A month after some Nigerians have decided to take up the challenge, x-raying just how much success federal government has achieved in the education sector under Jonathan in the last two years.
Before delving into the ‘marking scheme’ of these critics, it is important to highlight what government penciled down as some of its achievements in the education sector piloted by the Minister of Education Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i and the Minister of State for Education Barr. Nyesom Wike.
The education ministry’s mid-term report highlights improved funding as one of its achievements. The minister opines that the sector has never had it so good, with budgetary increase for education leaping from N235bn last year to N427bn this year, coming second to security. Also, with a total sum of about N520bn, the two intervention agencies of the sector – Universal Basic Education Commission and Tertiary Education Trust Fund have made progress towards improving the quality of basic and tertiary education.
Another focal point of the four year strategic plan of the Federal Ministry of Education is increasing access to education at all levels. In the last two years, the administration has established nine new federal universities, with three more scheduled to begin academic activities next year. More than ten private universities have been licensed under the same period.
At the basic education level, about 90 Almajiri schools have been completed out of 125 under construction, 10 out of 16 Girl-Child schools have been completed, 30 Federal Government Colleges have been completely rehabilitated, 20 out of the 62 e-libraries under construction in Federal Government Colleges have been completed and work is about to commence in the eleven states of the South-south and South-east on the Special Vocational Schools for the Boy-Child.
This is in addition to the supply of close to 40million textbooks and library resources materials to children in public schools in the course of the last two years. The laboratories in the Federal Government Colleges have also been improved in the last two years, with more than one million teachers and basic education administrators trained to improve quality.
The list of achievements is inexhaustive but it is these same accomplishments that stakeholders of the education sector claim have caused problems for the sector.
At a one-day event organised by the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group, a consortium of several civil society orgnisations, major stakeholders decided to use government’s own yardstick as contained in the midterm report to rate and assess the performance of government rather than develop a new set of benchmark.
The take-off point was the controversial cut-off marks into Federal Government Colleges where states like Sokoto, Taraba and Kebbi had between 3 and 27 as cut off scores. At the time a statement from the Federal Ministry of Education attributed the low scores to the poor state of education in Northern Nigeria, it said the region’s education sector faced issues such as general decay of infrastructure; grossly inadequate funding for education; a serious lack of competent teaching staff; corruption in management of education; lack of adequate educational plans; poor implementation of educational goals and demographic problems.
But Comrade Oluajo Babatunde, National Secretary of the Zero Corruption Coalition said while the state of education in part of the north may represent an extreme, the reality is that education in Nigeria is in an embarrassing state of decay.
His words: “With more than half of its school age children being tended to by private merchants, Nigeria must be one of the few countries in the world that has abdicated its responsibility to provide education for its citizens while handing such over to private merchants. Not even in the advanced capitalist countries is the education of the citizenry handed over to private individuals.
In terms of number of out-of-school children, while sub-Saharan Africa has a total of 30.6 million out of school, Nigeria alone has 10.5 million kids out of school, accounting for more than one third of out-of-school children in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNESCO this represents one out of six out-of-school children, globally making Nigeria home to the largest number of out-of-school children in the world.”
While conceding that intervention agencies such as UBEC and TETFund have done quite a lot in revitalising education, Babatunde said government abdicating its primary responsibility of funding these agencies have reduced the impact they would have made on the sector.
“The government would have to be alive to its fundamental duties of investing in the education of Nigerians and not abandon the funding of education and educational development to interventionist agencies. Interventionist agencies remain largely interventionist and are not a substitute for the duty of governments at all levels to fund and commit the needed resources to education.”
It is necessary to give an insight into the massive out-of-school children challenge. In terms of zonal prevalence of out-of-school children by percentage North-east has 52.5percent, North-west 50.9, North-central 23.5, South-south 9.2, South-east 8.6 and South-west 8.2.
These high percentages especially in northern Nigeria informed government’s decision to set up the Almajiri schools. But Dr. Sofiri Joab Peterside, Executive Director, Centre for Advanced Social Sciences said if these projects are not tied to poverty reduction strategies, the cycle of the Almajiri system would still continue.
There were abundance of criticisms over government’s decision to establish 12 new federal universities in order to ensure that every state in Nigeria including the FCT can boast of a federal university.
Peterside said what government had succeeded in achieving by that policy was politicising the university system.
“This has the tendency of turning the public university in Nigeria into yet another contested terrain particularly with respect to the appointments of vice-chancellors and other principal officers, and the admission of students.
There is therefore serious concern by critically minded academics and Nigerians about the place and role of these universities as a force for national unity and integration, and center of excellence.”
Still on the proliferation of universities by federal government, Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities Dr. Nasir Faggae, who was also a panelist at the event, disagreed that the private universities have helped to make tertiary education more competitive and qualitative.
In his opinion, “The initial thinking was that if we privatise we are likely to see everybody moving to private universities but that is not what is happening. Most of the people who now seek for admission into private universities are people who cannot get admitted in the public universities because the condition in the private universities is not better.”
Again, the criticisms by stakeholders at the forum were as robust as the many ‘achievements’ paraded by government. But at the end of the day the consensus was that the final scores will come in May 2015 when Nigeria is due for another presidential election.