One of the most important instruments that is globally acknowledged for driving sustainable economic development is “education”. The realization of national economic growth, social development, individual potential, and the fostering of global citizenship, all lies in the domain of education and skills acquisition, thus education boosts the manpower of any economy.
The economic return attributed to education constitutes an important incentive for individuals as well as government to invest in education. As such, investments in education is a prerequisite for nation-building as the quality of manpower/human resources available in any nation is dependent on the citizens skills and creative abilities.
The ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike is on its sixth month with no end in sight. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recently mandated the Minister of Education to resolve the strike expeditiously. While many believe the strike is a righteous cause for the faculty and staff unions, the consequence of the ongoing strike has regrettably set back students for a minimum of one year. Parents and guardians who have worked tirelessly to pay for their wards tuition and fees are now at a breaking point because now they have a full house with idle children who will at some point become a burden to society because as you know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
I write today not from the lens of the ongoing debate of the ASUU strike but rather from lens of the federal government budget allocation to education in the last twenty years vis a vis the “quality” of education being imparted. To be sure, the quality of education in this context chiefly speaks to the curriculum and the quality of graduates upon completing a baccalaureate degree.
On the funding front, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a benchmark of four to six percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 15 to 20 percent of public expenditure. In Nigeria, determining the total funding for education can prove tricky since funding for education is on the concurrent list in the Nigerian constitution, which means that total public expenditure on education must be calculated not only from the federal level, but also from state government and of course the tertiary education trust fund (TETFund).
Q: If children are the leaders of tomorrow, it is of paramount importance to provide them the necessary tools to enable them to succeed
In the last seven years, 2015 – 2021 total Federal budgetary allocation to education has been between a paltry 5.39 – 10.79 percent of a total federal budget that ranged between N4.45tn – N17.13tn. The student outcomes for graduates of public institutions vary greatly when compared to their peers in private universities.
Practical steps towards bridging the funding Gap
In the United States tertiary education system, public universities have access to budgetary allocation to enable their respective schools operate. However, public schools have also complained tirelessly on the inadequacy of the volume of funds for their school systems.
To support the respective programs within the universities, heads of departments in the United States along with their “Deans” seek out partnerships with private companies that are willing to support their programs as well as serve as a pipeline for future employment into the private company’s payroll. For instance, consider a mega bank such as J.P. Morgan Chase providing funds to public universities ‘business schools programs’ with a condition that the faculty enhances their curriculum to the current trends in the banking system. Upon completion of the degree program, the same J.P. Morgan Chase employs a percentage of the graduates from that public university.
In the same vein, here in Nigeria, a commercial bank can similarly partner with a public university to achieve a similar outcome. While I use banking as an example, truthfully, the same can be said for the Medical, Manufacturing, Hospitality industries and so on. This in my view, can aid in reducing the quality gap in the curriculum while simultaneously resolving the funding gap as well.
In conclusion, the funding and quality of education in Nigeria is at a crossroads. If children are the leaders of tomorrow, it is of paramount importance to provide them the necessary tools to enable them to succeed. Indeed, there remains the elephant in the room which I will simply coin as bureaucracy. In the end, the carrot and stick approach would prove helpful in this regard. A pilot program with five federal and state universities with a similar amount of private sector firms cutting across multiple disciplines would serve well as a test case for the education sector in the country.