• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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How inflation, forex, fees hike battered education in 2023

How inflation, forex, fees hike battered education in 2023

The crisis in Nigeria’s economy, insecurity, surge in the cost of living, and other contending issues brought untold hard times to the education sector in 2023.

Coming out of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU’s) eight months strike many Nigerians had thought the tertiary education sector would experience normalcy, and progress.

But that was not to be as the worsening cost of living crisis and foreign exchange crunch affected the sector including teaching and non-teaching staff in the sector leading to mass exodus.

Poor and delayed salaries, unpaid allowances, poor infrastructure, lack of respect for the academic community, and the seeming dwindling hope were some of the factors experts citied for the mass exodus of lecturers.

Kayode Adebayo, the University of Lagos (UNILAG), ASUU chairman described education in 2023 as threatening and disappointing.

“It is so bad, and even threatening, the government allowed the university lecturers to go on strike for eight months. Which nation does that, the lighthouse of a country, being allowed to be closed down for that period?

The funding of the universities was not there from the beginning, hence we experienced a surge in the number of lecturers that left the country for green pasture in 2023,” he noted.

Similarly, Folasade Ogunsola, vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos described the year as a challenging period.

“2023, I think for the education sector was a tough time, tough in many respects. The state of the country was not favourable to the academics.

The foreign exchange rate made our poor salaries even poorer, and so from the point of view of the sector; it was a time when many people left the sector, it was a tsunami of exit,” she said.

Another noticeable challenge was the hike in fees across public schools.

The management of Unity Schools across the federation increased the school fees for new students by 122 percent in 2023.

The new students were asked to pay ₦100,000 instead of the previous N45,000 which brought untold hardship to many families.

Many parents groaned over the hike in school fees coupled with the surge in the cost of living which was worsened by the subsidy’s removal.

Joseph Nwankwo, a businessman with children in both secondary school and university said the reality of the high cost of living is that there is a multiplier effect on everything including school fees, books, uniforms, boarding fees, food, and other items.

“I have a child in one of the top-notch secondary schools in Lagos, I got a letter from the school that my child’s fee was N1.2 million as against N500,000.

Where do I start from, the elder brother in the university had his fees increased as well,” he said.

In its recent forecast for the year, KPMG predicted that Nigeria’s headline inflation may rise to 30 percent by December 2023 because of fuel subsidy removal, and the unification of the foreign exchange market.

The cost of food in Nigeria increased 32.84 percent in November 2023 over the same month in the previous year. Food Inflation in Nigeria averaged 12.98 percent from 1996 until 2023

Insecurity was another factor that crippled education in 2023. As the country’s security situation did not improve, a growing number of schools were being forced to shut down and many citizens were forced to migrate from one place to another and out of the country.

Forced by insecurity, schools, especially in the northern part of Nigeria, were forced to shut down without requiring express directives from the government as safety could not be guaranteed by school management.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three children in Nigeria is out of school, totaling 10.2 million at the primary level and 8.1 million at the junior secondary school (JSS) level in 2023.

The UN education body also indicated that 12.4 million children have never attended school, and 5.9 million left school prematurely, contributing to Nigeria’s out-of-school population, which accounts for 15 percent of the global total.

However, it was not all about tales of woes as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) invested in innovative solutions like the Beneficiary Identity Management Service (BIMS), thereby contributing significantly to the transformation of the academic landscape in Nigeria, by making quality education accessible to more students.

Besides, the year saw Elizabeth Korolo and Abdulsalam Ajara two school girls from Makoko-Lagos emerge as winners of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize Nigeria by inventing a water purifying device that turns contaminated water into safe drinking water.

Another good development was the exemption of tertiary institutions from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform brought gladness to the heart of many university staff.

Smart Olugbeko, the national president of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union recently applauded the government for that. Still, decried lack of political will that made the issue of IPPIS to had been prolonged thus far, “our union had consistently put up a strong opposition against IPPIS as a fraudulent and ineffective platform.

“It is sad that such a platform, with its obvious lapses, was allowed to wreak havoc on the education system for such a long time. It will take a long time before our institutions can be completely healed of the injuries caused by the IPPIS,” Olugbeko said.