many admission seekers were left in the cold as they were unable to proceed to their institutions of choice.
When the institutions eventually reopened in 2021 , the academic calendar was already disrupted leading to a backlog of applicants who were awaiting their admission when another fresh set joined them.
While some institutions such as the University of Ibadan decided to cancel a session, others like the University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University decided to merge the admissions for both the 2020 and 2021 candidates.
Meanwhile, despite more than a million unadmitted applicants, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the body in charge of coordination of admission into tertiary institutions in the country, said tertiary institutions in Nigeria still failed to utilise over 400,000 admission spaces for the 2020/2021 session.
Out of a total of 1,949,983 candidates who sat the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, tertiary institutions were expected to admit less than half of them based on an admission quota of 956,809 given to them.
Of the 601,775 that were allocated to degree-awarding institutions, 422, 445 candidates gained admission, while 179,330 vacancies were unused.
A total of 115,243 was given to institutions that award National Diploma (ND), while 4,870 was allocated to National Innovative Diploma (NID) awarding institutions.
Also, out of the 235,240 slots allocated to colleges of education, only 47,920 were admitted. About 187,320 spaces to admit more candidates remained unused, representing 79.6 per cent.
For National Diploma (ND) awarding institutions, 79,891 candidates got admission out of the 115,243 allocations, leaving 35,352 spaces unoccupied.
Likewise, only 1,297 candidates got admissions out of the 4,870 allocations given to National Innovative Diploma (NID) awarding institutions. A total of 3,573 spaces remained unused.
On budgetary allocations
In 2021, Nigeria’s education sector, despite facing multiple challenges, received the lowest allocation in a decade, when measured in terms of percentages.
The sector is already plagued with deplorable infrastructure, poorly trained and over-stretched teachers as well as alarming insecurity.
Early in 2021, the National Personnel Audit (NPA) conducted on Public and Private Basic Education Schools in the country by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), revealed that Nigeria had a shortage of 277,537 teachers at the basic level, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, the Executive Secretary, UBEC said.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s allocation of N771.5bn for education in the 2021 budget represented a paltry 5.6 per cent of the total budget, an amount lower than the 15-20 per cent recommended by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
While the amount budgeted for the sector has been on a steady increase, analysis shows that it is, in fact, on a depressing trajectory when measured in percentages.
An analysis of the budgets for education shows that the highest allocation since Mr Buhari’s inauguration was 7.9 per cent in 2016. It dropped to 7.4 per cent in 2017, and again to 7.04 per cent in 2018 before rising slightly to 7.05 per ent in 2019, and dropping to 6.7 per cent in 2020.
The 2022 budget
Speaking at the global summit on education in July, 2021, Mr Buhari pledged to increase the education funding by over 15-20 per cent of total spending, as recommended by UNESCO.
Mr Buhari had at the summit promised to increase funding for education by 20 per cent in a few years and 50 per cent by 2025.
A review of the proposed 2022 budget for education shows that the president increased the education budget only by almost 14 per cent.
While the budget had a 13.6 per cent increase of 2021 allocation, it still remains 7.9 per cent of the total budget, falling short of UNESCO recommendations.
The education budget was raised from N771.46 billion in 2021 to N876 billion in the proposed 2022 budget. (TETFund allocation is excluded). TETFund is funded through an education tax of 2 per cent on the profit of all registered companies operating in Nigeria.
A breakdown of the proposed 2022 budget shows that N875.93 billion was budgeted for recurrent and capital expenditure of the Federal Ministry of Education and its agencies, and N139.2 billion for Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
Proliferation of tertiary institutions
The much condemned culture of proliferation of tertiary institutions and particularly universities had continued in 2021, with ASUU describing the decision as provoking and unwise.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the establishment of 20 new private universities in the country in February, 2021, which were given provisional licenses by the National Universities Commission (NUC) on April 8, 2021, bringing the number of private universities in Nigeria to 99 and a total of 197 universities.
The major argument by the government for proliferation is the urgency of giving access to admission seekers, as nearly two million candidates sit the UTME annually, but this
But stakeholders in the education system in Nigeria warned against the proliferation of universities in the country, insisting that the existing institutions were neither adequately funded nor properly monitored to ensure compliance, with appropriate guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities in Nigeria, Timothy Olagbemiro, complained about the dwindling number of students seeking admission into private universities due to poor economic conditions.
Mr Olagbemiro, who is the vice-chancellor of Edwin Clarke University, Kiagbodo, in Delta State, said the poor economic condition in the country was preventing many parents from sending their children to private universities, saying this was constituting a major problem facing the institutions.
Not all gloomy
But it was not all gloomy during the year as there were certain steps taken by the government towards restoring the sector’s lost glory. Such measures had included the implementation of the 65-year-old retirement age for teachers, release of funds for university workers’ earned academic allowance and needs assessment funds, among others.
Though, towards the end of 2021, ASUU had threatened to resume its suspended industrial action, the whole of 2021 was largely free from the usual strike.
Teachers’ day promises
Meanwhile, in a move to retain competent hands and reward dedication to work, the Nigerian government, in October, announced that Nigerian teachers in public schools will begin to enjoy a new salary structure and enjoy elongated service from 35 to 40 years.
Also to encourage more Nigerians to take up a career in teaching, the government plans to provide N75,000 allowance for every student of public universities studying education programmes per semester, and N50,000 for students of colleges of education per semester.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...