(By Adejoh Idoko Momoh)
“What this ministry must do if it is to have any hope of advancing the cause of Nigeria’s education is to adjust immediately its budgeting systems in favour of 70 per cent capital provisions and 30 per cent recurrent spending. It must enact policies that aim to reduce non-education related expenses, ensure appropriate curricula and evaluation techniques, provide parents with incentives for educating their children and promote early literacy through government owned, regulated and properly monitored pre-school programmes“.
FROM the highest population of out-of-school children anywhere in the world, to an Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) industry wide strike that left all federal universities shut for about five months and an Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics which until recently saw our polytechnics shut down for about seven months due to grievances with the government, the 2013 fiscal year would undoubtedly go down in history as one of Nigeria’s bleakest for education.
It had been generally hoped that the 2014 fiscal year would be better for the Ministry of Education, sadly, it is not. To prove this, we will look at its spending plans for the year with the aim of finding out why this Ministry is doomed to repeat the same mistakes it has always made. We will see what provisions this ministry has for students in need of scholarships and in what measure it intends to contribute to Nigeria’s human capital development.
In the 2014 fiscal year, some N493, 458,130,268 is allocated to the ministry for both recurrent and capital expenditure. This represents a decrease of N15, 581,583,493 when compared to N509, 039,713,761 budgeted the previous year, 2013. As it is, the ministry’s allocation is 10.63 per cent of the national budget and is 15.37 per cent shy of the 26 per cent education allocation recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
A total sum of N443,922,095,037 (89.96 per cent) was being set aside for recurrent expenditure, while a paltry N49,536,035,231 or 10.3 per cent voted for capital projects. What is disturbing here is that this budget was drafted according to the guidelines stipulated in the President’s Transformation Agenda but it painfully falls short of addressing any real challenges facing this sector or being able to provide any transformation for our schools or students.
Of the recurrent budget, N22, 889,765,945 (5.1 per cent) of the recurrent budget would go into overhead costs and N421, 032,329,092 (94.8 per cent) was going to fund personnel costs. The fact that 95 per cent of the recurrent budget goes to fund personnel costs or pay staff salaries only confirms the fact that with a bloated, largely ineffective set of employees, this ministry is still far away from any significant development strides in education. Let me ask this, how can a ministry that should cater to students and equip schools and laboratories at all levels spend 90 per cent of its budget on staff salaries and maintaining buildings? You be the judge for yourself; does this sound like a progressive budget?
We must ask pertinent questions about budgets especially when they concern a ministry as crucial as education. Do we judge a budget progressive by the amount of staff salaries it pays or the number of classroom blocks it builds? If a budget spends only a fraction of what it spends on maintaining buildings alone, that is on laboratory building and equipping, can we say that budget is progressive? Do we call a budget that apportions 89 per cent of its entire allocation to paying staff salaries as opposed to only 10 per cent on development related expenditure a development oriented budget?
The ministry supervises about 209 agencies including all Federal Government Colleges, polytechnics, universities and the National Board for Technical Education. The MDAs benefitting the most are Universal Basic Education Board N74,410,000,000 (15 per cent), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria N13,541,119,910 (2.7 per cent), University of Benin N13,240,555,881 (2.6 per cent), Federal Ministry of Education HQ N12,923,175,673 (2.6 per cent) and University of Ibadan N12,301,477,952 (2.4 per cent). The least funded are FSTC, Doma N185,825,663 (0.03 per cent), FGC Birin Yauri, N187,731,956 (0.03 per cent), FGCU Anka N193,034,507 (0.03 per cent), FTC Lassa N198,945,750 (0.04 per cent) and FSTC Doma N185,825,663 (0.03 per cent).
You would notice among other things that two institutions mandated with teacher training are among the least funded agencies. Is it, therefore, surprising that our teachers are poorly trained? Is it surprising that over 50,000 teachers will fail elementary school examinations? In addition, in a ministry as sensitive as Education, why does the headquarters allocated a significant 2.6 per cent of the overall budget when it only performs supervisory and administrative roles?
Even more saddening is the fact that the headquarters would spend only N950 million of its N12.9 billion allocation on constructing public schools. It would spend some N267.6 million on servicing scholarships i.e. N9.8 million for 2010 recipients, N74.5 million for 2011; N99.8 million for 2012 and N83.5m for 2013; this is an easy demonstration of how much the government values education. How does a government that considers education a priority spend less than N100 million on federal scholarships in a year? The irony herein is that at N398 million, the sum set aside by the Headquarters for allowances and social contribution is about four times what it spends on scholarships annually. Its miscellaneous budget also is about N107 million also above its scholarship allowance.
What this ministry must do if it is to have any hope of advancing the cause of Nigeria’s education is to adjust immediately its budgeting systems in favour of 70 per cent capital provisions and 30 per cent recurrent spending. It must enact policies that aim to reduce non-education related expenses, ensure appropriate curricula and evaluation techniques, provide parents with incentives for educating their children and promote early literacy through government owned, regulated and properly monitored pre-school programmes. We must raise demands, ask for professionalism and focus in this all important sector; we cannot afford to leave it in this state of orchestrated negligence that promotes mediocrity and mass failure.
In the end, it is not just education that is at risk, it is the larger society; it is the future of the Nigerian civil service we have tried so hard to reform, small-scale businesses and their success. It is about the future of educated Nigerians and citizens who can compete for equal opportunities on a global scale and a middle class who will enjoy a far better standard of living than is available now. It is about putting faith in a government to protect a very vital sector of our national and individual lives.
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