For umpteenth time, major stakeholders have lampooned the Federal Government over the poor budgetary allocation to the education sector in the 2018 fiscal budget, lamenting that the ailing sector will be worse for it this year.
They, however, blamed the government for lacking the political will and deliberate funding policy that will rescue the sector from its current slide, given the numerous challenges facing the sector due to its palpable underfunding.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari had in the 2018 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly in November, allocated N605.8 billion, representing only 7 per cent of the total budget of 8.6 trillion to education.
But, major stakeholders in the nation’s education project, had vehemently kicked against the government’s floppy allocation, condemning it that it was a far cry from the 26 per cent recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to the sector. “This is unacceptable and a disservice to the growth of the sector.
If Nigeria must occupy a veritable place in the provision of qualitative education, as it is in other climes, this year’s allocation like those of previous years is worrisome,” they insisted.
Going by the trend of the budgetary allocation in the last nine years, the government in 2010 voted N293,427,655,563 (7.19%); 2011- N393,810,171,775 (9.32%); 2012 – N468,385,037,983 (9.86%); 2013 – N499,761,707,838 (10.15%); 2014-N494,783,130,261 (10.54%); 2015- N484,263,784,654 (10.78%); 2016 – N480,278,214,639 (7.92%); 2017 – N550,597,184,148 (7.40%); and 2018 – N605,800,080,038 (7.04%).
With this, the percentage has been nose-diving in the last three years of President Buhari’s administration. According to the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the nation’s education sector in 2018 will be a colossal disappointment given the meager 7 per cent allocation to the sector.
The union, which is currently on indefinite nationwide strike and which spoke through its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalam, said: “With the 2018 budget allocation, the government has shown a clear lack of direction and insincerity to move the sector forward.
The budgetary allocation, according to the union, to education in 2018 has shown no clear political will and seriousness on the part of the government at all levels to cause any meaningful change in the system.
“As far as the union is concerned, things only got worse in 2017, but there is no hope in sight in the this year,” Abdulsalam argued.
In the budget proposal presented by President Buhari, of the N605.8 billion total education budget, N435.1 billion is for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Though the N605.8 billion allocated to the sector this year is higher in quantum than the N550 billion allocated in 2017, there is a decrease in percentage terms.
The 2018 allocation is lower than the 7.4 per cent the Federal Government voted to the education sector in the 2017 from the total budget of N7.4 trillion, in which N550 billion was allocated to education, and out of which N398 billion was for recurrent expenditure, N56 billion for capital expenditure and N95 billion to UBEC.
Piqued by the yearly poor budgetary allocation to the critical sector of the economy, and with the fear being expressed that the sector is in for another tough time in the year, Prof. Ademola Dasylva, a Professor of African literature and Oral literature, Department of English at the University of Ibadan (UI), described the issue of budget generally in this part of the globe is an “abraka-dabra” thing.
He queried: “Ask the government how much of 2017 budget was implemented?
The responses you get will not be the same, even from core political office holders. Most of them do not know. The more you look the less you see. Every year, huge sum of money is allocated to service the status quo, especially for same number of cars for National Assembly and House of Representatives members.
Again, huge sums of money annually allocated to purchasing computers for the President’s office, and other core offices running into billions of naira at the expense of more important things and critical sectors like education, health, food and security. This is really appalling.”
To the former Vice-Chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Prof. Femi Mimiko, allocating 7.4 per cent of the Federal Government budget to education, as we have in the estimates for 2018, is simply atrocious. Even if you add what goes to sub-heads such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and UBEC, among others, to this, what figure you get is still indefensibly minuscule.
“This nation is yet to come to the realisation that education is the greatest and wisest investment a country can make,” he argued, saying that education is the bedrock of national development, while a literate population is the fulcrum around which democracy revolves. Mimiko, who warned that any nation that must be great must prioritise education, however, insisted that there was no shortcut about that. Alluding to the funding allocation to the sector during the regional administration in the country, the don recalled that the regional governments of old each spent close to 50 per cent of their annual budget on education.
“It is a shame that what Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and his colleagues knew about education more than half a century ago is now lost on the current generation. It is so sad,” he lamented.
Consequently, the National Coordinator of Education Rights Concern (ERC), Mr. Taiwo Hassan said going by the 2018 appropriation bill it would not be out of point to say that the education sector would be in stormy waters in 2018.
Already, the budget proposal for in the year allocates a paltry sum for the funding of the sector which implies that the public primary and secondary schools will largely remain in their deplorable conditions with inadequate facilities and ill-trained and poorly remunerated teaching and non-teaching staff.
He warned on the need to improve funding of the sector, saying: “If proposed funding to education is not increased in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, many on-going capital projects in public tertiary institutions, except TETFund projects, would remain abandoned, while important teaching infrastructure that require urgent rehabilitation or upgrading would remain in their deplorable state.
Given this scenario, the organization insisted that what this would mean is that new waves of fees hike should be expected as universities, polytechnics and colleges would descend on students and poor working class parents to make up for funding shortfalls, thus resulting to further crises which would disrupt academic calendar to the detriment of students in the year.
Piqued by the poor budgetary allocation to education, the National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, noted that what had been proposed as budget for education for 2018 is no clear departure from what we have witnessed within the last three years.
According to him, what that implies is that there is no difference between the current administration and those before it.
“We cannot actually get the full analysis of the budget now until the National Assembly completes its work on it, but the fact remains that nothing serious can come out of it,” he argued, raising some pertinent questions about when will Nigerian government see education as a right for its citizens and not as a privilege as guaranteed by Section 18 of the Constitution; when will education become the cornerstone of our national development; that is, when are we going to decide to make education the centre of our advancements in health, infrastructure, agriculture, arts, social life, among others; and when will the country match action with policy plans; that is, when are we going to stop intellectual gyration alone and match action with words.