The Global Education Summit held in London, United Kingdom, a few weeks ago has come and gone, but the realities and the signposts for Nigeria’s education, development and peace agenda are germane and instructive, particularly with dwindling aid and investments from the global North.
The theme of the summit, Financing Education 2021 to 2025 – a Five Year Strategic Plan, is an initiative of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the United Kingdom, Kenya and other multilateral partners to leapfrog investment in the education sector in low-income and resource-poor countries. This is a welcome development, though long overdue, if the political will is there to drive the process of transforming education in less developed countries like Nigeria in line with best practices for qualitative life outcomes and competitiveness in the market place.
Indeed, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has been providing funding and support ecosystems for building strong education in low-income countries, particularly in the area of girl-child education, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDGs 4) and other evidence-based educational systems across the world. Instructive of the summit is the sub-theme of Education Reset, Financing for Impact, Gender Equality and Ripple Effect, which is a strategic benchmark for seeking commitments for international, national and private sector funding of education for the next five years.
One of the major provocations and impediments to education and development in Nigeria is the meagre budgetary provisions at the local, state and federal government levels. From the perspective of the education funding ratio of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and national revenue index, Nigeria accounts for one of the lowest ratios in the world.
The value of President Muhammadu Buhari’s diplomacy pledge to ensure that the total spending on education increases by 50% over the next two years and up to 100% within the next five years (2021 – 2025), at the just concluded Global Education Summit in London, remains to be seen in the light of legislative-budgetary constraints.
President Buhari also made an ambitious pledge to increase education tax from the current 2% to 3%, in order to address the needs of tertiary education; and to also increase the allocation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) from 2% to 4% through legislative means in order to support primary and secondary school education. Nevertheless, college education, particularly at secondary and technical levels, offers the most cost-effective way for Nigerians to learn and practice transferable, socio-emotional and entrepreneurial skills that will secure their future, whether they seek occupation or create their own businesses.
Sadly, according to UNICEF Nigeria (2019), 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria. The out-of-school children quandary is provokingly frightening, particularly with the ravaging kidnapping of school children and payment of ransom to bandits in some states. These dreadful experiences will continue to be a major challenge to the sustenance of primary and secondary school education enrolment. Therefore, the federal, state and local governments must renew their commitments to work with the private sector to improve education and skill development in order to ensure sustainable peace and security.
The public policy statements versus the education reality gap must be bridged. The federal and state governments can no longer fund education in a sustainable manner. Political leaders and the machinery of government at the state and federal levels have collectively failed to address the lingering issues of underfunding of education and its relationship with human development, peace and security, thereby endangering the prospects for a better future.
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Indeed, the private sector must take the lead in financing education in Nigeria, particularly banks that declare super-profits annually without corresponding social investment mechanisms to address the competency and skill development gaps in the labour market. The new financing mechanisms should take into account the importance of inclusive education: girl-child education, special needs education, adult and mass literacy, amongst others.
In addition, the government at all levels must, as a matter of urgency, initiate education remuneration reforms intended to bring its university system more in line with international best practices. The reforms should also promote increased institutional autonomy, university self-financing mechanisms, greater system differentiation, strengthened governance and mechanisms for quality assurance of accredited programmes and courses.
Furthermore, the gown and town should create more flexible courses and certification programmes that are of emerging industry relevance, alongside a creative and responsive system of university teaching and research ecosystem that in the long run will contribute centrally to national innovation capacity and productivity. The broader issues of real autonomy for universities and access to private sector financing beyond the bureaucratic channels of the paymaster (government) should be pursued so that the universities will be self-sustaining from revenues derived from research, teaching and endowments. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, must also look at its engagement strategies beyond strike actions to earn its respect as a conscience of the nation.
Curiously, teachers’ education and quality professional development are critical in financing education; yet the knowledge management profession at the tertiary level (lecturing) in Nigeria has become a subject of endless strikes and unnecessary industrial relations issues. The politics of fair wage, involving the paymaster and the notorious Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, must be addressed to give meaning to education and sustainable development. The country cannot sustain global competitiveness if she treats her eggheads with reckless abandon!
Finally, civil society and other international development partners must sustain advocacy for inclusive education at the subnational, national and regional levels. Civil society can reaffirm their commitment to the principles of democracy, development and peace by championing efforts to bridge the policy divide so that educational institutions can access funding for development.
- Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos.
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