• Friday, September 29, 2023
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Buhari leaves education with unkept promises

Obasanjo, Sanusi criticise Buhari’s weak fiscal decisions

President Muhammadu Buhari, who will leave office on Monday, has reneged on his promise to overhaul the education sector. He also did not deliver on some specific promises he made, leaving the education sector still grappling with the challenges he said he would tackle.

10,000 schools

In 2018, Buhari promised to overhaul the education sector if he was re-elected as president in 2019, and further pledged that his administration would remodel and equip 10,000 schools every year.

Buhari made the promise during the public presentation of his campaign manual and a “Next Level” in Abuja. If re-elected, he said he would focus on education.

“Perhaps our biggest ambition yet is the overhaul of our education sector. Every child counts – and simply, whatever it takes to prepare our teachers, curriculum and classrooms to attain the right educational goals that grow our country, will be done. We will remodel 10,000 schools every year,” he had said.

The remodelling plan is captured under the ‘Every Child Counts Programme’ and the policy is aimed at transforming digital literacy, functional skills acquisition, school infrastructure and retraining for the purpose of moving Nigeria to a knowledge-driven economy. It was also expected to equip and transform classrooms to labs.

Since 2019, however, the only project that commenced was the Federal Government’s rehabilitation of 104 unity schools across the country.

However, investigations have revealed deplorable conditions of schools and classrooms, with lack of critical facilities. In many parts of the country including the Federal Capital Territory, BusinessDay found out that in some government-owned schools especially, children still learn on the floor, under leaking roofs, and under the trees in extreme conditions. The environment in these schools are unhygienic and are absolutely not conducive for learning.

Education budget

Another ambitious promise of President Buhari was to increase the education budget by 50 percent in two years.

In 2021, Buhari joined other world leaders at a meeting in London, United Kingdom, to sign a form of commitment, contained in a document titled: “Heads of State Call to Action on Education Financing Ahead of The Global Education Summit.”

“We commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 percent over the next two years, and up to 100 percent by 2025 beyond the 20 percent global local benchmark,” Buhari had said on the outcome of the meeting.

This came as a cheering news to stakeholders in the education sector, considering that the Nigerian education system is marred by infrastructure deficit and is in dire need of capital investment.

However, the news was also received with cautious excitement.

In 2021, about 5.5 percent, representing N742.5 billion was allocated to the sector

The sector got a mere 7.9 percent in 2022 and 8.8 percent in 2023.

Princewill Anyalweechi, a former director in the ministry of education, lamented that the sector did not recieve the attention it deserved, denying millions of citizens access to quality education.

Out-of-school children

A factsheet on “Highlights of the Achievement of Buhari’s Administration” released by State House showed that Buhari’s government succeeded in reducing the number of out-of-school children by 3,247,590 as at 31st December, 2020. This figure, however, pales into insignificance when compared to the burden of out-of-school children in the country, according to experts. Princewill Anyalewechi, a former director of education, said the government failed to tackle the menace, while children continued to “roam the streets hopelessly and aimlessly”.

He added these children are already a pool for criminality, and the country is only sitting on a time bomb.

Buhari’s government said the feat it recorded was achieved through a World-Bank financed programme known as ‘Better Education Service Delivery for All’ (BESDA).

A Demographic Health Survey conducted by UNICEF and the Nigerian government in 2015, when Buhari became Nigeria’s president, put the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria at 13.2 million.

Read also: Northern Nigeria’s educational impairment fuels extremism, banditry – Sankore

In 2022, UNICEF reported that the figure had risen to 18.5 million children.

But, Buhari’s minister of education, Adamu Adamu, had in 2016, when he began his first tenure, pledged to take up to 10 million children off the street in four years through the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP 2016-2019). The first pillar of this plan is to address the out-of-school children crisis. Upon reappointment, Adamu stretched the Plan (MSP) 2018 – 2022 in order to implement the goals of the MSP in his second tenure.

The minister also secured a $611 million (N220 billion) grant from the World Bank to tackle the problem through the BESDA programme, aimed at increasing equitable access for out-of-school-children, among others.

In January 2021, the minister claimed that the number of out-of-school children dropped to 6.9 million, but weeks after, the National Assembly put the figure at 10.5 million, and a year after, data from UNICEF showed that the figure rose to nearly 20 million.