by Usman Alabi
Apart from the recent establishment of federal universities in states that does not have such federal presence in terms of education, there seems not to be anything phenomenal about the education sector than a year in year out budget spending, perhaps that explain why the nation’s education sector has witnessed a downward trend over the years. One cannot really compare the quality of education in the sixties, seventies, eighties and even early nineties to what is obtainable now. I recall reading El Rufai’s book where he claimed that in the seventies and eighties, no one wanted to go to Universities in United States because Universities here in Nigeria are perceived to be doing better than those over there, people would rather prefer to enroll in British universities, and those were times when Universities in Nigeria were highly ranked in the world and ranked amongst the best in Africa, I also recall that Ahmadu Bello university use to have the best social sciences. Let me also bring to light the quality and completeness of the curriculum then, a standard six student of then is like an undergraduate of now if not more than bearing in mind the quality of education today. A standard six student of then know virtually something of everything and can be employed not only in the public sector but in the nascent private sector with little or no training. Of course that cannot be said about today’s secondary school student, thus justifying the fact that the standard and quality of education in the country is nothing to write home about. Yet any development plan that does not put into consideration the quality of human capital is just a mirage, because how well informed, educated and intellectually armed a population is would determine the extent of the country’s growth and development.
It is against this background that we would be examining government spending in this sector for more than three years and at the same time looking at the current federal budget in Nigeria and the extent of its performance, perhaps it is too early to begin to look at this issue in the light of the recent approval of the budget but what about the budget performance for other years.
The breakdown of the budget for education goes thus:
37billion naira for capital expenditure
426.95billion naira for personnel cost
19.72billion naira for overhead cost.
Merely looking at the budget, one would begin to see the perennial problem in this sector not only in the education subsector but in other areas where you have the capital expenditure which benefits the populace just a slice of the enormous recurrent expenditure, the size of our government is too large so that there is more “accountability” at the level of recurrent expenditure compared to the capital expenditure which is supposed to be a commonwealth. Thus 37billion naira to capital expenditure compared to 426.95billion naira for personnel at the federal level alone. The budget is further broken down into:
15.30bn for NHIS
6.27bn for subsidizing meal in government schools
1.11bn for the purchase of library books and equipment
3.65bn for the purchase of teaching and learning equipments
4.17bn for research and development
43.34bn for curricula development.
As much as the paltry capital expenditure for more than 150million population questions our desirability for educational and all round economic development in this age of information globalization, one cannot but ponder on how these funds are disbursed and monitored. If 4.17bn is budgeted for research and development, the question is how are these funds accessed and what is the criteria for its disbursement, if it is a yearly thing, what researches have been sponsored so far. There is no doubt that Universities are created for learning and research, but in the real sense of the matter, what we have are teaching and learning institutions but not research based, not because we don’t have people qualified to do researches but because they are either not aware that there is a budgetary allocation for research or they feel that the process of obtaining the fund is too tedious. I am yet to see any research that benefits the country and that is funded by the ministry of education.
The bottom line is accountability and transparency and responsibility, above all, publicity and awareness. One can say for sure that the budget is five months old from the month of approval, I am yet to see any explicit or implicit implementation of that capital expenditure of the budget which is what concerns the generality of the populace but I am aware that the Academic Staff Union of Universities is likely to go on a warning strike by October. Also when it comes to curriculum development, there had also not been any visible development, that aspect itself is where the bane of Nigeria’s education is, the quality of what we teach our students in the light of worldwide reality and globalization is still nothing to write home about, how then do we account for the budgetary allocation for curriculum development when the curriculum has not changed to suit the existing realities.
Below are the capital spending of the federal government for a period of six years in the education sector, (billion naira)
Apart from the nine universities recently created, it is very difficult to justify this spending over the course of five years. The question is what exactly can the ministry point to as a major change in the country’s educational sector in the course of five years, why are our universities still missing out on the list of the first one thousand in the world, no time within this period have they moved any significant step forward in the world ranking, what has happened to educational tourism and why are our universities only been patronized by the middle class who cannot afford quality education abroad because of the cost, why have not have any tectonic change in the curriculum of our secondary schools, in spite of the enormous amount budgeted for the payment of salaries, why the perennial strikes by actors in that sector.
The government can delight in telling us that education has a significant allocation in the budget, but we know it is not the focus, because there is a difference between something being the focus and having the highest allocation, hence we must begin to reduce the gap between budgeting and implementation in this sector.