• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Why Peter Obi’s plans for education excite Nigeria’s academia

Why Peter Obi’s plans for education excites Nigeria’s academia

Revamping the education system through a well-designed private corporation participation funding if elected president in 2023, as contained in the manifesto of Peter Obi (PO), presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) is eliciting confidence among stakeholders in the education sector, BusinessDay findings show.

Obi had in his manifesto tagged, ‘Our Pact with Nigerians’ stated that his government would if elected approach the revamping of the education system by introducing private sector participation in education funding.

According to the manifesto, “The ministry of education will work out a public-private model that involves private corporations assuming funding and managerial responsibilities in a specially restructured taxation plan.

“This design will see some private corporations pay their taxes in the form of taking management of a school while the ministry continues to retain ownership, set the national curriculum and manage other oversight functions. This will reduce the bottlenecks and burden of the government and ensure that education is delivered with consistently high quality.”

With this approach, private companies are to pay their taxes by adopting a school. The ministry of education will own the schools, but private companies will fund and deduct taxes. For example, MTN will fund the University of Abuja and then deduct it from the Companies Income Tax (CIT).

Education cannot thrive with just the government funding; there is a need for private-public agreement in funding

Ramisi Lasisi, a senior lecturer at Federal University, Otuoke in Bayelsa State believes the public-private partnership is absolutely the way forward but requires ideal structures to operate.

“Without any sense of contradiction, public-private partnership models stand out as the most viable approach to addressing systemic problems all over the world.

However, their success depends largely on several other factors that also include strong systems or if you-like institutions. Currently, no one in Nigeria needs a soothsayer to have clarity on the fact that the education sector is in serious need of funding and by extension prudent resources management,” he said.

Lasisi cited funding as the main reason the tertiary education sub-system has had a protracted history of industrial actions. He said that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) eight months strike is a strong justification for any sitting government or would-be president to thinker around the best possible approach to scale up funding for the education sector.

He reiterated the fact that with budgetary allocation of less than 10 percent over the years, the education sector has decayed significantly to the extent that even in Africa, notwithstanding its quantitative giant status, Nigeria is not found among the top 10 African countries in the 2022 World Education Forum ranking.

“Let us also not forget to place our discussion within the global trend in education funding as all over the world, there is an increasing need to expand sources of funding for the education sector, especially Higher Education. Hence, I have no problem with a presidential candidate in Nigeria proposing what he may consider a new or upgraded public-private partnership model for education funding in the country.

“While I am not sure of how different the proposal would be especially in light of the current framework operated through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) which already oscillates within a corporate tax framework, I am particularly keen on the long-term commitment rather than the structure.

“No one should get me wrong, the structure is important, but the genuine commitment to sustainable funding and quality education should be the desired goal. There is no doubt that the funding gap in the education sector and indeed all other sectors in Nigeria can be effectively bridged through well-planned Education Public Private Partnerships (ePPP), but there are a few things to consider especially within the structural circumstances surrounding the sector in the case of Nigeria. For instance, a strategic ePPP requires a sophisticated governance framework, stakeholders’ commitment, innovative leadership, and a sustainable outlook.

“Although pockets of ePPPs are operated independently in different universities, the TETFund serves as a centralized ePPP hub to cascade funding to public tertiary education institutions across the country relying on two percent education tax from the assessable profit of companies registered in Nigeria. However, despite the amazing progress that TETFund has engineered in these institutions over the years, the reality is that funding is still a huge challenge.

This clearly provides a basis to expand the existing framework or introduce new ePPP models. The mention of restructured taxation in the ePPP proposal aligns significantly with the existing TETFund model without downplaying levels of involvement which may make the new proposal different.

Read also: Education should be extracurricular inclusive Fashola

Whatever the case may be, a proposal to increase private corporations’ funding and managerial responsibilities is surely a welcome development but this depends on how structural historical burdens on the system are addressed. For instance, prudent management of resources and qualitative re-engineering of the education system itself are central to the progress of any ePPP model going forward,” he noted.

For Chinedu Onyegbula, an energy sector expert and director at Bullox Resources Limited Nigeria needs wide and diverse options to bridge our gaps in revenue generation and funding for infrastructure development and other specialized areas like education.

Onyegbula pointed out that studies have shown that government spending on education to achieve productivity results should be about 15-20 percent in developing countries, while Nigeria spends averaging about six percent. So, what the special tax system being proposed by the presidential candidate does, is that it gives taxes credit for private entities that invest in educational programmes and infrastructure, the investments can be used as tax credits towards tax payments they would have made.

“In essence, a private sector entity chooses schools across the country and commits funds towards their development, applies the investment to reduce their tax obligations. This model is workable in Nigeria as the private corporations are morally obliged and duty bound to promote their image, invest in the communities where they conduct their business, build capacity and develop projects that align with their shared interests, and buy the loyalty of the indigenes towards their brand while being a responsible tax paying entities.

“Everyone benefits, government has more players captured in the tax paying bracket, encourages increased and improved investments in the sector, and provides cushion for government to redirect funds and efforts into other sectors they’re unable to focus on. Obviously, there’ll be a monitoring and evaluation process component to ensure that best practices are implemented and aligned with shared interests and priorities. It is obvious that government needs to be creative and effective with the strategies and policies they undertake in development to ensure they achieve their objectives, and this is one of them, where they leverage the ingenuity, creative nature, resourcefulness, and capacity of the private sector to support the government in achieving their goals and objectives,” he said.

Stanley Alaubi, a senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt thinks this would be a very good innovation if it would be allowed to see the light of day.

“Education cannot thrive with just the government funding; there is a need for private-public agreement in funding,” he said.