Nigeria’s tertiary education system has faced significant challenges in the last eight years associated with inadequate budget allocations.
A survey of Nigeria’s budgetary allocations for the educational sector in the last eight years shows that the country’s investment in education has remained relatively low compared to the ideals set by UNESCO.
In its World Education Forum 2015 report, UNESCO recommended that its member countries allocate at least 15 – 20% of their budget to education.
Nigeria is yet to attain this international benchmark eight years after it was recommended.
Breaking down Nigeria’s education budget
In 2016, the National Assembly approved a total budget of N6.06 trillion, with N480.28 billion (7.9%) allocated to the education sector. In 2017, the industry received N448.44 billion (6.1%) from the N7.3 trillion total budget.
In 2018, the total budget approved was N9.2 trillion, and the education sector received N651.23 billion (7.1%). In 2019, the total budget was N8.83 trillion, and the education sector received N745.53 billion (8.4%).
In 2020, the education sector received N686.82 billion (6.5%) from the total approved budget. In 2021, N742.52 billion was allocated to the industry, accounting for a mere 5.6% of the total budget.
In 2022, out of the N17.13 trillion budget, the education sector received N923.79 billion (5.4%). Finally, in 2023, the education sector was allotted N1.79 trillion (8.2%) out of the N21.8 trillion budget.
ASUU strikes disrupted academic calendars
One of the most visible consequences of inadequate budget allocation is the recurrent strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
ASUU, a union representing university lecturers, has frequently engaged in strike actions to protest poor funding and infrastructural decay in Nigerian universities. These strikes have significantly disrupted academic calendars, leading to delayed completion of studies.
In December 2011, ASUU initiated a strike to address issues such as inadequate university funding and a proposal to raise the retirement age for professors from 65 to 70. The strike was called off on 1 February 2012 after the government increased the retirement age and committed to investing more in the university system.
Again, starting on 1 July 2013, ASUU embarked on a strike to demand the implementation of the 2009 MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and payment of Earned Academic Allowances owed to lecturers. The strike lasted five months and 15 days, ending on 17 December 2013.
Also, on 17 August 2017, ASUU declared an indefinite strike due to frustrations and dissatisfaction among its members. The strike lasted for one month before it was called off.
ASUU declared another indefinite nationwide strike in November 2018, citing the government’s failure to meet their demands, which included funding to revitalise public universities. The strike was called off on 7 February 2019, with a warning of resumption if the government did not fulfil its commitments.
In March 2020, ASUU embarked on a strike related to the non-payment of salaries for members who refused to enrol in the government’s Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS). The strike was scheduled to begin on 24 March but coincided with the closure of universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities remained closed until October 2020, resulting in a nine-month strike period.
ASUU also initiated a nationwide strike in February 2022, which persisted for eight months, leading to the closure of public universities. After eight months of disruption, the strike was suspended on 14 October 2022.
Multiple challenges hit higher institutions.
Due to insufficient funding, many higher institutions of learning in Nigeria now grapple with dilapidated lecture halls, laboratories, libraries, student accommodation and outdated equipment and facilities which hamper effective teaching and learning, limiting students’ practical experience and skill development.
The lack of proper infrastructure affects the quality of education and compromises the safety and well-being of students.
An ND 1 Mass Communication student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, who identified as Favour to avoid victimisation, explained how inadequate facilities have worsened her health as an asthma patient.
In an interview with this reporter, Favour said that her class has over a thousand students, with no adequate facility to cater to them.
She explained that while some stand to receive lectures, some have to stay outside whenever the classrooms are filled.
She lamented that the situation worsens during the dry season as she struggles to breathe because of her health.
She said, “We feel the heat in the class, we are over a thousand in our class, and there is no functioning AC or fan capable of solving the problem.
“So, different types of odour, some smell, and it gets worse during the dry season when there’s heat, everyone becomes choked, we inhale what others breathe out, and I’m an asthma patient, whenever it’s this period, it attacks me. Our AC is not functioning; it’s just for decoration.”
The situation is similar at the University of Ilorin, where students face congested classrooms that hinder their attentiveness during lectures.
Adedolapo Adekunle, a final year student at the University of Ilorin, told Campus Reporter that the environment in her faculty could be more conducive for effective learning as the classrooms are usually overpopulated during lectures. She lamented how the inconvenience had discouraged many of her classmates from attending classes.
Miss Adekunle also recounted moments where some of her colleagues’ lives were risked due to classroom congestion.
“I have experienced a case when a lady with asthma had an attack in class because of congestion. I’ve experienced another one where the student was convulsing.”
Moreover, the final-year student condemned the deplorable state of furniture in some of the lecture halls in the school.
“Even the state of the chairs and tables is nothing to write home about. Almost all the tables in the front rows of some theatres are gone, and their students are required to sit without a table.”
The inadequate funding system also negatively affects the conduct of research projects in Nigerian tertiary education.
Explaining the effects of inadequate funding on the discharge of his duty, a lecturer at Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Prof. Adeyemi Olasukanmi, highlighted that lecturers have additional responsibilities besides teaching, such as research and community service.
However, the lack of funds, which led to the strike, hinders their ability to fulfil these obligations.
“We need to spend and finance it, but where do we get this money from? Lecturers are affected too; everyone is affected, both lecturers and students, as we can see that the country is declining economically every day,” he said.
Affirming the inadequate funding system in higher education, Dr Lambe Mustapha, a Mass Communication lecturer at the University of Ilorin, said the insufficient funds released into the education sector hampers researchers from conducting Impactful research that can contribute to solving societal problems.
“With inadequate funding, you won’t be able to complete or even contemplate this ground-breaking research. And at the end of the day, what you will be doing is just fulfilling righteousness. They want us to research, and you do small-scale research, publish a paper, and get promoted without having the impact that the research should have.”
Dr Mustapha asserted that funding difficulties also contribute to poor training of graduate students who are supposed to be trained to become future researchers.
“Training them also requires a good fund to begin the learning they ought to do in the research process and train as postgraduate students. So if you don’t have funds to do all this, all you will be doing will be just like fulfilling righteousness.”
The communication scholar also lamented how the funding system has resulted in inadequate laboratories, studios, and technical workshops, which are also supposed to aid the teaching ad learning process.
“You need them (laboratories, studios, and workshops) with all the hardware and software that will make it function to meet the 21st-century requirements. So if you don’t have this, your teaching is inadequate.”
Recommending possible solutions to the funding challenges in the sector, Dr Mustapha advised the government to tailor Nigerian institutions to provide solutions to the nation’s problem, stating that the effective delivery of innovative solutions by these institutions will promote industrial partnership.
“Give them mandates. You put key performance indicators with the mandates. You give the fund. This is how it is being done.”
“When the educational system delivers the mandate, there will be an industrial partnership. Companies, corporations, organisations will want to partner with the university when they know you can solve their problem, they will bring money, they will fund research.”
Dr Mustapha also emphasised the need for the government to put in place a statistical mechanism that can be used to monitor the repayment of the student loans, which were reintroduced in June 2023.
“We have to put some mechanism in place to ensure that this loan is going to be driven to ensure that people who cannot afford it get the education but come back to serve the country and pay the money.”
He advised higher institutions to maximise their available resources and think of profitable businesses they can venture into.
Declare Emergency On Education; Lecturer Tells FG
A lecturer of Mass Communication at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Dr Bola Babalola, urged the federal government to declare an emergency on education in the country.
In his words, lecturers are poorly reimbursed, and students need better education in a better learning environment.
He described the lack of appropriate funding in the education sector as one of the stimulants of social vices in today’s society.
He said, “This has made students lack interest in schooling; that’s why you hear them saying school is a scam; it also opens them to all kinds of social vices.
“And some become scammers, ritualists just to make money, and the ladies become whores, selling their bodies. Also, they are involved in crimes.”
He, therefore, advised that the FG should focus more on the education sector, as he added that “if you want a better society, you must provide quality and qualitative education.”
“Lack Of Funding Has Dashed Students Hope, Caused Brain Drain In Education Sector “
The Public Relations Officer of MAPOLY, Mr Yemi Ajibola, has said that the lack of funding in the education sector has continued to dash students’ hope in the country.
Mr Ajibola added that the lack of funding has made the education sector suffer brain drain, adding that lecturers are leaving the country daily.
In his words, “Funding has affected not only the education sector but if you’re looking at the education sector, there is a lot of brain drain in the education sector.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many lecturers that I know left the country. Daily, lecturers are leaving because of funding, many parents are taking their children off the source of the country, and the education sector is suffering.”
If Not For TETFUND, No Institution Will Have Infrastructural Development – MAPOLY PRO
“Infrastructure in the education sector, in our universities, primary and secondary schools are not taken care of by the government,” Mr Ajibola lamented.
MAPOLY, like any other school, needs more funding, as there are no adequate infrastructures and facilities for the students and lecturers.
According to the institution’s PRO, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) plays a vital role in sustaining the institution.
He explained that the state government had only done a bit, which needed to be improved to solve the institution’s problem.
He said, “Without TETFUND, no institution will have infrastructural development. As for MAPOLY, the problem has been there for so many years.
“We say there’s autonomy for institutions, but there’s nothing like autonomy because when you give freedom, you must have given them enough subvention to care for the unavailable school.
“The subsidies given to institutions are nothing to write about; the IGR, mainly from students’ fees, is insufficient to care for the institutions.
Therefore, he urged the government to look into the lack of funding in the education sector and make funds available.
This story is funded by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) under the Campus Reporter project.
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