Given the centrality of effective funding to the attainment of educational objectives, the Federal Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Finance, organised a two-day stakeholders’ workshop on sustainable funding for education in Nigeria on November 27 and 28, 2018. The workshop was held at the State House Conference Centre, State House, Abuja, with the Special Guest of Honour being Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide innovative ways to sustainable funding of education that can be adopted by the government at all levels in Nigeria, which will enable the actualisation of the strategic plan of the Ministry. This intervention, a culmination of decisive efforts being made to revamp education in Nigeria, was based on the realisation that funding remains a critical challenge and with better funding, many problems assailing the sector would be solved.
For instance, all the strikes of the Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) have been to drum support for more funding for the university system. The problems associated with education such as dilapidated buildings, inadequate facilities, obsolete equipment, examination malpractice, poor teaching, shortage of qualified teachers, poor performance of pupils, general decay, poor remuneration, lack of materials, over-stretched facilities and all others can be tackled mostly with better funding. This does not suggest in any way that funding alone is a magic wand though.
Prior to the workshop, the Federal Ministry of Education had sought memoranda from the public on how to sustain the funding of education in the country and it was ultimately my lot to present a synopsis of the memoranda received to the participants on the first day of the workshop. One thread that runs through the various submissions by the public is that government alone cannot effectively fund education and it is imperative that all stakeholders contribute to it in the interest of the society.
Many of the recommendations border on shoring up the revenue of the institutions, government injecting more funds, students paying more school fees since quality is not cheap and Nigerians paying more taxes. But of all the recommendations made by different stakeholders whose submissions were summarised, the one that is most striking and innovative in my view is the one offered by the Conference of Alumni Associations of Nigerians Universities (CAANU). According to the body, every Nigerian should contribute to education funding, a point that is strident since there is virtually no household that is not directly affected by education at every point in time.
Therefore, the recommendation is that there should be a deduction from the airtime or data that Nigerian netizens use on the social media and even calls at large. According to CAANU, “there are 150,000,000:00 (one hundred and fifty million) registered cellphone users in Nigeria. If all the subscribers spend an average of N100 (one hundred naira only), a total of N12,5bn (twelve and a half billion naira only) would be generated daily. If every one of the subscribers were to part away with N5 (five naira only) to a special fund for the funding of university education, a total of N750,000,000:00 (seven hundred and fifty million naira) would be raked in daily, or N22,500,000,000:00 (twenty two billion, five hundred million naira) monthly, and N270,000,000,000:00 (two hundred and seventy billion naira) annually.”
The merit of this recommendation cannot be over-emphasised especially in a situation where subscribers to Nigerian GSM providers are ripped off for nothing. If every Nigerian who makes a phone call per day is debited N10 only or an equivalent of N5 is debited from data users, a lot of money that can change the face of education in Nigeria, not just universities, can be generated without the subscribers feeling the impact. If the money is well managed and accounted for, it will make a whole lot of difference.
Yet, while the recommendation is applauded and the government is urged to implement it, it is also important that Government should as a matter of policy begin allotting 15% of national budget to education so that it will be seen to lead by example. As submitted by the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund), Dr Abdullahi B. Baffa, there is a need for paradigm shift in our official mindset regarding education. This means that rather than consider education as expenditure, it should be deemed an investment. It is normal to want to reduce expenditure but we all want to increase our investment in order to gain high dividends in future.
Investing in education is also our collective responsibility. Government at all levels, corporate organisations and each individual should drop the metal and pick the petal so that rather than be moaning about the glorious past when the situation was better, we can have a bright future to look up to, where our education can be as successful as Finland’s.
The future is now. Delay is dangerous!