Analysis: Buhari’s education revitalisation promise fails expectation

As President Muhammadu Buhari looks to handing over power on May 29, 2023, many are still wondering when he intends to bring to pass his promise of revitalising the education sector.

In his statement during the 2017 retreat on education, the president said that education was Nigeria’s launch pad to a more productive and prosperous future.

He assured of his administration’s commitment to revitalise the country’s education system and make it more responsive and globally competitive.

With his administration having about four months to hand over, the country’s education system is far from being globally competitive.

Nigeria’s education system has been rocked by incessant strikes under Buhari’s leadership, students spent most of their time roaming the streets rather than being in the classrooms.

In Nigeria today, primary education has continued to flounder much as secondary education, with private owners of schools charging arbitrarily without any form of regulation in a country where the minimum wage is N30,000.

The situation is better at the tertiary level of education. Only recently, the Nigerian university system was thrown into a huge crisis as it was locked down for eight months. The system is still afflicted by depleted facilities, poor research funding and staff remuneration, among others.

Unlike in the 1970s and 1980s when Nigerian universities ranked among the best globally, universities in recent times are poorly ranked in global ranking systems.

According to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings for 2022, the best two Nigerian universities- University of Ibadan and University of Lagos were ranked in the 501–600 range of the more than 1,600 universities across 99 countries and territories, which is by far not a way of being globally competitive.

The rankings were conducted based on 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook.

The commitment of a government to a sector is gauged by the financial contribution it makes to that sector in its budget. In 2017, N550 billion (7.38 percent) was allocated to education out of the N7.29 trillion total budget.

In the budget, the ministry of education was allocated N398.01 billion meant for recurrent expenditure. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) got N95 billion while education for N56 billion for capital expenditure respectively.

Buhari subsequently reduced allocation to the sector from 7.1 percent in 2019 to 6.9 percent in 2020. The allocation to the sector rose from 7.9 percent in 2022 to 8.8 percent in 2023.

For his two terms of fours in office, the president did not attain up to 15 percent of the annual budget allocation for education which is seen as a critical unit of the economy, nor did he make substantial investments in the training of teachers at all levels of the system.

Read also: APC’s deceptive educational policy

Under the Buhari’s government in 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike for nine months following the union’s disagreement with the Federal Government over the funding of the universities and negating the autonomy policy for the universities, among other issues.

In 2022 the strike lingered for another eight months before the Federal Government could arrest the situation through a means many see as controversial.

Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of the House of Representatives had to intervene to get the lecturers back to the classroom.

Stanley Boroh, a senior lecturer at the Federal University of Otuoke in Bayelsa State, maintains that the Buhari administration failed in its promises as regards the education sector.

“It is under his watch that lecturers went on strike for over eight months twice and still the issues have not been resolved, rather they became worse. This administration even used hunger as a weapon to fight the academia,” he said.

According to the lecturer, since 2015, President Buhari failed to make any difference in the matter, yet he had portrayed himself as someone who had a magic wand to address the issue.

Friday Erhabor, director of media and strategies at Markelenez Limited believes that the current administration can still remedy the situation before exiting in May 2023.

“Education policy, especially tertiary education needs to be reviewed for there to be any meaningful change,” he said.

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