-End Product of Study Abroad Vs Nigerian Universities (3)-
“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them.” – Thomas Jefferson
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The role of the government in ensuring quality education for its citizens cannot be overemphasized. How much priority is given to education? In 2013, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was lauded for giving the education sector the highest budgetary allocation in the 2013 Appropriation Bill. This is certainly commendable and such allocation was again maintained in the 2014 budget as well.
Interestingly, in some quarters, the administration of President Buhari have been lauded for allocating the highest amount to education, even though the figures speak for themselves.
In 2016, in spite of the devaluation of the currency, and challenging economic times, the government of President Buhari allocated even a lower sum to our fragile education sector.
This has been the lowest since 2012. In 2012, it was N400.15 billion; 2013 – N426.53 billion; 2014 – N493 billion; 2015 – N492 billion. In 2016, this allocation is N403 billion.
This year’s allocation, is still very far from the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s recommendation that 26% of the nation’s budget be allocated to the Educational sector. Groups such as Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) have lamented the low funding allocated to education by the Federal Government in 2016.
These stakeholders cannot hid their dissatisfaction with the situation and these are the persons, among many others, whom we depend to move the quality of our education to great heights. But, how can they achieve this in the face of poor funding on both the federal and state levels.
In any establishment, availability of funds for operations and sustainability cannot be overlooked if that establishment is to achieve its goals and carry out its mission. The federal government’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund was established to ensure that funds generated from education tax are utilized to improve the quality of education in public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
In the past, the federal government appealed to university authorities that it will not be able to fully fund universities and so the later have to seek alternative sources of generating revenue to fund research and capital developments in their institutions. Even if universities have to seek alternative funding, the government needs to be seen as doing everything possible and putting in the utmost resources to move this sector from where it is at the moment.
Any one who is not fully aware of the poor state of our educational sector in Nigeria (particularly public higher institutions) is most probably not in touch with educational standards around the world, including in some Africa countries. Funding, research and institutional development are key factors for growth in the sector.
Even with the much fund that is available, university funds need to be utilized such that it contributes optimally to the quality of teaching as well as on-going research, innovation and development. Producing high quality and well-rounded graduates must be the continual focus in every decision made by both the university administration and government agencies and ministries that support university education.
When the focus gets shifted to the funds itself, then all manner of corrupt practices continues to be the order of the day. This only brings about more decline in the standard of education across the country.
The great demand for funding in tertiary institutions also stems from the high demand for education. As Dr. Femi Sunday Akinwumi points out in his book, “Proliferation of Higher Education in Nigeria: Implications for Quality Education”, that there is very high demand for higher education in Nigeria and the system in place is not able to cope with the number of students wanting to join the university.
While some Nigerians go to universities outside the country to avoid strikes, “sorting” and other corrupt practices, re-sitting of Jamb and other university pre-entry exams, private universities set up by missionaries, private individuals and groups of individuals have sprang up across the country in virtually every state. With this comes the question of quality control.
The National Universities Commission (NUC) is charged with putting in place quality control mechanisms aimed at achieving high educational standards in universities across the country. Even with such commission in place, still the question remains: Is university education a real concern to the government or does several strikes have to take place before the government is moved to action?
Apart from other university-related strikes, the most recent major strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which went on for about six months in 2013 was basically about non-implementation of the 2009 agreement between the union and the Federal Government. Threats to similar strikes continue to loom.
Besides, these strikes cause untold suffering and discomfort. It disorients students in their business/career plans. It leads to prolonged stay in the university where there classmates in some other universities have no practical understanding of what a strike really means.
Many sacrifices are made by so many families who are forced to keep paying for house rents yet have their wards/children are back home. This is not to speak of what happens to an idle mind in a lazy body. Anwulika Nduba, an undergraduate of English and Literature studies at the Lagos State University (LASU) says, “Time, lives and futures have been lost.” So does the fruit of the strike, if any, measure up or compensate for the losses, discomfort and disorientation caused by the strike?
When ASUU strikes and enters into negotiations with the Federal Government, whose primary business is it anyway to secure the future of the country through empowering the youth with good education? Every stakeholder has to play their role and play it adequately.
When basic infrastructure is inadequate, students spend precious time protesting as was seen at the University of Abuja at the end of March 2014. It is certainly appalling to hear of such students protest for lack of basic facilities and needs. It was reported that students living on the campus hostel had not had supply of water and power for up to three months. According to one of the students, some students used sachet water to bath, cook and even wash clothes.
It would be expected that the University of Abuja, a Federal Government university, right in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – the country’s seat of power – would be an icon to other universities in terms of infrastructure, standards and quality of graduates. Something must be done about this state of affairs.
Availability of infrastructure is crucial for student to carry on well with their activities and studies on campus. How can students function, excel and compete in the changing globe? For this, they need to have within their reach, electricity and water supply, good and safe living environment, a well-equipped library, adequate class rooms, Staff rooms to avail lecturers for student consultation, computer laboratories, research and innovation centres, counseling and vocational centres.
In a fast moving world, the government can’t afford to let its citizens lag behind with poor education or no education at all. As Malcolm X rightly puts it, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
While the government sees poor work ethics among university staff as one of the problems confronting today’s universities, the government must do all within its power to avoid cases of prolonged industrial action and truly prepare its people adequately for tomorrow.
However, even as we cry out for quality education in the country, we are also aware that so many Nigerians have indeed received very good education, many from outside the country. But a challenge remains, one pointed out by Theodore Roosevelt: “To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
We do not want to produce graduates who lack morals and ethics in life and work. We do not want to have in society educated thieves, drug dealers, conmen and women, narrow-minded tribalists, people who lack respect in speech and conduct and are good at cutting corners. They all feed into the corruption industry with unexplained greed to amass wealth which only get scattered in the hands of those they leave behind as they enter their grave.
Where will patriotism come from when the youth see that giving them the opportunity for quality education here at home is nothing but lip service? Something is being done for sure, but the point is, so much more can be done to raise educational standards in the country.
Nigeria is a blessed country with vast resources, a beautiful diversity of cultures and people with very sharp, creative and intelligent minds. So, to whom much is given, much is also expected.
Government and University administrators must learn from some other countries what those countries are doing to keep a good standard of education in their universities. The government cannot be complacent to what happens to university standards in the different States. Effective checks and balances must be employed to overseer quality education.
The driving focus must be to produce graduates, and thereby citizens with critical minds, high order thinking, with a global worldview, ability to find local solutions, with a heart for community service and volunteerism, garnished with environmental awareness and sensitivity, morals and ethics, leadership and entrepreneurial skills and so be able to compete with their counterparts across the globe.
“Proliferation of Higher Education In Nigeria: Implications for Quality Education”, by Dr. Femi Sunday Akinwumi, Lecturer, Department of Educational Management, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
- Linda Ellah