Scientists discovered several decades ago that the cell was the basic unit of life (Postlethwait & Hopson, 2006). Thus, from the microscopic amoeba to the gigantic whale in the sea, the cell remains the basic building block of life.
Education in a society, just like the cell, cannot be dispensed with; it is so fundamental and crucial. The education sector of any nation is its powerhouse without which national progress is impossible! Consequently, any nation that desires to wriggle itself out of the manacles of poverty and backwardness must not only revere education but also adequately fund it.
Lamentably, although UNESCO enjoins developing nations to apportion 26% of their budgets to funding education (Mordi, 2008), Nigeria has continued to cut back on funding her education sector which has made it difficult to develop quality education that is free from examination malpractices, academic misconducts, strikes and corruption. It is lugubrious to note that the 2013 budget which the government claims gives priority to education is nothing to beat one’s chest about. The 8.7% allocation to education is hardly anywhere close to neighboring Ghana’s 31% (Vanguard, 2013). It is therefore not surprising that many of our students are now flying abroad to have their educational needs met.
Were I to assume the headship of the country today, funding education would be top on my agenda as lack of funding remains the biggest monster gradually tearing down the fabric of the Nigerian education system.
The pathetic state of basic school infrastructure
Following a nationwide tour of schools in 1997, the Federal Ministry of Education discovered that basic infrastructures such as classrooms, laboratories, workshops, sporting facilities, and libraries were in a state of total decay (Moja, 2000). This discovery seems to lend credence to the current state of affairs in all Nigerian schools. Many of the students in primary and secondary schools are groaning under the adverse effects of receiving lessons in classrooms with students packed full like sardine and the tertiary institutions continue to grapple with incessant strikes, inadequately equipped libraries, decayed sporting facilities, underfunded research departments and epileptic power supply.
Demand for education surpasses supply
Similarly, although the current literacy rate in Nigeria is put at 61% (Nigeria Education Fact Sheet, 2012), it is mind-boggling that the facilities available cannot accommodate the growing number of the school-aged population. Indeed our case has become like that of the tortoise who, though hungry for days, could not accept all of the mouth-watering delicacies brought to him simply because there was nowhere else to put them aside his stomach!
A lot of people were dazed when the report of the Education Data Bank arrived in 1995 showing that only about 447,859 classrooms were available for more than 15 million students enrolled in 1993- 1994 (Moja, 2000), I guess it will amaze them even the more to discover that in 2010, not up to one third of the students who sought admission into universities in Nigeria were eventually admitted (Nigeria Education Fact Sheet, 2012).
Decline in qualified academic staff
In spite of the above, there is an acute shortage of qualified academic staff at all levels of education in Nigeria, especially in the critical areas of science and technology. This is not unconnected with the fact that most teachers see the teaching profession as a stepping stone to greater things in life. For some, teaching is only a means to an end and that is why they quickly vamoose from the classrooms whenever better-paying jobs come knocking. The Nigerian Education Fact Sheet (2012) also reported that over 60% of the academic staff in the Nigerian university system are in the category of lecturer 1 and below due to inter and intra-sectoral brain drain. Also, majority of teachers in primary and secondary schools are fresh graduates who, for lack of employment, have to make do with teaching for the time being.
More bothersome is the fact that government can still not pay the few teachers and lecturers there are because it does not prioritize its spendings. This is one of the causes of the ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike in Nigeria. Just recently, the Minister of Finance declared:
“At present, ASUU wants government to pay 92 billion in extra allowances over and above their salaries. Though we are in discussion with them, the problem is that the resources to take care of the demands are simply not there.” (Vanguard, 2013)
The three-pronged approach to funding education in Nigeria
The government on the one hand
When it comes to funding education in Nigeria, the place of the government cannot be downplayed. It remains the fons et origo. Therefore, the government must as a matter of necessity make the education of the citizenry a priority by increasing the budgetary allocation to the sector so as to effectively fend for the needs of schools at all levels. Just as 25% was appropriated to funding the security sector in 2012, the same percentage or more should be earmarked to fund education as recommended by UNESCO because “education is to society what the eye is to the body as well as what the rain is to the land in a fit of drought” (Osundare, 2009). Increased funding to the education sector would mean improved classroom conditions for the students, equipped laboratories and better welfare for the teachers. That way teaching will no longer be regarded as a means to an end but as a profession that pays well.
Furthermore, the government should encourage private participation in the funding of university education in Nigeria by offering well meaning Nigerians, organizations and corporate bodies tax reliefs if they provide library materials, improved power supply, sporting facilities and research materials as it is practiced in countries like the UK, USA, Canada, and the Netherlands (Obayan F.O.B., 2006).
It is recommended that the allocation to education must however not be on paper alone. The budget implementation committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Nigerian parliament must see to it that the budget is implemented to the gills without any attempt to deviate from what is contained on paper. The executive should also ensure that the Ministry of Education handles the disbursed monies with all sense of transparency.
Private individuals and corporate bodies on another
Similarly, as Uloeje (2004) observed “… government alone cannot sustain the present rate of the required increase in funding. The system requires a rigorous diversification of funding sources…” There is therefore the need for gilded Nigerians and corporate organizations to come to the aid of the government by contributing their quota towards the development of education in Nigeria. Individuals and multinational companies like MTN, Glo and Airtel can help in the building of classrooms, laboratories, state of the art sporting facilities and other infrastructures for schools at all levels of education to aid effective manpower development. Doing so will establish their credibility in the Nigerian society which will eventually pay off in the long run.
The school administrations’ roles
More so, the school managements should not see the funding of their schools as the duty of the government and that of wealthy Nigerians alone; it should be seen as their duty too. Schools at all levels must begin to think of ways of generating income to fund their internal projects and cater for the welfare of their teachers.
The universities particularly must diversify their sources of funding as relying on government subventions or the tuition fees of the students is not the best. They can therefore engage in legal businesses like the building of students’ eateries, cyber cafes, pure water production, bakeries, radio stations and laundries that will fetch them money.
Similarly, at the primary and secondary school level, the administrations of the school and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the schools can levy themselves to provide certain amenities in the school or provide for the welfare of the teachers. This has been effectively practiced by some schools in Nigeria and it has proved effective. For example, the university of Ilorin secondary school’s PTA levied itself the sum of 100 Naira ($0.66) per annum to provide a home economics building for the school in 1986-1988 (Obayan F.O.B., 2006). Today the building stands tall like the statue of liberty fully operational and equipped for teaching home economics and home management.
One of the major problems that confronts education in Nigeria today is the lack of funding and if national progress is to be achieved, the funding of education must not be seen as the duty of the government alone but also that of private individuals and corporations. The school managements must also see the funding of their schools as their duty as they are not babies that should be spoon-fed. If we all put our hands on deck we shall in the near future be proud of the national progress which we will collectively achieve.
Mosadomi W. (2013), No money to meet ASUU’s demands, says Okonjo-Iweala, accessed on 30th September, 2013
Mordi R. (2008) swimming on a shee string budget Tell: Nigerian Weekly Magazine, 3rd November, 2008, p. 32
Moja T. (2000), Nigerian Education Sector Analysis: An Analytical Synthesis of Performance and Main Issues World Bank Document, pp. 1-49
Nigeria Education Fact Sheet (2012), Economic section; United States embassy in Nigeria, accessed on 30th September, 2013
Obayan F.O.B. (2006), Educational Financing: Trends and Strategies Goshen Print Media ltd, Ilorin, Kwara State, pp. 131-135
Osundare N. (2009), Education and Sustainable Development, The News, March 05, accessed 5th October, 2013
Postlethwait J.H. & Hopson J.L. (2006) Modern Biology, Holt, Rinehart and Winston Harcourt Education Company, p.69
Uloeje M.U. (2004), University administration and management: the Nigerian experience p. 91