• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Adequate investment in education will boost Nigeria’s economy — IMF, others

…As education budget consistently falls short of UNESCO benchmark

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recent report said Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth requires quality education for its growing population.

IMF reveals that the demographic transition may be the biggest single opportunity for the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa, but warned that the countries will only be able to enjoy the dividends if they make sufficient investments in education.

Nigeria boasts a vibrant youth population, with over 60 percent of its people under the age of 35. This demographic dividend presents a reservoir of human capital ripe for harnessing the nation’s socio-economic advancement.

According to the IMF report, “The region’s population is poised to double to two billion by 2050, and the expansion will be led by growth in the working-age population of those ages 15 to 64 which will outpace other age groups and drive almost all the increase.”

However, Nigeria’s education allocation consistently falls short of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) benchmark.

“Nearly three in 10 school-age children do not attend school. For primary school students, the completion rate is around 65 percent, compared with a world average of 87 percent.

Read also: Striving for excellence: Nigeria’s journey towards global educational standards

“And the literacy rate for those ages 15 to 24 is only 75 percent, below the nearly 90 percent rate in other emerging market and developing economies. On top of this, pandemic-related school closures led to learning losses that in some cases reversed years of progress,” IMF said.

Despite President Bola Tinubu’s allocation of N1.54 trillion to education which represents 7.9 percent of the 2024 budget, the 2015 education provision remains the highest percentage of the education financial plan in 10 years from 2015 to 2024. 7.9 percent allocation to education undermines whatever claims the Federal Government is making about plans to upgrade the standard of learning to meet what is obtainable globally.

The Federal Government’s budget allocation to education has been fluctuating over the years. Overall, the highest figure was reached in 2015, when over 10 percent of the national budget was allocated to the education sector.

Experts believe that insufficient education funding in Nigeria is foundational to inadequate infrastructure, limited educational materials, underpaid staff, inadequately trained teachers, and poor learning outcomes, among others.

The cumulative effect of these factors is the underdevelopment of the education sector, which is necessary for national growth and competitiveness in the global economy space.

In 2016, the country’s budget allocation to education was 7.9 percent, a decline of 2.89 percent from the previous year. It got worse in 2017 with an allocation of 6.13 percent.

2018 and 2019 witnessed marginal increases with 7.14 and 7.12 percent respectively allocated to education. The nose-diving trend continued in 2020 with education getting 6.5 percent of the total budget.

Experts decry this rather negative trend, describing it as a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s economic development.

Innocent Okwuosa, the 59th president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) urged President Bola Tinubu-led administration to improve the standard of education and health facilities in the country to reduce education and health tourism as steps to addressing the subsidy removal and naira devaluation policy.

“Proper funding of education will improve the standard of learning in the country, which will in turn lead to having students from other countries coming to school in Nigeria, and such will help to attract foreign exchange inflow.

“Remember in those days we used to have students that come from West Africa, from far away countries to Nigeria. What I recommend is for us to get to that state where we have Europeans, people from other African countries coming to study in Nigeria,” he noted.

Okwuosa further noted, “If that happens, that is foreign exchange inflow, because the issue we are addressing is that of foreign exchange; so a good educational system that ensures all facilities will attract foreign students and, therefore, becomes foreign exchange earning to the country.

“If you imagine how much the UK’s education system earns in foreign currency, you will understand what we are proposing.”

According to the Universities UK report, “On average, international students in the 2021/22 cohort make a 58 million British Pounds net economic contribution to the UK economy per constituency. This is equivalent to 560 British Pounds per member of the resident population.”

The IMF maintains that investment in education will provide countries such as Nigeria with a clear long-term economic gain that more than justifies the cost.

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