As usual, a lot of rhetoric on the concern of state and Federal Governments to ensure that our children have the hope of a brighter future characterised the celebration of the 2021 Children’s Day. As usual too, there has been more talk than walk on improving on their Human Development Index (HDI). This has to do witha statistic composite index of life expectancy based on healthcare delivery, education, and per capita income indicators. These are the parameters used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
Unfortunately, Nigeria was ranked at 161 out of 189 countries and territories as at 2019. Though between 2005 and 2019, Nigeria’s HDI value increased from 0.465 to 0.539, an increase of 15.9 percent, its HDI value for 2019 stood at 0.539— which puts the country in the low human development category. In fact, the factors of the poor Healthcare Delivery, Education and Standard of living contributed 30.9percent, 28.2percent and 40.9percent to the increasing poverty level in that order.
And that brings to mind the critical question of what the current crop of greedy, geriatric set of leaders, who have clung on to the reins of political power for eons and brought the nation to its begging knees. Put simply, the old breed of politicians are going to bequeath an insecure, divisive, hunger-riddled and debt-ridden nation to the younger generation whenever they eventually get out of the corridors of power.
Oh yes, let us begin with education which should serve as the solid foundation for a nation’s holistic development, if well taken care of. Unfortunately, for now it is a parlous situation asNigeria’s Ministry of Education has said the number of out-of-school children stands at 10.1 million, an increase of more than 3 million from 2020.
As succinctly put by Dr. Mike Ene (NUT Secretary-General): “It is very pathetic that in the 21st century, our pupils are still studying under trees and dilapidated buildings, especially in Northern Nigeria. The menace of banditry and BokoHaram in the North-East and North-West is being used by the state governments as excuses, which should not be”.
Precisely in November 2019 both Tidi and FarinKasa Primary schools, located in the Shongom Local Government Area of Gombe state were reported as ‘having been abandoned by governments at all levels’. Each of the schools, which lack fences, boasts of only four teachers that handle about 150 pupils!
Similarly, Suleiman Bara’ Science and Technical College, Kwamba in Suleja area of Niger state, were reported as a school where students sleep on bare floors right there in so called hostels without doors or windows! Expectedly, mosquitoes feed fat on them at night and students carry out open defaecation, in the absence of toilets!
Sadly, both state governments-Gombe and Niger- culpable in this regard are amongst the states who refused to pay their counterpart funds for the Universal Basic Education Fund. They also refused to access the N67 billion Fund made available by the Federal Government, between 2005 and 2017.
It would be recalled that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program was introduced in 1999 and later backed up by the UBE Act of 2004. It is a special intervention of the Federal Government of Nigeria, which improved on the former National Primary Education (NPE) which had been operated from the 70’s till early 2000.
According to Prof. David Mba, Pro-V.C. and Dean Computing, Engineering and Media of De Montfort University, a World Bank 2018 survey of 435 private and public primary schools in Nigeria, that covered 2,968 teachers, showed that a teacher was absent from class for approximately 25percent of the scheduled teaching time.
The same survey showed that half of Nigerian primary school maths teachers couldn’t achieve 80percent or more on the tests they assigned their own pupils in their classrooms. What’s worse was that 60percent of maths teachers in grade four couldn’t subtract double digits. The same poor teacher quality is evident in the English language.
With this situation we cannot achieve Education for All (EFA) to reduce the rate of school dropouts and children out-of-school; improving quality and efficiency of basic education, as well as promoting the acquisition of literacy, numeracy, life skills and values for life-long education and useful living.
So, what do we make of a country with scare regards for the development of education, contrary to Section 2(1) of the act which provides that the government must provide free education for children of primary and secondary school age while Section 3(1) provides that services provided in public primary and secondary schools must be free?
How do we explain the fact that the education sector got N620.5bn (about 7.05 per cent) out of 8.6 trillion in the 2018 budget? Of the total N9.45tn budgeted for 2020 by the Federal Government, education is expected to receive N652.94bn (6.9 per cent). This is contrary to the promise the president made to the Nigerian Community during his visit to France in November, 2018. The situation is no better for several states across the country.
On the highly volatile issue of security this set of leaders will be leaving for our law-abiding youth the quest for self-defence. They are being compelled to possess arms and ammunition against the terrorists, bandits and kidnappers many of who have so far enjoyed an obnoxious immunity from the laws of the land or even granted questionable amnesty by the powers that be!
To compound their woes, young Nigerians will not only pay more for Value Added Tax(VAT), buy fuel at N385 or more per litre and for hike in electricity tariff but will contend with humungous debts! As at 2019, the national debt of Nigeria amounted to around 111.54 billion U.S. dollars. And by December 31, 2020 the Total Public Debt (TPD) was N32. 915 Trillion. The figures include the Debt Stock of the Federal and State Governments, as well as, the Federal Capital Territory.
Worse still, the federal government wants additional N2.3 trn loan. So who will pay these huge debts if not our children? Too often, we blame our youths for the escalating wave of crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, rape and terrorism without asking ourselves if we, as their elders have been there for them, or playing our parts. Do the perpetrators of these heinous crimes appear from Mars or Jupiter? Don’t they have parents, teachers, pastors or Imams? Have the governments (local, state and federal) acted as the father-figure to provide for their welfare and protect them against social and food insecurity as enshrined in Section 14,Sub section 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution,(as amended)? The answers are obvious.
Let us for a moment consider the mind-boggling and humungous sums of public funds serially siphoned to feather the nests of members of the political class ever since independence in 1960.Couldn’t that have facilitated in providing quality education, sustainable food security, sound healthcare delivery and the enabling infrastructural environment to provide mass employment for the youths?
What moral lessons are we teaching our children, who have to grow up daily in a thorny, political jungle peopled by power-poaching hyenas and jackals? The reasonable way forward therefore, is to do away with the 1999 constitution and replace it with that of 1963. The federal government should allow for restructuring- for the geo-political zones to control their resources and pay an agreed percent of their income as tax to the weakened centre.
That will engender healthy competition and bring out the best instead of the beast in our children.