It’s time to give education the resources it needs
April 11 (THEWILL) – In 1955, the Western Region Government introduced a free primary education program based on the 1952 proposal of the region’s Minister of Education, Chief SO Awokoya, for a free, universal and compulsory education, otherwise known as universal primary education (UPE). Considered “the most daring and perhaps the most unprecedented educational program in Africa south of the Sahara” by Babs Fafunwa, the inspired program was the precursor to many similar educational programs that were later launched in the country. More importantly, however, it highlighted the actions of a government that understood the extreme importance of education to achieving its collective goals and was committed to making it free and compulsory for all.
Unfortunately 67 years later, the opposite is happening. Not only is there nowhere to find truly free and universal education, there is no longer a requirement to educate one’s wards even as universities proliferate across the country. Last Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council approved the issuance of provisional licenses for the establishment of 12 private universities across the country. When calculated against the previous number of private universities, which according to 2021 data from the Statista website is now 79, this will bring the total number of private universities in the country to 91.
States are not left behind in the proliferation of universities. Some of them have adopted a new way of creating new universities out of existing colleges and polytechnics like Lagos State did when it transformed the Lagos State Polytechnic , Ikorodu, in Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUST) and did the same for both states. colleges of education – Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Otto-Ijanikin and Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), Naforija, Epe – in Lagos State University of Education (LASUED). Sokoto State also got a brand new university with the approval of Shehu Shagari University of Education last month.
When all of these state universities, now 58 in all, are added to the 12 that Gov. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan added to the total number of federal universities between 2010 and 2014 for the ridiculous justification that all states should have universities, it is becoming apparent that we have lost the inspirational orientation of education that necessitated the establishment of institutions of higher learning and have supplanted it with political idiosyncrasies for which we are now reaping sour grapes.
Education, especially primary and secondary education, which should provide a basis for development and the foundation on which much of our economic and social well-being rests, has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, so that politicians fight over the location of institutions in their constituencies, whether it is viable or not. Not so long ago, a former governor of Edo State established Edo State University in his home village, Iyamho. It was a state that already housed five universities, three polytechnics, two colleges of education, five schools of nursing and midwifery, a school of physical education, an institute of building technology and was bent under the weight of responsibilities towards state institutions. -owned and deprived of funding, infrastructure and staff and could not maintain accredited programs due to a funding shortfall.
In some states, teachers owe several months of unpaid salaries and allowances, while some retirees owe gratuities and pensions.
In a word, the example of Edo crosses the whole country. The excuses for the proliferation of academic institutions have always been to meet the educational needs of a growing population of students, who will have nowhere to go without a plethora of universities to choose from, falls flat when the argument superior in quality over quantity is applied. What’s the point of having universities created out of political calculations (federal and state) and a profit motive (private), if the end product doesn’t fulfill the purpose of education in the first place?
The lack of adequate planning of the educational needs of the country, which should inform the standard, number, location, type and model of basic school, high school and university, suggests that the proliferation of schools creates more problems than it solves.
As a country, even with the regular and unbroken chain of civil administrations, we have not been able to reach the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that developing countries should devote up to 15 to 20% of their annual budget to public education. In the 2022 budget, valued at N17 trillion, only 7.2% was allocated to education, even with the proliferation of universities. This means that for education to fulfill its role of increasing economic efficiency and social coherence to the point of helping lift the poor out of poverty, it will continue to suffer from funding shortages that will stifle the costs of functioning, will truncate research progress, lead to a lack of infrastructure development, further encourage brain drain, prevent institutions from having laboratories, electricity, staff offices, libraries, hostels students, administrative blocks, recreation centers, a good road network and will undoubtedly lead to more strikes as is currently the case between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
This annual struggle between the federal government and the ASUU has been reignited. Unfortunately, after two years of back and forth, with no concrete movement on the original 2009 agreement or the 2010 memorandum of understanding between the two parties, we have come full circle now that our children have returned home. Due to the federal government’s refusal to honor simple agreements, ASUU’s initial month-long warning strike was extended for another two months. Failure on the part of the government to respond to union demands and deliver on its promises, as it quickly released $8.5 million for the evacuation of Nigerian students from war-torn Ukraine and donated $1 million to the Humanitarian Fund for Afghanistan, it smacks of blind contempt. It should be noted that most of the students who had to be evacuated for such an exorbitant amount, much of which will end up in their personal pockets, may not have needed to travel if the home school system was above average.
Yet, like universities in other African countries like South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda consistently outperform Nigeria in data from the respected authority in university rankings at the world scale, Webometrics, it is timely that action be taken to stop the continued slide. from a country that boasted of having one of the best educational programs in sub-Saharan Africa to a country that barely manages to register a university in 18th position in the ranking of academic institutions on the continent. The frivolous and reckless waste of resources in the country must be redirected and channeled towards overhauling the education sector.
Attention must be focused on all levels of education, beginning with local and state governments at the primary education level all the way to the federal level.
The government must pay attention to teacher training, while investing in creating a research-friendly environment to encourage innovation and increase the salary structure of teachers and lecturers with the inclusion of deserving benefits to limit brain drain and encouraging teachers to impart knowledge to students. This will require a financial injection that requires the collaboration of the private and public sectors.
In addition, the government will have to update school curricula with the injection and use of technologies adapted to international standards, combined with the provision of well-equipped libraries with ICT tools. Most importantly, the government will need to work in synergy with the ASUU to find better ways to resolve any disputes that may arise without resorting to strike action.
This is of utmost importance if we are to reap the benefits of an adequate education system. As the saying goes, no education system can rise above the quality of its teachers and no nation can rise above the quality of its education system.