By Iyabo Lawal
For most part of 2022, the education sector faced series of industrial disputes that gravely disrupted academic activities at the tertiary level. From February 14 when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared a four-week warning strike in the first instance, in protest against Federal Government’s failure to implement the 2009 agreement and other unmet demands of the union, public universities were literarily shut down and were mostly inactive for several months. In the same vein, lecturers in polytechnics and colleges of education also went on strike in the year under review. The strike affected all federal and most state universities. Students were forced out of campuses as teaching and learning were halted.
In a move to break the union’s ranks, the Federal Government registered the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), a splinter group from ASUU, on 4 October. After failed attempts to force the striking lecturers back to work, including the “no work, no pay” threat, the government headed for the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and secured an injunction ordering ASUU back to work. Students and parents waited anxiously for the strike to be called off, but they waited in vain for eight months before ASUU suspended action on 14 October. The union backed down on 14 October and ended its strike after intervention by the leadership of the National Assembly, headed by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
Like ASUU, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) went on a two-week warning strike in May. But government’s swift intervention to the group’s demands ended the strike the same month. Similarly, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) issued a three-week strike notice over unmet demands on 25 May. The strike started after three weeks and dragged till 12 August, when the association called it off. Apart from recurring strikes, there were a string of abductions of students and teachers in several schools in the country, especially in the North.
There were cases of parents who withdrew their wards from school in Niger and Kaduna States because of insecurity. About 30 schools remained shut for over a year in Zamfara State. Increased cases of insecurity forced many pupils out of school, for fear of being kidnapped. On 12 April, five female students of Zamfara State College of Health Science and Technology, Tsafe, were abducted by terrorists. The terrorists invaded rented quarters, Area 11 in Tsafe town of Tsafe Local Council, where the female students were residing and kidnapped them.
In June, a 300-level Accounting student of Kaduna State University (KASU), identified as Gideon Adamu, was kidnapped by bandits terrorising the region. On 20 July, gunmen suspected to be kidnappers invaded Arthur Jarvis University in Akpabuyo Council, Cross River State, and abducted a student. The student, Miss Josephine, was kidnapped in the school premises while she was coming back from her night studies. She was later rescued by the police. A final year student of Fine and Applied Arts, Miss Rachael Abiola Opadele was also abducted on 29 July. The girl was abducted in a hotel at Aaba, a community close to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH). The girl, who was working with the hotelier, Mr Olugbenga Owolabi was killed, alongside the man and one other by their abductors.
On 14 August, a student of Redeemers University, Osun State, Ireoluwa Akinlaja, was kidnapped by some unknown persons in Ogun State. The 17 year-old student was reportedly on his way to Redemption camp to join his parents when he was kidnapped. Akinlaja, who was kidnapped around Sagamu Interchange, Ogun state, was reported to have later escaped from his abductors before security agents got to Ikorodu, where he was taken. Unknown gunmen also abducted two students of the Nigerian Law School, Agbani, Enugu State campus on 17 August. It was gathered that the students went to Eke Agbani market area to buy food before the gunmen ambushed them.
As at the end of 2022, there were 50 federal universities, 59 state universities, 111 private universities in the country, while there were 40 federal polytechnics, 49 state polytechnics, and 76 private polytechnics. Besides, there were 22 federal colleges of education, 47 state-owned and 76 private-owned. The government approved one federal university – David Nweze Umahi Federal University of Medical Sciences, Uburu, Ohaozara LGA of Ebonyi State – in the year. It approved three new state universities during the year.
The country’s partnership with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the enrolment of 1.5 million girls in schools in 10 years. States that benefitted from the initiative include Katsina, Kano, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara and Bauchi. Despite the intervention however, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said there were about 20 million out-of-school children in the nation.
Some of the decisions taken by the government on education in 2022 include the removal of sex education from the curriculum, re-introduction of teaching in local languages at basic schools, sustaining the school feeding programme and return of History to the curriculum. The government registered two unions, the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) and CONUA. Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to sign the Students Loan and Sexual Harassment Bills passed by the National Assembly. When signed into law, the Act will create the Nigerian Education Bank, which will have the power to award student loans, while the sexual harassment bill seeks to protect students against sexual harassment as well as prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions. The bill proposes up to 14 years jail term for offenders.
President Buhari failed to fulfill his promise of increasing the sector’s budget in 2022, but has done so in the 2023 appropriation. In July 2021, he promised at the Global Education Summit in London to beat the global benchmark of 20 per cent and raise his government’s budget for education to 50 per cent in 2022 and 2023 and 100 per cent by 2025. However, the 2022 budget for education was the lowest since the President assumed office in 2015.
Of the proposed budget of N16.39 trillion, the sector got N705.27 billion. The recurrent budget, comprising funds for salaries, training of employees and running of offices, was N593, 47 billion and funds for infrastructural development in the sector, known as the capital budget, took N111. 80 billion. The percentage allocation for the sector was 4.3 per cent of the total budget. In 2021, the percentage allocation to the sector was 5.68% of the national budget. The approved budget for the year was N13.58 trillion.
The government devoted N771.46 billion to education. Recurrent and capital votes for the year were N615.28 billion and N156.17 billion, respectively. The government signed an Appropriation Act of N10.81 trillion in 2020, from which it allocated N607.66 billion to education. Recurrent spending in that year was N532.49 billion, while the capital fund was N75.17 billion. The total percentage of the education budget against the national budget for the year was 5.62 per cent. Education got 7.12 per cent of the 2019 budget, as the government earmarked N634.55 billion of its N8.91 trillion to the sector. Recurrent expenditure for the year gulped N575.86 billion, while capital spending got N58.68 billion.
For the 2023 appropriation, total allocation for the sector is N923 billion (N923, 787,614,465). Personnel cost will gulp N662 billion (N662, 732,758,942), overhead takes N38 billion (N38, 842,766,015), and N222 billion (N222, 212,089,508) goes for capital projects. Last month, the Federal Government announced formal reintroduction of history as a subject in the country’s basic education curriculum after it was abolished 13 years ago. Former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua-led government in 2009 removed history from Nigeria’s basic education curriculum over claims that students were avoiding it, that there were few jobs for history graduates, and that there was dearth of history teachers.
Already, government said a total of 3,700 history teachers had been shortlisted for the first round of training for enhanced teaching of the subject. Also in the outgoing year, the Federal Government directed that mother tongue be adopted as mode of instruction in primary schools. Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the mother tongue would be combined with English language from junior secondary school level.
Looking at the performance of the sector in 2022, an educationist, Dr Tobi Adams, said the nation’s education system, particularly tertiary education, has continued to be on the decline due to many years of neglect. Adams canvassed an end to incessant strikes in tertiary institutions to avert disruptions in academic calendar. With the United Kingdom’s recent open door policy to teachers, she expressed fears that the sector may experience brain drain, compounding the problem in the sector.
On his part, Prof Usman Ahmed of Bayero University, Kano (BUK), lamented that the nation’s education system is on the decline. According to him, the net quantity and quality of education compared with past decades, is negative. “The products of our education system cannot measure against their opposite numbers in India, China or the EU. The education sector crisis has been made worse by the intractable insecurity in various parts of Nigeria, the girl-child education inequity and poverty that has made quality education unaffordable to many Nigerians. According to him, there is total loss of confidence in the nation’s education system by stakeholders, as over 95 per cent of elite leaders in government and business are educating their children abroad. Despite interventions of UNICEF, Usman noted that about 20 million children were still out of school in the country, which is the second largest number in the world.
On his part, Prof Olu Adeyemi of Ekiti State University urged government at all levels to give priority attention to education, reminding it that educating young people today will determine how much progress we make as a country. “It is evident that with the neglect or near-total collapse of education, the future of our society is uncertain or may be gloomy. Our education sector needs overhaul that targets educational outcomes. We need improvement starting from primary education, where we see many children out-of-school; secondary education where we see declining standards and low attainment in national examinations like the National Examination Council (NECO) and West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).” He lamented that government at all levels have indifferent attitude towards education and have failed to articulate better ways of managing the sector to provide qualitative education. For instance, Usman noted that the recommended average percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on total government and private expenditure on education is five per cent of the GDP, while most countries in developed world spend a lot more than this average on education.
A public analyst, Johnson Essien, said we must bring all ideas, talents, skills and resources to the table to resolve challenges in the sector. Essien added that attention must be paid to teacher education to improve quality of teachers, while plans must be put in place for periodic testing and retraining. “Teachers’ promotion will be tied to the quality of their teaching, personal development and impact of teaching on students. Individual states should set independent standards for teachers’ accreditation in their jurisdictions. We must provide all forms of financial and psychological incentives to teachers. Teachers’ reward must be here “on earth and not in heaven”. We must review teachers’ pay based on current economic realities and attract the best to the profession,” Essien added.