The ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) and other stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to increase funding for education as part of measures to tackle the rising insecurity in the country, saying the security crisis is traceable to poor funding and neglect of the nation’s education sector.
They said this on Friday in Abuja at a one-day National Dialogue on Education Financing with theme “More and Better Financing of Education in Nigeria” organised by the AAN in collaboration with the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All (CSACEFA), and Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).
The event was part of activities marking the 2021 Global Action Week on Education (GAWE).
Speaking on revenue losses by the Federal Government for granting corporate tax incentives annually, which amounts to $327m for import duty exemptions, that could double allocation to education which currently constitutes 5.68 percent of the 2021 national budget, the Country Director (AAN), Ene Obi, said that the time to change the narrative in the nation’s education sector is now as implications for less commitment to it are currently affecting socio-economic life and national security.
According to her, GAWE is aimed at raising the voices of more than 1 billion people around the world whose education has been affected or completely stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said that this year’s celebration is particularly important because there will be the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Replenishment Conference taking place on 28 and 29 July 2021, where Minsters of Education and Finance will be in attendance from all over the world.
“ActionAid Nigeria, in collaboration with the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) joins the world to commemorate this year’s Global Action Week on Education (GAWE) on the theme ‘More and better Financing of Education’.
“As a Human Rights organization, education is considered a human right issue and we seek to purse the right to education of all children, which has a transformative impact on the lives of children and learners of all ages, in addition to the impact on the building back of our country and economy as we move forward and beyond the pandemic.
“Among these challenges is the continued revenue dwindling occasioned by Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs). The implication among others, include the continued deprivation of the much-needed revenue to fund the delivery of free, quality, essential public services, like education,” Obi said.
She said that if these huge figures lost to harmful tax incentives are effectively collected by the government, it is more than enough to return the 10.2m children currently out of school in Nigeria back to school.
Also, the National Moderator, CSACEFA, Babatunde Omole, demanded at least 50 percent of budgetary allocation to education sector with full implementation, which he said will go a long way to provide Nigerians, quality education at all levels of their educational pursuit that would boost national development and curb brain-drain including insecurity.
“We want to ensure that every citizen in our country actually has access to quality education, gender responsive and all-inclusive education in our country. There is no gainsaying emphasizing the importance of education from the communities in the states to national and local governments, and all our efforts will not be in vain.
“But we are faced with so many realities as regards to education development, and one of the key things we have to look at is that we know the Abuja Declaration, and we believe strongly that we are far off from the expected commitment from the Nigerian government.
“In 2019, we realise that about N51 billion is still seated in Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, account for education which has not been accessed due to some bottlenecks, and unsafe schools is one of the key issues we are having now,” Omole said.
On her part, Nollywood Diva and AAN Ambassador, Hilda Dokubo, lamented the poor attitude of government in Nigeria that has put the education sector in a quagmire, leading to heightened insecurity that has caused monumental loss of lives and property as the terrible situation engulfs the nation in all directions.
She said, “Can they add any course, ‘surviving Naija’ in the education curriculum? It is painful when you hear 40 per cent of your children can’t attend primary school and half of children qualified to move on to secondary school cannot do that, and somebody is asking me where do we get the fund.
“Our children are unsafe, they are afraid to go to school, and we are talking of infrastructure, I am an Ijaw woman we don’t even have schools, we sit under trees and beside waterside. We cannot be waiting for two per cent and not to talk of 20 per cent. Our whole lives depend on the quality of education we give to our children.”
Also, the Secretary and Director, FCT, Secondary Education Board, Nanre Emeje, said, “This is a very important dialogue that ActionAid has brought to the front burner and I want to ask that such dialogues should continue. But beyond that that two questions we are to ask; is really important that we cannot manage education without money? The answer is no, we can’t manage education without money.
While recalling the experience of parents and students, especially of the poor after school resumption when the lockdown was eased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3 student of JSS Kubwa, FCT, Asuzu Angel, called for urgent government attention to the plight of students in secondary schools and the education sector across the country.
“Schools in Nigeria need infrastructure and buildings that will aid better learning of students. Insecurity in Nigeria is another challenge to our learning and that is why some parents do not allow their children to come to school.
“2019 was an eye opener because it was only the rich’s children were allowed to go to school but the poor couldn’t because they could not afford all the necessities to enable their children be in school,” Angel said.