2022 budget proposal: Whither UBEC, education sector?




PAUL OKAH, in this piece, writes on the N1.29 trillion allocation to the education sector in the 2022 budget proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari.

On October 7, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari presented a N16.39 trillion 2022 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly and it presently has passed the second reading in the Senate.

Some state governors have since followed suit with the presentation of their own budgets with different names, including Kano (N196.3 billion on October 28, allocating N51.6 billion to Education, representing 26 per cent of the total budget), Ekiti (100.8 billion on October 28), Benue (N115, 611,390 on October 27) and Cross River (276bn on October 29) as of the time of filing in this report.

A breakdown of the budget presented by President Buhari shows that Defence and Security got N2.41 trillion (15%); Infrastructure N1.45 trillion (8.9%); Education N1.29 trillion (7.9%); Health N820 billion (5%) and Social Development and Poverty Eradication N863 billion (5.3%) of the entire allocation.

A further breakdown of the budget shows that from the N1.29 trillion for the education sector, N108.1 billion is for the Universal Basic Education (UBEC), N1.2 billion for rehabilitation of classrooms/hostels, N392 million as takeoff grants for six federal science and technical colleges; N4.5 billion as scholarship allowances; while N2 billion is for payment to 5,000 Federal Teachers Scheme Allowance.

However, the budget shows an improvement when compared with past budgets as, like in previous years, out of N13.08 trillion budget for 2021, only N742.5 billion or 5.68% of the total, was allocated to education.

In 2011, education got N393.8 billion or 9.3 per cent of the total budget; N468.3 billion or 9.86 per cent in 2012; N499.7 billion or 10.1 per cent in 2013; N494.7 billion or 10.5 per cent in 2014; N484.2 billion or 10.7 per cent in 2015; N369.6 billion or 7.9 per cent of the total budget in 2016; N550. 5 billion in 2017 representing 7.4 per cent of the total budget; N605.8 billion in 2018 or 7.04 per cent; N620.5 billion or 7.05 per cent in 2019 and N671.07 billion or 6.7 per cent in 2020 and N742.5 billion or 5.68 per cent of the total budget in 2021.

Nevertheless, a breakdown of the 2022 budget proposal shows that for the N108.10 billion for Universal Basic Education Commission, meant for coordinating education at the primary and junior secondary levels, it improved from the N77.6 billion appropriated in the outgoing year.

UBEC

The federal government first introduced the Universal Basic Education Programme in 1999 as a reform programme in education, aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring quality of basic education in Nigeria. As a free, universal, and compulsory basic education programme, it was later backed by the UBE Act 2004, which made the provision for basic education consisting of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Primary education and Junior Secondary Education.

The programme is seen as a demonstration of Nigeria’s commitment to global protocols and conventions on education, including the Rights of the Child Convention (1989) and the World Declaration on Education for All and Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs (1990). One of the major goals of the UBE programme is to ensure that all children, regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, or gender, have access to quality basic education. Hence access, equity and quality are the cardinal pursuits of the UBE programme.

Reservations

Over the years, experts have called for more funding for the education sector in order for Nigeria to meet up with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDGs 4) for 20230, which is on education and aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Speaking with this reporter in an exclusive chat in Abuja, the national president, Association for Public Policy Analysis (APPA), Comrade Princewill Okorie, said the problem of Nigeria has never been budget presentation by state or federal governments, but about implementation as the rot in the education sector is worsening with each passing day.

He said: “I have written and published several books on the education sector

, especially UBEC, and the rot in our public primary and secondary schools. I now sound like a broken record as there has not been any significant change over the years. Instead, the situation worsens with each passing year, despite the amount of money budgeted for the education sector.

“Generally, as a public policy analyst, we always look at the budget as a law that is meant to enhance the socio-economic development of society and citizens. So, we expect that it should be properly implemented. We are no longer excited about presentation of budget and public discussions about the budget. We are rather interested in knowing the extent of implementation. The impact of the budget on citizens is of concern to us.

“Specifically, you will feel bad looking at the education sector. Today, basic education, that is primary and secondary schools are handled more efficiently by private schools. The question is: What happens to the billions of Naira put into public schools? Again, the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 provided that two per cent of consolidated revenue should go into basic education funding. So, if two per cent of consolidated revenue should go into basic education funding, why are children sitting on bare floor? Why are the environments where these children learn not looking reasonable and humane?

“For instance, government is talking about Covid-19 and policy of washing hands, but you will see that most public schools don’t even have toilets, pipe borne water, boreholes, chairs, etc. So, where does the two per cent of consolidated revenue go to? When you ask, they will tell you that the responsibility lies on states. Now, is it to say that the federal government intervention fund is just being wasted there? Who monitors it and how is it being utilised? The situation is really pathetic. So, instead of talks about the budget and allocation over the years, let us focus on the level of implementation. The implementation has been poor over the years and this should be our major concern,”

On his part, a development economist, Dr. Chiwuike Uba, said despite the allocation to UBEC, primary and secondary education in Nigeria is often a concern as parents would rather prefer to educate their wards in private schools as a result of lack of infrastructure and the rot in the school system.

“Despite the allocation to the education sector over the years, inadequate funding, unlawful appropriation of accessible funding, venality, cronyism, lack of adequate and qualified employees, incompetent planning, improper inspection, weak administration and other factors has been the bane of the Nigerian education sector at all levels.

“A visit to different public primary and secondary schools in different states across the country would reveal pupils and students sitting on bare floor, studying in windowless rooms, engaging in open defection (as a result of lack of basic amenities) and sometimes unsupervised by teachers equally facing welfare issues.

“Also, the poor funding of the education budget can also be attributed to the rate of unemployment, youth restiveness, and economic development, while the inability of sub-national government to bring the counterpart funding is also the reason for the continued rot in the sector,” he said.

Interestingly, in July, at the 2021 edition of the global summit on education co-hosted in London by the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, in a document titled “Heads of State Call to Action on Education Financing,” President Muhammadu Buhari said he would increase Nigeria’s annual domestic education expenditure by 50% over the next two years and by 100% by 2025; in order to meet the UNESCO international benchmark of 20%: after years of failure by the federal government.

He said: “We fully endorse the call for more efficient use of resources and to significantly increase investment in education by strengthening institutions, promoting greater adoption of technology, building the capacities of our teachers, and mobilising additional financial resources through legal frameworks and deliberate intervention on a sustainable basis.

“In this regard, we commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and up to 100 per cent by 2025 beyond the 20 per cent global benchmark. Let us, therefore, raise our hands in solidarity to build a more secure and prosperous future for our children.”

Perhaps, the allocation of N1.29 trillion (7.9%) of the proposed 2022 budget to education is aimed at correcting the ills of the past, but the problem of implementation must be solved for Nigeria to get it right in the education sector, especially with regard to basic education.

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