by Mukhtar Modibbo Halilu
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has not only revealed the poor state of infrastructure and facilities in the health sector of Nigeria but has also revealed the reality of the dilapidation and poor funding of the education sector. Aside from the health sector, no other area has suffered the impact of COVID-19 like education.
While many countries have easily adapted and switched to virtual classes, in Nigeria, it is not only difficult but also impossible to open our schools virtually due to lack of facilities necessary to operate virtual classes, poor provision of internet network, unstable power supply, high cost of mobile data and other challenges. Many children were out of school even before the pandemic, and even more have dropped out due to the pandemic. CODE’s research on the impact of COVID on Girls’ Education revealed that a significant number of guardians and parents in Nigeria’s North-East were certain that their girls will not be returning to school.
The learn from home teaching method introduced by the Nigerian Ministry of Education to teach through radio and television is not yielding the desired results. The electricity supply in the nation is below average and the majority of Nigerians are living below the poverty line and cannot afford televisions or radios.
The need to Protect Education Budgets
The need to protect education budgets has never been more urgent. Records show that for the past ten years, the Nigerian education sector allocation has not reached the UNESCO recommended 10 to 15% of budget in developing countries. This has led to teachers’ strikes at all levels of education in Nigeria, with other calamities that have reduced the once proud education sector into a puppet and a complete laughing stock in international education rating standards.
In Nigeria, basic education is financed through concurrent financing from the three tiers of government—Federal, State and Local Government Authority, with distinct financing mandates and responsibilities for each tier. The Federal Government provides 50% and the State and local government as 30% and 20% respectively.
As a result, state investment in education is heavily reliant on the federal account allocation, making its educational goals susceptible to challenges of national resource mobilization (COVID-19, International Oil Price Fluctuation) and expenditure management.
The Federal Government of Nigeria allocated the sum of 568 billion Naira (approx. USD 1.5 billion) to education in 2020. However as a result of COVID this allocation was reduced to 509 billion Naira (approx. USD 1.34 billion). This has pressured public schools into dismissing hundreds of temporary staff members, and skyrocketed student school fees in various institutions, thereby increasing the inequality in education.
In addition, the attacks on education facilities in Northeast Nigeria have destroyed infrastructure worth billions of Naira and resulted in the deaths of countless students and teachers. This destruction requires funding to rebuild and to employ more teachers, as well as strengthen the security to assure the safety of teachers and learners.
Nigeria’s Debt Status
As of March 31, 2020, Nigeria’s debt was at 28.6 trillion Naira (USD79.3 billion). As the country addresses this debt burden, funding to social sectors, especially education, is likely to pay the price. Lack of support for education will affect wider development issues including health, poverty and economic growth, as well as the empowerment of women and young people. This will thereby have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy, safety, literacy and equality. Education provides the platform to improve the quality of life and continuous regeneration of knowledge, capacity and skill in the society for continuous productivity and development.
Now is the time for education leaders to step up their investment in education and increase enrollment to schools, especially for girls. All stakeholders must double their efforts to sustain the recorded achievement and contribute to the realization of SDG 4.
To increase enrolment and improve the security of students, we must ensure adequate financing for education and protect education budgets during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Education must be accessible to all without any form of discrimination.