New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

Education sector: 2022 budget as albatross

Poor budget allocation, bane of education sector

BUDGET

Given the low allocation to the education sector in the federal and state government budgets for 2022 fiscal year, like the previous years, indications have emerged that the critical sector may suffer yet another major setback and challenge. KAYODE OLANREWAJU examines the sectoral budget profile

 

˜SSANU: We don’t see anything change based on 2022 budget

˜Don: ‘FG’s education budget a huge joke’

 

The year 2022, like the previous years, may not be the best for the education sector, given the poor allocation to the sector in the Federal Government budget for the fiscal year.

 

The Federal Government had in the nation’s fiscal budget outlay of N17,126,873,917,692 approved by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in December last year, allocated N593,473,925,256, representing 7.9 per cent to the education sector.

 

The low budgetary allocation, however, has continued to raise concern among stakeholders, who expressed worry that rather than for the budget to go up, allocations to the education sector have steadily declined.

 

This year’s 7.9 per cent was an improvement over the Federal Government 2021 allocation in which N545,101,307,813, representing 6.3 per cent, was earmarked to the same sector. Given the budget trends to the sector over the years, poor budgetary allocation to education especially at all levels of government has constituted the major handicap, challenging the development and efficient performance of the sector.

 

While signing the 2022 Appropriations Bill of N17.126 trillion into law at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari said that critical ongoing projects cardinal to his administration would not suffer a setback due to reduced funding.

 

The President, however, noted the    fiscal year 2022 would be very crucial in his administration’s efforts to complete and put to use critical agenda projects, as well as improve the general living conditions of Nigerian people.

But, stakeholders have expressed dismay over persistent poor fiscal allocation to the critical sector, which they blamed on the government’s refusal to give education its fair share of the resources of the country despite the gargantuan rot and monumental challenges confronting the sector over the years.

 

To them, the budget christened: “Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability,” in all estimation would take the sector nowhere, given the sectoral encumbrances ranging from poor teachers’ remuneration and several months of unpaid teachers’ salary by some state governments; unpaid arrears of pension and gratuity; unresolved crises in higher institutions over non-implementation of various Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and Memoranda of Action (MoA) signed with the workers’ unions leading to incessant strikes; introduction of high tuition fees; the brain drain syndrome; poor infrastructure/facilities and inadequate qualified teachers in the school system to shortage of classroom facilities; and ineffective curriculum, which are all begging attention.

 

However, with the glaring indices of poor budgetary allocation to the sector, it was expected that the government at all levels should have raised the bar of allocations to education in order to address with dispatch the rising figure of out-of-school children, which UNICEF report puts at over 13.2 million children; rising level of insecurity resulting in attacks on schools and abduction of students and teachers by bandits; low school enrollment; limited admission spaces in the university system where  less than 600,000 of over two million candidates who write the UTME yearly could hardly secure admission into the nation’s current 193 universities (federal, state and private).

Meanwhile, education pundits noted that allocations to the nation’s education sector in the last few decades had been a story of woes and failed expectations, even as they lamented that successive administrations at all levels of governance had failed to tackle the under-performance undermining the growth of the critical sector.

Appraising this year’s budget, like previous ones, the stakeholders expressed disenchantment that the general belief and expectations when in 1999 the country transited to democratic rule, that education sector, which had hitherto suffered colossal loss due to age-long neglect would receive sufficient and adequate attention from the democraticallyelected government to address the palpable rot in the system, still remained a forlorn.

 

They, however, wondered that despite the wastage in the resources of the country, no administration had over the years allocated up to 15 per cent of the yearly national budget to education, against the 26 per cent benchmarked by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the sector. Today, it is the same story of woe, failure and disappointment from primary school level to higher institution level, which have continually been hamstrung with a myriad of challenges of underfunding by the government.

 

Such acute underfunding due to poor budgetary allocation at all levels to the sector has remained a  clog and albatross, stagnating the development of the education sector that is supposed to be the driver of national transformation and economic emancipation in terms of quality and quantity.

 

Piqued by the trends, a University of Ibadan (UI) don and former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Ademola Dasylva, in his appraisal of the education sector budget for the year, described the 7.9 per cent allocation to the sector by the Federal Government as laughable.

 

According to him, the country’s budget at any given year for education has hardly met 50 per cent of the UNESCO recommended 26 per cent. The don, who lamented that education had never been on the government’s priority list, said: “Arguably, this is about one of the least budgets that the education sector has ever had, as far as I could remember.

 

Again, we cannot isolate education, though it is foundational to all of the rest components of the economy.

 

One can only imagine what the budget for the Health sector is like, another critical component in the polity. I am also just wondering what the budget for the Presidency, the Upper and Lower Chambers for 2022 looks like.”

 

While acknowledging the downturn in the country’s economy largely due to mismanagement, poor planning and reckless governance style,

 

Dasylva insisted that all hands were on deck to get the nation out of the economic quagmire, which he also noted, was possible if as a nation we are determined to check or tame considerably, the cost of governance, and by all means ensure fiscal prudence and discipline.

“But if we choose to keep servicing the status quo, as we are currently doing, then we are courting a more serious economic crisis now, and in the near future,”

 

Dasylva stressed, saying that the government needed to spread the necessary sacrifice across board, not only the masses should bear the brunt.

“As things are right now, the country is deliberately skewed in favour of the ruling class with the unrealistic humongous salaries and allowances at the expense of genuine development, and realistic fiscal planning,” the don, however, lamented, saying that everything about the budget to education this year is a huge joke.

 

The Professor of African Literature, who said that no one should expect any tangible improvement in the education sector in view of the poor budget, noted that if the lawmakers could make relevant laws that would cut down drastically on the cost of governance including their outrageous allowances and benefits, and make education and basic infrastructure their priorities, all other challenges, especially insecurity, cybercrime and unemployment would naturally be tamed. He expressed regrets that “we cannot build something on nothing, our government should be seen to be responsible and responsive, and should stop playing politics with Nigeria’s education.

 

According to him, the time is now for the Federal Government to redeem its image and find a lasting solution to the issue of inadequate funding in the nation’s education sector, and the university system in particular. But, beyond the poor budgetary allocations to the sector, the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC),

 

Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola, once said in a chat with New Telegraph that the quantum of the budget that goes into the system should be interrogated given the level of corruption in the system, especially the higher institution level.

 

On his part, the National Vice President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Dr. Abdussobur Olayiwola Salaam, recalled that the budgetary allocation for the education sector for 2021 although on paper appeared higher than previous years in the recent past, the reality is that this year’s budget also with its increment over that of last year, was not significant enough to create any impact or positive growth.

 

Allocations need to be increased significantly such that there can be a reversal of fortunes to ensure that the education sector, and particularly the Nigerian university system take their pride of place in the global ranking of universities.

 

Sadly however, I do not see this happening in 2022 because the 2022 National budget has not in any way addressed these concerns,” he lamented.

 

Meanwhile, a cursory look at the states’ budget allocations to the sector this year, revealed that while some states boasted of allocating about 20 per cent to the sector, some states allocated below 15 per cent, while many states refused to provide analysis of their budget outlay.

 

For instance, Delta State Government in its total budget size of N479,495,968,075 as approved by the state House of Assembly, earmarked N28.5 billion to the sector for 2022, out of which the Ministry of Higher Education got N9.1 billion, and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education received N18.9 billion.

 

According to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, to give fillip to the drive towards technical and vocational education, the government had commenced the construction of nine model technical colleges.

 

Also, Borno State in its N267 billion 2022 budget, christened the budget of “Hope for Post-Conflict Stability,” education sector got the lion share of N38 billion, representing 20.22 per cent of the budget size.

 

Governor Babagana Zulum in the budget passed by the state House of Assembly, set aside for other sectoral allocations such as Health and Human Services – N24.2 billion; while Ministry of Finance received N30.4 billion to sustain prompt payment of salaries and gratuities; even as Housing and Energy was allocated N8.7 billion for completion of housing estates and other projects. Meanwhile, in the Sokoto State 2022

Appropriation Bill of N188.4 billion, which was signed into law by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, education sector received the highest allocation of N37,006,032,670.92, representing 20 per cent; followed by Health with N28,806,855,774.52, representing 15 per cent and also Agriculture with N22,551,438,538.42, representing 12 per cent.

The budget, tagged: “Budget of Accomplishments and Sustainable Development,” said to be lower than the 2021 budget of N205.02 billion by N16.59 billion, according to the governor, will focus on completion of all ongoing infrastructure projects and legacy projects embarked on by the administration.

 

Similarly, in Cross River State, the government in its N276 billion did not provide the sectoral breakdown of the allocation, but only set aside N106 billion for Recurrent Expenditure and N170 billion as Capital Expenditure. In the year 2022 total budget of N155,611,390,265.82 billion Benue State Government voted N46,932,989,286.20 billion to Education/Social Sector.

 

This is against the total budget of N132,592,041,310 approved in 2021, out of which the same education/social sector got N44,523,554,164 billion. In Zamfara State,

 

New Telegraph learnt that there was no specific allocation made for Education Sector as indicated in the 2022 Appropriation Bill of N159.5 billion signed into law by Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, as the sector was merged under Social Sector to include education; health; information; youth/women and children; environment; local government and community development.

 

Governor Matawalle, who in the budget noted that the under-listed sectors have direct impacts on the lives of people and thus require serious attention, therefore allocated the sum of N16, 573,000,000, representing 17.07 per cent as capital estimate to the sector.

 

While reviewing the 2021 education sector budget, the governor lamented that with the security challenges confronting the state, the education sector suffered a huge setback with the forceful closure of schools due to invasion and threats of attacks by bandits and abduction of students.

 

Despite this, Matawalle said that in the current fiscal year his administration had approved the release of N186,699,600 as full payment for scholarship of 67 medical and para-medical students currently in their second year of studies in Sudan.

 

“Based on our realisation of the pivotal role of early childhood education as the foundation of all learning endeavours, we have maintained our modest effort of giving full support to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

 

Accordingly, my administration has released N1.5 billion counterpart funds to UBEC, which made it possible for the board to draw its matching grants and execute various projects under the fiscal year,” he noted.

 

Kwara State Government in 2022, budgeted a total sum of N189.4 billion as passed by the state House of Assembly, out of which the sum of N34.8 billion, representing 18 per cent of the total budget outlay earmarked for the education sector.

 

This is against the sum of N137.6 billion budgeted in 2021, out of which the sum of N34.25 billion, representing 25.5 per cent of the budget was earmarked for the education sector.

 

In Edo State, the N222.6 billion 2022 budget, christened: “Budget of Renewal, Hope and Growth,” the total of N24.6 billion was voted to education, representing 10.9 per cent of the total annual budget.

 

This year’s budget showed an increase of N3.8 billion over N154.4 billion budgeted in 2021 which is tagged: “Making Edo Great Again (MEGA),” which voted 20.8 billion for education, which represents 13 per cent of the total appropriation.

 

According to Governor Godwin Obaseki, the budget was exclusively pinned on robustly responding to the dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst building a workforce of the future. In the N199 billion budgeted for the 2022 fiscal year by Ondo State Government, which is tagged: “Budget of Economic Re- Engineering,” education sector got N34.7 billion, representing 17.43 per cent of the total budget for the fiscal year.

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