- by E. Nriezedi
- 10:43 AM January 23, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education systems worldwide, which has led to mass closures of schools, early childhood education services, universities, and colleges. Decades of slow but steady progress in educating more children around the world abruptly ended in 2020. By April 2020, an unprecedented 1.4 billion students were shut out of their pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools in more than 190 countries, in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.
Before the pandemic, there had been an already existing learning gap between children from middle-income and low-income homes in Nigeria. Education in Nigeria was already bedevilled with issues such as poor funding, limited teaching aids, poor learning environment, unqualified teachers, and lack of digital tools. UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programmes and open educational platforms which would enable learning continuously for both the teachers and students. Interestingly, even the government in many states in Nigeria provided schemes such as learning with the use of radios and TVs. All these interventions are laudable but failed in achieving their desired outcomes as a large part of the Nigerian population live below the poverty line and cannot afford a radio or television in their homes; those who could afford them still had to battle with an epileptic power supply.
As the COVID-19 pandemic strains national economies and budgets, the need to protect national and local education budgets, ensuring that education remains a priority for national governments has never been more urgent. Available data indicate that for the past 10 years, the Nigerian education budget allocation has continuously been below the UNESCO recommended 15% of the budget in developing countries. This has led to the constant strikes by teachers at all educational levels, questionable quality of education, pathetic school environment, shortage of teaching aids such as computers, laboratories, libraries, convenient rooms which have reduced the once-thriving education sector into a mirage. Education finance is a term used to describe the financial and in-kind resources available for education in various countries. It covers questions about how resources are distributed, utilised, and accounted for to achieve quality education for all children and youth. In Nigeria, basic education is financed through: local, state and federal government authorities, with distinct financing mandates and responsibilities for each tier. The Federal Government provides 50%, the state governments provide 30% and the local government provides 20%. The Federal Government allocated the sum of N568bn (approx. USD 1.5bn) to education in 2020. However, as a result of COVID, this allocation was reduced to N509bn (approx. USD 1.34bn). This has resulted in government schools laying off teachers, owing teachers’ salaries which has increased students dropping out since they can’t keep up with increased school fees. Moreover, the insecurity in the Northern part of Nigeria led to the destruction of school buildings, abduction of students, and death of some students which would require several billions of naira to address. A lack of support for education would further slow the pace of development in Nigeria; we would have a continuous poor health system, increased poverty rate, insecurity, poor social amenities, and infrastructure development, high rate of crime and corruption.
This is the time we need our leaders to increase their investment in education as it is the best strategy to recover better post-pandemic and to meet up with global trends in education. We need more computers in the ICT rooms, we need well-equipped laboratories, functional libraries, conducive restrooms, advance teaching aids, periodic training for teachers and great school infrastructure. The provision of all these is hinged on adequate allocations of funds and due accountability to ensure funds are being utilised for the purposes they were disbursed for. Indeed, bridging all these gaps and loopholes will cost a whole lot but it is nothing compared to the returns. We saw a glimpse of what is potentially possible if education is given adequate priority during the late Obafemi Awolowo’s time, it is still very much relevant. Nigeria’s growth is majorly dependent on the priority it places on ensuring access to quality education.
Ms Fatoke, an Education and Development professional.