That the standard of education in Nigeria has been on the decline is not a piece of news to anyone in the country. Considering the various squabbles between the unions and the government, resulting in industrial actions on varying lengths, that the educational sector is still alive is a miracle. For how long we can continue to depend on this miracle is what we cannot ascertain. Especially as it seems that parties involved keep testing the limits of each other’s patience.
Consider the 2017 budget presented by President Buhari last week. The Ministry of Education is expected to gulp N398.01b in recurrent expenditure. Besides, under capital expenditure, it was stated in the budget that the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) will get N92 billion and Education N50 billion. On the whole, a total of N540.01bn will be expended on education sector in 2017.
While a cursory glance may result in praise of the numbers, a deep analysis will reveal that the proposal is testing the already fragile limits of academic institutions and their staff. Already, Vanguard reports that Federal Government owes ASUU N124bn earned allowance from 2013 to 2016, just as it also owes the union N495bn accumulated arrears, a grand total of N619bn, which exceeds the education budget (N540.01) of 2017.
And that’s just debt to ASUU. The 2017 salaries and allowances have not been accounted for, neither has capital investment into the educational system been factored in. Add to this the fact that the budget is supposed to cater for 25 federal polytechnics, 22 federal colleges of education and 104 federal unity schools and you will understand why the ASUU boss is ‘shocked’ at the proposal.
Another disturbing factor to key in is that, according to the unions, the relevant bosies both at the executive and legislative arms promised that education will receive significant upward review in terms of proportions allocated to it.
“The Committee on Education in the National Assembly, assured us that they were going to improve on the last year’s budget. We told them that the allocation of education moved from 11 percent in 2015 to 8 percent in 2016, they assured us that we would see significant improvement in 2017. If they can come up with an allocation that is not up to 5 percent, they are not keeping to their words”
Such mistrust fostered between the unions and the government can only have one outcome- a further dilapidation of the system. Considering its current state though, that would be equivalent to a final death of the system.