Education

How far can this budget go?

…as low budget entangles education sector

‘FG should review, raise allocation to 15% in supplementary budget’

˜  Sectoral budget unsatisfactory – Don

˜  Poor budget can’t rescue comatose education system – Stakeholders

 

BUDGET

Criticism has continued to trail the 2023 sectoral budget allocation to the education sector. And, stakeholders are asking: “How far can the budget go” in view of the plethora of challenges confronting the sector? KAYODE OLANREWAJU writes

 

The persistent failure of the Federal Government yearly to meet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) funding benchmark for the education sector would continue to entangle the development of the sector in the country.

Curiously, this inadequate budgetary allocations at all levels of government suffered by the sector over the years, has continued to raise concern among critical stakeholders who condemned the sloppy budget allocation resulting in the sliding fortune of the sector.

Against this background and in view of the rot in the education sector, especially in the developing nations of the world, UNESCO was said to have directed that governments of each country should as matter of urgent need and based on the individual nations’ peculiarities allocate at least 26 per cent of their total annual budget to the sector.

This apparently is with a view to moving the sector forward, rescue it from the palpable rot, as well as address the educational needs of children. But in contrast, the Nigeria Government for several decades is yet to meet the UNESCO benchmark, as the yearly budget of either Federal or State government which is below 15 per cent, is still a far cry.

 

Budget trends Like the previous administrations, the sector in the last eight years of the present administration has not fared better either, given the inability of the sectoral budgetary allocations to rescue the system, and move the sector from its steady decline. Today, the sector is bogged down with acute shortage of school infrastructure and facilities, such as insufficient classrooms, lack of laboratory equipment  and reagents in schools, inadequate qualified teachers, poor curriculum delivery, insecurity, incessant strikes at the university level, rising cases of brain drain, poor sanitary facilities in schools, high figure of out-ofschool children which is put at over 20 million children, as some of the major challenges confronting of the sector.

Therefore, with the N21.83 trillion aggregate expenditure, an increase of N1.32 trillion over the initial executive proposal of N20.51 trillion, national fiscal budget for 2023, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, , being the last lap of the administration, stakeholders said that there was nothing to be glad over the budget.

Of the total N21.83 trillion budget outlay, the Federal Government in its sectoral allocation, voted N1.79, representing 8.8 per cent of the budget, being the highest in recent years to the education sector.

Taking a cursory look at the administration’s yearly education budget in the last eight years, it will be recalled that in 2016, the federal budget allocation to education sector was N369.66 billion, representing 7.9 per cent of the total budget; in 2017, N550.5 billion, representing 7.4 per cent was earmarked for the sector; while in 2018, a total of N605.8 billion, representing 7.04 per cent of the total budget was voted for education.

Similarly, in 2019, N620.05 billion representing 7.05 per cent was allotted to the sector; in 2020 the sector got N671.07 billion, representing 6.7 per cent; in 2021 ‘N742.5 billion representing 5.68 per cent was given to the sector; while in 2022, the Federal Government voted N1.18 trillion, representing 7.2 per cent of the total national budget.

A look at the trends of budgetary allocations to the sector, which remains at less than 10 per cent, is an indication that the nation’s education sector has a long way to go given the years of underfunding in the face of bogus challenges. Apart from N1.79 trillion representing 8.8 per cent, which is acclaimed to be the highest in recent years, the Federal Government earmarked another N470 billion for tertiary education revitalisation and salary enhancement.

Priority sector In the 2023 budget recently signed into law, the Federal Government is to spend N8.074 trillion on five priority sectors of Defence & Security, Education, Health, Infrastructure and Social Development, and Poverty Reduction Programmes.

In the analysis, Defence & Security sector has the highest vote of N2.74 trillion (13% of the total budget); Health Sector N1.58 trillion (8%); N756 billion (4%) on Social Development and Poverty Reduction programmes; while less than N1 trillion (5%) of the entire budget is voted for Infrastructure development.

States’ sectoral allocation

The story of woes besetting education budgets being experienced at the federal level is not different at the state level, where no state, except one or two had in the last few years met the UNESCO standard.

For instance, in the 2023 budget, the Oyo State government, which signed into law a total of N310,432,500,000, only N58.2 billion, representing 18.78 per cent, was voted for in the education sector.

In Edo State with the total budget outlay of N321.35 billion for 2023, christened: “Budget of Resilience and Transformation,” only N32.9 billion, which represents about 10 per cent of the total budget was voted for education by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration

“As we drive for growth, we will continue to pursue policies and programmes that will ensure fair and balanced access to education, healthcare and social protection in all the three senatorial districts of the state,” the governor added.

Similarly, Enugu State in the 2023 total budget of N166,602,414,770 presented for 2023, the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration allotted N582,116,000 to education; while Sokoto State allotted N36,991,319,548.53, representing 18.6 per cent of the 2023 budget for education sector.

In the budget analysis, education sector was said to have gotten the lion share of the total budget  of N36,991,319,548.53, and closely followed by Health and Agriculture, which received N25,208,374,170.49 and N11,010,553,897.62, representing 12.7 per cent and 5.5 per cent, respectively. Curiously, in the Bayelsa State’s 2023 Appropriation Budget, christened: “Budget of Sustainable Reconstruction ‘’ of N385.2billion, the education sector got N40.454 billion.

Stakeholders’ appraisal Appraising the 2023 federal budget to education, the former Vice Chancellor of Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, Prof Dipo Kolawole, described the sectoral budget as “unsatisfactory,” lamented that successive leaders and governments in Nigeria, except the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the then Premier of Western Region, have shown contempt for educational advancement of the country and its constituents.

He worried that the continued development of the underdevelopment of the country flows from such contemptuous leadership behaviour, saying though not surprisingly there has been leadership deficiency, economic retrogression, educational retardation and insecurity.

Therefore, the retired don expressed dismay that the allocation of N1.79 trillion that constitutes only 8.8 per cent of the total budget is an attestation to the fact that Nigerian leaders and governments are like the Borbourns, who have failed and refused to learn reasonable lessons from the errors of the past.

Faced with the unaddressed calamity in the sector due to underfunding, Prof Kolawole, while insisting that the comatose state of the Nigerian educational system could not be rescued by such low budget allocation, he however advised the Federal Government to do a review of the budget with a view to having a supplementary budget that allocates realistically at least 15 per cent of the federal budget to education with increase in percentage in the coming years.

“The comatose state of the Nigerian educational system cannot be rescued by such low allocation. The Federal Government is better advised to do a review and have a supplementary budget that allocates realistically at least 15 per cent to education with an increase in percentage in the coming years,” he added.

Meanwhile, a former don at the University of Ibadan (UI), Prof Ademola Dasylva, however, condemned what he described as “sloppy yearly budgetary allocation to education,” reiterating that UNESCO benchmark of 26 per cent budget for education is for any serious country.

noted that the Nigeria’s current budget to the sector for the year is approximately nine per cent, which perhaps the highest in recent years, saying that the N470 billion set aside for higher institutions, was not a favour or a gift to the institutions as it had become expedient and a matter of the current government living up to its responsibility.

Dasylva, a Professor of African Poetry and Literature and former Dean of Faculty of Arts, again explained that whether it is acknowledged or not, the N470 billion is a product of the endless struggles of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end the rot in the university system, which has failed to stand at par with its contemporaries in other climes in terms funding.

He, however, bemoaned the Federal Government’s gestures on the release of the funds, which according to him, is belated, saying that Nigeria has never come close to the UNESCO recommended benchmark.

“I am personally worried about the consequences of the grave implications of the humongous loans already taken to service the current budget, as the country is heavily indebted to China, and some other countries. This is mindboggling,” Dasylva added.

While describing the 2023 education budget as grossly insufficient in view of the magnitude of demands of the system, he wondered that it is curious that holders of political offices are not thinking in the direction of a drastic cut in their jumbo salaries and allowances, as well as prodigal lifestyle when the masses they represent and took an oath to serve live below the breadline.

Given the challenges in the university system and the lack of the government’s deliberate commitment to initiate plans to fund the system adequately, he stated that it is disturbing to note that the same Federal Government has unwittingly damaged or dampened the morale of the academia in the country, almost beyond remedy, resulting in the mass exodus of teaching personnel and professionals from the country’s ivory tower and other critical sectors to foreign nations for greener pastures.

“This is an incalculable loss to the country; and now, one can no longer guarantee the zeal, the zest, and dedication that used to characterise colleagues in the ivory tower,” he said.

The don expressed worry that regardless of the N470 billion the Federal Government promised to release to service the tertiary institutions, and as long as no serious attempt is made to rectify the systemic dysfunction both at the macro (national) and the micro (tertiary institutions) levels, being symptoms of a country with a warped national psyche, the decay will remain in the system as nothing significant will be achieved.

Dasylva, who expressed fear that the quantum of the budget might not be used for the purposes they were meant for, therefore, lamented that the “bulk of the funds would grow wings and disappear into private bedrooms,” saying: “That is why we are where we are today as a nation.”

Despite expressing his discomfiture over poor funding of the nation’s education sector over the years, the Vice Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Patigi in Kwara State, Prof Mahfouz Adedimeji, however, commended the Federal Government, saying this is the highest allocation that education sector has got so far in recent years.

“Though at the face value, the budget falls below expectation, the devil is in the details and the symbolism of the increase is important,” Adedimeji, a Professor of Pragmatics and Applied Linguistics in a quick crosscheck of the budget figures, recalled that the education budget in 2016 was N369.6 billion, which was 6.7 per cent of the N6.0 trillion national budget and in 2017, education received N550.5 billion, which was 7.38 per cent of the national budget at N7.29 trillion; while in 2018, the education budget was N605.8 billion, which was 7.04 per cent of the national budget that stood at N9.12 trillion.

According to him, in 2019, education got N620.5 billion which was 7.05 per cent of the national budget of N8.92 trillion for the year, whereas in 2020, the education budget was N671.07 billion, which was 6.7 per cent of N10.33 trillion that was allocated for education. In 2021, education received N742.52 billion, which was about 5.65 per cent of the year’s budget, which was N13.00 trillion.

He recalled that in the 2022 budget of N17.13 trillion, N923.79 billion, which was a mere 5.4 per cent of the total budget, was allocated to education, lower than the allocations of 2021 and 2020 figures, respectively. “Now, for the first time in more than a decade, the education sector budget is 8.8 per cent of the national budget. This is symbolically significant,” he said. Despite this year’s figure and percentage, the Vice Chancellor insisted that there is still a long way to go as the budget cannot address the challenges in the system.

“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement and if the government continues to demonstrate symbolic seriousness as this budget shows, it will go a long way in restoring hope that we, as a nation, shall get there,” he added.

 

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