Killing education softly
Strikingly often, government and its officials continue to assure Nigerians that education is the soul of a nation and the key to its secured future. Therefore, they are doing everything humanly possible within their powers to make education available and affordable for Nigerians. But, it is quite disappointing that government’s best efforts could only make education standard to nose dive annually. Hence, it is quite difficult to be optimistic about education future in Nigeria because of the federal government continued lip-service and unwillingness to give the sector adequate support. The need for improved education system in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised.
A lot has been said and written about this important sector. As a matter of fact, virtually all issues bordering on education in Nigeria takes its root from the objectionable poor funding by the government. The state of education in the country is obviously appalling and there has been too much national lamentations especially calls from stakeholders that government should declare a state of emergency over the situation for too long.
Just when Nigerians are about to heave a sigh of relief from the nine months Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) protracted strike, the ruling government chose to stir the hornet nest with education taking a low ebb in the 2021 budget. It is shameful to note that the federal government’s 2021 budgetary allocation to education is the worst in the last 10 years.
The government only apportioned 5.6 per cent to the sector out of a total of N13.6 trillion budget. Indeed, it is hard to over-emphasise the wretchedness and difficult position which the ruling government has made education become in recent time. There is no doubt that Nigeria is no where near the UNESCO 26 per cent funding stipulation for education from the country’s 2021 budget. The federal government current toeing would not only inflict further damage on the already worse education situation. The consequence that befalls the federal government and indeed successive governments’ systemic dysfunction that continues to impede the growth of education is the risk to have poorly trained graduates and undedicated teachers. Of course, the quality of the teaching personnel is central to the educational system. Majority of the teachers as earlier noted are not only poorly paid but many who take up the job do so due to the absence of employment opportunities in preferred professional areas, not necessary because of their passion or motivation for the job. So, there are elements in the education sector which parents of pupils, stakeholders among others may not really appreciate, but government’s attitude towards the sector seems to allow just anybody into the sector as teachers or administrators.
It is disheartening to note that the ruling government is still enmeshed in the missteps of past administrations. Not too long ago, President Muhammadu Buhari cited education as a way to end poverty in the country. Of course, the president is right, but it goes beyond that, however; the statement merely reinforced what is already known over which calls have been made for government to make improvements in the sector. Aside poor funding, we have seen how insecurity has played a part pulling millions of school children out of the classrooms in the northern parts of the country. The Boko Haram insurgents that constantly reveal their dislike for education has been behind the kidnap and adoption of school children in that region. This has caused majority among school age pupils in the north to refuse to attend school. It is common knowledge that education is light in the mind of youth, therefore, the key to any country’s progress. A nation that educates its young population is determined to succeed. The political leaders must not only believe in education but see that its light shines on the youth.
More often than not, government and its officials chose to be very sluggish to act positively on education and when it does, it is either too little or too late. Governments continued shabby and poor allocation to education makes it too obvious that it is not in the character of the ruling government to make education shine its light on the masses.
At the stage in which we find education today, we need to remind ourselves that the deteriorating nature of the sector has historically been about poor leadership. For example it was good leadership that saw Botswana when it gained independence on September 30, 1966 with a tag as one of the world’s poorest countries, with only 22 of its citizens with degrees. But when the country struck diamond in 1967, the government enacted laws to share the proceeds and spend them on infrastructure and education. Perhaps to avoid the “resource curse” suffered by mineral rich African countries like Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Sierra-Lone, Angola among others to corruption and conflict. Currently, Botswana’s GDP per-person is $18.650 higher than most African countries that consider itself as giant Nigeria and South Africa.
Without being prodded, what the above implies is that the ruling government should focus on infrastructure and education for all the right reasons if it want rapid development. However, it is jaw dropping to ask, where is Nigeria’s infrastructure and education status with all her oil wealth and bunch of elite at independence?
No doubt, the current government’s lackadaisical attitude towards education is to say the least unhealthy for the nation. Nigeria desperately needs educational investment in it citizens so that their future may be brighter. Therefore, the political leadership needs to rise up to its responsibilities because workable institutions do not emerge from thin air, they reflect the political culture and strong institutions exhibited by political leaders in the country. The continued fall in education standard is not helping the country in any way. The ruling government should be more consistent in their belief and promise on education.
A government that does not have depth of vision about education would be compounded by inability to create a salubrious environment for development. It is a national embarrassment of intense proportions that Nigerians, who can afford it, continue to send their children abroad to school while our schools continue to fall in standard due to negligence and inadequate funding by government. The above is a sad testimony for a country that is supposed to be the giant of and a model for Africa. It is a worn phrase but no improvement can be made on the saying that education is light without putting round pegs in its place.
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