Decision 2015: Why education matters

An assessment of Goodluck Jonathan administration’s
performance in Nigeria’s education sector

By: Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi


Eligible Nigerians are getting set to cast their votes in another Presidential election, which, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will hold on February 14. The two contestants, incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and retired General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who ruled the country between 1983 and 1985, are familiar foes. Both had contested in the 2011 version.

But this time will be different. Analysts are of the opinion that because of the prevailing circumstances, this particular tussle will be so keen that the eventual winner could only emerge with a marginal lead. This remains to be seen. However, both men have been speaking on what they intend to do if elected. But what are they saying about the education sector and who, among the two, is likely to give the sector the attention it deserves?

Rtd Gen Mohammadu Buhari.When he officially announced his intention to contest on October 14 in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Buhari affirmed that the APC had resolved to among others, put priority on “quality education for development, modernity and social mobility.” He did not expatiate.

But in the manifesto displayed on its website, the APC pledged to carry out a thorough review of the education sector if elected. It promised to: fully implement and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act, with emphasis on gender equity; reinstate “the now abandoned Teacher Teaching (Training) Colleges”; target up to 10 per cent of the annual budget for the education sector while making substantial investments in training programmes at all levels.

The party also promised to offer “free and qualitative primary and secondary education to all, but to the tertiary level for women.”

The APC plans to establish six new Universities of Science and Technology with satellite campuses in various states.

In his own declaration on November 11, 2014 also in Abuja, Jonathan expressed regret over the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast zone. To ensure long term stability and development of the area, according to him, “government has launched three programmes: The Presidential Initiative for the north east, the Victim Support Fund and the safe School Initiative, which is “centred on creating a safe environment to encourage our children in the communities to acquire education.”

He also said: “In our journey to progress, knowledge is indispensable. Knowledge is power! This is why my administration established 14 new Universities out of which 12 are conventional and two are specialized Police and Maritime Universities. Under my watch, every state in Nigeria now has a Federal University.

In addition, he noted, “over 500 billion naira has been spent, through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the special NEEDS assessment fund on various projects, to increase access and improve the quality of infrastructure at the tertiary level of our education system.

“To provide equal access and opportunities in education and ensure that no Nigerian child is left behind, we have established and equipped 150 Almajiri Schools across the Northern states and the Out-of-School-Children Programme including Specialized Boys and Girls Schools across the country.”

A sector under stress

The rot often associated with the education sector’s long, checkered history, has variously been blamed on the military’s 29 long years in power. Critics, who also liken the sector to the barber’s chair, allege that its long neglect by the soldiers ultimately led to current challenges. Former military rulers would, however, not agree and had always rejected this appellation at any given opportunity.

In any case, this is only one side of the story. In less than four years from now, all things being equal, civil rule would also have been around for the same number of years. What, then, has democracy done for the sector? Although, some progress has been recorded, much more could have been done.

At the inception of the fourth republic in 1999, many promises were made. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo launched the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme on September 30, 1999 in Sokoto state with the dream of achieving the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But that enthusiasm was immediately dampened by the National Assembly’s long delay in passing the required enabling law. Five years passed by before the lawmakers, after needless brickbats over particular aspects, finally passed the bill, paving the way for a presidential assent on May 26th 2004.Box 2

The UBE Act provides for uninterrupted Early Child Care (ECCE), primary and junior secondary education for children aged between three and 14 years. And since education is on the concurrent list, the constitution gives the responsibility of managing and financing basic education to the states and local councils. But the federal government still set aside two per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for basic education, which states could only have access to, provided they fulfilled certain conditions. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) coordinates the implementation of the UBE nationwide. It received over N284 billion from the federal purse between 2005 and 2011.

As at 2009, the estimated enrolment figure at the ECCE level was under five million out of about 20 million; primary education – about 20 out of 35 million; junior secondary school – about four out of eight million; and for nomadic education, less than one million out of 3.5 million.

Many states have been responsible for the country’s slow pace in basic education due to their uncaring attitude and misplaced priorities.

But the federal government is pushing ahead. The 2010 audit carried out by UBEC, revealed that there are a total of 59,007 public primary schools with an enrolment of 20, 291 709. It also revealed 11,295 public Junior Secondary schools with 4,313,164 pupils. While gender disparity between males and females is considerably wide in favour of males in the north, it is almost at par in the south. But a large number of unqualified teachers, about 40 per cent, are in the north while it is only 15 per cent in the south.

So, far, UBEC in collaboration with the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) has distributed one set of the new basic education curriculum to every public primary and Junior Secondary School across the country.

According to the commission, since 2005, a total of 19, 849 classrooms and 14, 871 toilets have been constructed; 9,055 other classrooms were renovated; 863,255 pieces of furniture and 366 boreholes were also provided.

Besides, between 2010 and 2011, when President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, about 78,629,726 textbooks in Mathematics, English, Basic Science, Social Studies and library resource materials have been supplied (See Box). Some 2,376 science kits were also procured and distributed to some junior secondary schools nationwide.

While a total of 894,836 teachers and education managers were trained between 2005 and 2008 in collaboration with the State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), from 2009 when capacity building for teachers was centralized, UBEC trained 175,767 teachers that year, 153,920 in 2010 and 185,000 in 2011.

To address the acute shortage of primary teachers nationwide, the federal government also established the Federal Teachers’ Scheme in 2006 with more than 105,000 participants to date.

From Roadmap to Transformation Agenda

Dr.Sam EgwuIn March 2009, former Education Minister, Dr Sam Egwu unveiled a Roadmap before education sector stakeholders. This was not the first Roadmap. Various education ministers before him had unveiled theirs. But Egwu intelligently asked his top officials to sift through the previous reform documents and fish out the relevant ones for adoption.

The former Minister then isolated four priority areas covering all the levels: Access and equity; Standards and quality; Technical and Vocational Education; Training and Funding. Detailed studies were carried out on the nature of the challenges, what was required to solve them and how the process of restoration would be carried out, in form of an Implementation Plan.

Estimates contained in the Roadmap, among others, indicated that the ECCE level had a shortfall of 969,073 teachers; primary level – 338,177; Junior secondary 581; Adult literacy – 1.58 million and nomadic education – 12,239. It also estimated that at the post basic level, that is Senior Secondary level, only 2.3 pupils were enrolled while a whooping 7.2 million were not. In fact, the transition rate from Junior to senior secondary level was put at 16 per cent.

Box 3At the tertiary level, the university system’s gross carrying capacity was pegged at 150, 000 – about 19 per cent of the over one million candidates seeking placements yearly. For the polytechnics, it was 158, 370 or 53 per cent of the over 300,000 aspirants; while it was 118,129 or 34 per cent of the over 250,000 admission seekers targeting the Colleges of Education.

The university system also had only 58 per cent of its required academic staff; Polytechnics and Monotechnics – 42 per cent; Colleges of Education – 43 per cent.

In line with the four identified priority areas, the Implementation Plan included: the construction of demonstration schools at the basic and post basic levels and special Tertiary Education Trust Fund’s (TETFUND’s) projects in federal and state universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and innovative Enterprise Institutions.Box 5

A national campaign on access to boost enrolment to 3 million in ECCE, 28 million pupils in primary, 4.4 million in JSS and 1.4million in nomadic education by 2011 was launched. About 210,000 teachers were to be recruited by 2011; 145,000 teachers were to be trained while a 10 per cent annual increase in PhD holders for universities was also planned.Box 6

Significantly, the plan also included a clause to get the federal and state governments to increase their annual budgets for education to at least 25 per cent, although other sources of funding were to be explored.

Rufai takes over

Proffesor. RufaiPresident Jonathan’s emergence in May 2010 also coincided with the appointment of Prof. Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’I on April 6, 2010, as Education Minister. She remains one of the very few to spend over three full years in office (She was relieved of her duties on September 11, 2013).

Upon assumption of office, Rufai wisely adopted Egwu’s Roadmap, “to promote the spirit of continuity, consistency and commitment.” But she made some adjustments, though, to key the document into the priorities of the federal government’s Transformation Agenda leading, ultimately, to a four-year strategic plan.

Assisted by junior Minister Nyesom Wike, Rufai made quite a good job of it. By the time she presented her report card a few months before she left office in 2013, a lot of grounds had been covered.

To fully understand the nature of the overall challenges, comprehensive Needs Assessment were carried out in the Federal and State Universities, and the Federal Unity Colleges for the first time in as many years.Box 7

This entailed an evaluation of the staff and student population in relation to available resources, identification of areas of pressure and an exploration of the use of resources.

As part of the plan, the National Policy on Education was reviewed and the Department of Technology and Science Education was established.

The needs assessment revealed shocking details. The learning environment at the basic, secondary and tertiary levels, among others, was generally unfriendly with significant shortfalls in all aspects. Physical facilities for teaching and learning were inadequate, dilapidated and used far beyond their original carrying capacities. Adequate data was lacking, compounding the problem of determining what exactly was needed to fix the problems.

Specifically, the report established that three out of every nine school-age children were out of school at the elementary level, translating the total number of out-of-school children to about 10.5 million, the highest in the world. Most of them are believed to be in the northern parts of the country.

There were shortfalls in classroom and staff furniture, libraries, workshops and laboratories, textbooks, play equipment, science kits and qualified teachers.

At the secondary level, the report covered the 104 Federal Government Colleges that had, for so long, lived well below their expectations. It confirmed a culture of neglect in addition to several shortfalls.

Findings at tertiary level were especially appalling. With their overall low carrying capacities, the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education could barely admit 400,000 out of the 1.5 million candidates seeking placements yearly.

There were, at that time, 1,252,913 students in 61 public universities in Nigeria. In 2012 alone, some 1,503,931 candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), more than the total enrollment in public universities within that period, underscoring the chronic crisis of access. Quality also remained a major challenge.

Physical facilities were found to be inadequate and used beyond their original capacities. Many lecturers, including professors, shared small offices. Lecture theatres, classrooms, laboratories and workshops were old with inappropriate furnishing and were also being shared by many programmes across different faculties. Where major equipment existed, the ratio to students, in some Universities, was as high as 1:500.

Efforts and results

The Jonathan administration’s various efforts aimed at revamping the sector are contained in the FME’s 2012 Annual Report, which noted, among others, that funding of the entire sector improved between 2010 and 2012, from N234 billion to N409 billion. It also revealed an improvement in access to a number of Intervention Funds by the states.

Whereas, the total sum of the un-accessed funds for basic education stood at N92 billion in 2010, but after continuous dialogue with political leaders across the country, this was reduced to N38 billion in 2012.

More attention has been given to the one-year ECCE, with each state now required to incorporate it as part of the basic school system.

The three-model Almajiri Education Programme was intensified to bring down the number of out-of-school-children, especially in the north. Schools were constructed in 27 states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Bornu, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Lagos, Ogun, Niger, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara and the Federal Capital Territory).

According to the report, about 88 day and boarding schools were completed in November 2012. The number is expected to increase to 400 before the end of this year. To encourage more girls to go to school, the federal government began the construction of Junior Girls’ Model Secondary schools in 13 states (Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Jigawa, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Rivers, Yobe and Zamfara), which are currently at different stages of completion.

The nomadic education programme also got a boost, with the establishment of model nomadic education centres in Bauchi, Benue and Edo states. Community based nomadic schools in Bayelsa, Gombe and Taraba states were rehabilitated, while mobile collapsible structures with Box 8chairs and tables were provided in the six geo-political zones. Motorised boreholes were also constructed in Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Edo and Oyo states.

The federal government’s intervention at the secondary level was concentrated on its own Unity Schools, spread across the country. The report stated that a total of 352 Science and Technical laboratories were renovated; 62 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) centres and 40 sets of Mathematics kits were provided. Besides, a total of 72 libraries are being constructed across the unity colleges. There was also an increase in student enrolment for science subjects by some 28 per cent.

The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) also reviewed the basic and secondary education curricula. In the new dispensation, primaries 1 to 3 will take six subjects (English Studies, Basic Science and Technology, Religion and National Values, Culture and Creative Arts and Nigerian languages). Two subjects (French and pre-vocational studies) were added to the basket for pupils in primaries 4 to 6. Junior Secondary school 1 to 3 students would also have to take Business Studies.

Some 34 trades were also developed for the Senior Secondary


On the technical and vocational education front, private sector’s involvement was encouraged. By ending of 2012, 137 private sector-driven Innovation Enterprise and Vocational Enterprise Institutions had been licensed to provide alternative access to higher education and provide middle level skills and manpower.

The National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF) was developed to guide the institutions, while all the 25 Government Technical Colleges across the country have also been equipped to promote vocational training.

Five industrial sectors were also identified for the National Occupation Standards (NOS), in collaboration with the respective industries. They include: Hospitality and Tourism, Transportation, Information and Communications Technology, Agriculture and Construction.

Dare to be different

Perhaps, the most daring step taken by the Jonathan administration in the education sector so far has been the establishment of nine new federal universities in 2011 and an additional four between 2012 and 2013. Not everybody had bought the idea, with some insisting that more money should have been given to older universities to expand their facilities and admit more students.

But the federal government was of the view that each state deserves a federal university, which would ultimately increase access and pay off in the long term. As at 2012, all of them had admitted 2,700 students; employed over 1,000 academic and non-academic staff and still counting.

Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Otuoke, Prof. Mobolaji Aluko told The Intellectual in an exclusive interview that the institution has so far admitted 1, 500 and employed roughly the same number of staff. About 12 programmes under two faculties have also been developed. “We’re doing the things a university is supposed to be doing,” he said. “We’ve done four admissions, but three levels. The first session was 375 (students), second session – 375, third – about 383; fourth one is 496. They have come to as total of 1536.

Aluko, who was hired from the diaspora and managed to secure 50 scholarships worth N100, 000 each for his pioneer students from the United States based Ijaw Foundation said hiring academic staff hasn’t been as difficult as earlier envisaged. In fact, so many people applied and the university authority was saddled with the assignment of sifting through to ensure conformity with relevant laws. The university is also housing some 230 students in its new gigantic hostel complex, but the university intends to house only the freshmen, final year and as many female students as possible.

Dr Okechukwu Okeke is the Head, Department of Humanities at the University. He told the magazine that the establishment of a federal university at Otuoke “is commendable” and would “create so many opportunities and “address political and academic problems.”

He affirmed that facilities were gradually being provided in the university just as he praised the vice chancellor (Aluko) for facilitating scholarships for the students.

Okeke gave the number of students studying English and History at 200Level as 50 and 26; 300Level – 47 and 23 respectively.

“Our vice chancellor puts a lot of emphasis on the welfare of our students,” he said proudly, with a smile. “ So, I can say that this university puts students first. We also put a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurship because we want our graduates to be job creators and not seekers.”

Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Prof. Isaac Azuzu also told the magazine that the institution now has a total of 2,300 and may likely admit 800 this year. “All along, we have been admitting 500 students each session since 2011,” he revealed, “we intend to admit 800 students in the 2014/2015 academic session.”

He also affirmed the federal government had been “quite supportive” in providing infrastructural facilities since the onset of the university. “The federal government provided an initial N1.5 billion,” he said, “which was used to construct the first set of buildings at the Oye campus and renovate existing buildings in the Ikole campus. The sum of N2 billion was later provided by the Federal Government for the phase two projects, comprising of two faculty buildings: one ICT building, one Library building and one administrative building. These buildings are at various stages of completion.

Ibrahim- Shekarau“The faculty and ICT buildings will be put to use in January 2015. The others, including the administrative and library buildings, will be completed before June 2015. Another N1.2 billion was provided by the Federal Government through TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund), for the construction of two students’ hostels at the Ikole campus.”

Besides, TETFUND’s High Impact Fund disbursed N24 billion to 12 tertiary institutions in 2012 to enhance the development and rehabilitation of infrastructure and teaching/learning resources. Six universities got N3 billion each; three polytechnics and three colleges of education got N1 billion each.

In addition, 51 Federal and state Polytechnics also benefitted from a grant of N15 billion for the rehabilitation and further development of their laboratories and also to train staff on the use of new equipment.

To increase the number of doctorate holders in the University system, about 5,867 lecturers have benefitted from the scholarship programmes up to PhD level in both Nigerian and foreign universities. Each private university was also granted N50 million for academic staff capacity development.

Beneficiaries of the new federal universities have been praising the federal government

Moving Forward

No doubt, significant progress has been recorded by the Jonathan administration. But there is still a very long way to go. The depth of the rot across the board in the sector, dating back several years, will take a long time, political will and sustained efforts to reverse.

Even the FME report acknowledged that with education being on the concurrent list, all the 36 states do not have a uniform approach to tackling the problems of basic education. While some are serious, others simply don’t care.

There is also lack of accurate and reliable data of the entire education sector owing, again, to the states’ refusal to regularly conduct the annual schools’ census.

At the tertiary level, the report noted the challenges associated with the governance structure and the quality of Governing Board members, some of who run after contracts and flouting university laws in the process.

Most importantly, the next president would have to deal with the security challenges in the country’s north east, where the violent Boko Haram group has destroyed so many primary and secondary schools and killed many students. Fear of attacks has discouraged many parents from sending their children, especially girls, to school. The abduction of over 200 girls from Chibok is still fresh in their memory.

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