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As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark 2021 Global Action Week on Education, GAWE, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, and other stakeholders, Thursday, told Federal Government that the rising insecurity in Nigeria is traceable to poor funding and sheer neglect of the nation’s education sector.

Stakeholders made their stand known at a one-day ‘National Dialogue on Education Financing’ with the theme ‘More and Better Financing of Education in Nigeria’, held in Abuja, which was organised by ActionAid in collaboration with Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All, CSACEFA, and Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT.

Speaking on revenue losses by the federal government for granting corporate tax incentives annually, which amounts to $327 million for import duty exemptions could double allocation to education which currently constitutes 5.68 per cent of the 2021 national budget, the Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, said in welcome remarks that the time to change the narrative in the nation’s education sector is now as implications for less commitment to it are currently affecting socio-economic life and national security.

Obi also explained what GAWE is all about, which according to her is aimed at raising the voices of more than 1 billion people around the world whose education has been affected or completely stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s celebration is particularly important because there will be the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Replenishment Conference taking place on 28th and 29th July 2021, where Minsters of Education and Finance will be in attendance from all over the world.

She said: “ActionAid Nigeria, in collaboration with the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) joins the world to commemorate this year’s Global Action Week on Education (GAWE) on the theme ‘More and better Financing of Education’. As a Human Rights organization, education is considered a human right issue and we seek to pursue the right to education of all children, which has a transformative impact on the lives of children and learners of all ages, in addition to the impact on the building back of our country and economy as we move forward and beyond the pandemic.

“Irrespective of the mounting challenges, ActionAid has contented to promote the rights to education since the UN Global Agenda 2030, that recognized the need to reach the most marginalized group in the society thereby ensuring no one is left behind.

“Several challenges including COVID 19 pandemics, the rising Insecurity in our institutions of learning have constituted nightmares. According to UNESCO SDG Monitoring Report 2020, in Nigeria, at least 611 teachers were deliberately killed and 19,000 forced to flee between 2009 and 2015. Nigerian like most other countries is signatory to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“Among these challenges is the continued revenue dwindling occasioned by Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs). The implication among others, include the continued deprivation of the much-needed revenue to fund the delivery of free, quality, essential public services, like education.

“The IFF outflows also have implications to the infrastructural development of the countries. Even more worrisome, is the implication on the poor and the most vulnerable in the society, where there is lacking public social spending, there is always that tendency of increasing poverty and inequality.

“As noted by ActionAid, the Nigerian government loses 0.8% of GDP from corporate income tax incentives annually, amounting to US$3.3m and around US$327m a year on revenue losses to import duty exemption. These amounts could more than double the allocation to education which currently constitutes 5.68% of the 2021 national budget, – far below the globally agreed benchmark of 15-20%2 .

“Interestingly, if these huge figures lost to harmful tax incentives are effectively collected by the government, it is more than enough to put back to school the 10.2 million children currently out of school in Nigeria.”

Also pointing to the inadequacy of fund and lack of political will by the government to adequately fund public education, especially to meet the financing targets outlined in the SDG Framework for action she said that,  “Countries invest up to 4-6% GDP and 15-20% of their national budgets in education but unfortunately in Nigeria, the national budget allocation to education over the last three years (2016 to 2019) have not exceeded 7.14%.

“This is abysmally poor for a country with up to 10.2m children out of school. Consequently, the private sector is taking the available space through private investment in the provision of education, thus heightening inequality and poverty. In a recent report published in June 2019 by ActionAid, entitled: The impact of privatisation on the fulfillment of the Right to Education in 7 African countries: What do the Abidjan Principles tell us?

“The Abidjan Principles were used to assess the impact of private provision on the right to education, with a particular analysis on aspects of segregation and discrimination which may be associated with private provision.

“The report reveals that, because of the under-funding of the education sector, the private sector is on the increase, entrenching social inequalities, leading to stratification and huge disparities in education opportunities.”

Meanwhile, ActionAid has been in the vanguard calling for progressive tax reforms to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio and measures to ensure the wealthy as well as big multinational corporations are paying their fair of taxes. Fair and progressive tax will help increase the national tax-to-GDP ratio and thus the availability of public funds to invest in public services such as education.

“In conclusion, Nigeria governments at all levels should as a matter of urgency prioritize education funding, given that education is the cornerstone of any country”, she stated.

The National Moderator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All, CSACEFA, Babatunde Omole, while speaking in the same vein demanded 50 per cent of budgetary allocation to the education sector with full implementation, which will go a long way to provide Nigerians quality education at all levels of their educational pursuit that would boost national development and curb brain-drain including insecurity.

“We want to ensure that every citizen in our country actually has access to quality education, gender-responsive and all-inclusive education in our country.

“There is no gainsaying emphasizing the importance of education from the communities in the states to national and local governments, and all our efforts will not be in vain.

“But we are faced with so many realities as regards to education development, and one of the key things we have to look at is that we know the Abuja Declaration, and we believe strongly that we are far off from the expected commitment from the Nigerian government.

“At least we supposed to have 50 per cent of our revenue being allocated in our budgets to education annually but we are still roaming around seven per cent.

“We are having about 10 million children out of school and I know this is going to take harsh toll on wholistic national development that is why we are having so many challenges in terms of our security and others”, Omole said.

He also lamented lack of reliable and accurate data which has hampered the optimal performance of CSOs, “We do make in our national development in Nigeria is that we do not have accurate and effective data to work with for us to perform optimally in any thematic area we want to walk on to contribute to wholistic development.

“We are all aware of the true reflection of what is happening in our nation there is every tendency that we might not be able to get it right. We have challenges of data.

“In 2019, we realise that about N51 billion is still seated in Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, account for education which has not been accessed due to some bottlenecks, and unsafe schools is one of the key issues we are having now.”

He also demanded that government should increase educational budget to at 50 per cent, and also involve CSOs in the budget process, and all stakeholders should work together in order to ensure girls, boys, women, and adults have a safe environment for learning.

“We want the UBE Amendment Bill to be passed in earnest and we believe that we can all come together and work on all those policies we have been able to develop overtime from national education development policy and so many other policies that we need to implement to raise our index and indicators in education development”, he stated.

However, in an emotion-laden speech by Nollywood Diva and ActionAid Nigeria Ambassador, Hilda Dokubo, lamented the poor attitude of the government in Nigeria that has put the education sector in a quagmire, leading to heightened insecurity that has caused monumental loss of lives and property as the terrible situation engulfs the nation in all directions.

Dokubo also added that there is “war ahead of us” as education has been neglected for too long as a major responsibility of the government.

She said: “Can they add any course, ‘surviving Naija’? It is painful when you hear 40 per cent of your children can’t attend primary school and half of children qualified to move on to secondary school cannot do that, and somebody is asking me where do we get the fund. I know where it is.

“We start by cutting off all these excesses we give to people in the office because it is too much, and one man cannot be making so much money for doing nothing, sending his children abroad and my children are locked out on the streets.

“Our children are unsafe, they are afraid to go to school, and we are talking of infrastructure, I am an Ijaw woman we don’t even have schools, we sit under trees and beside waterside.

“We cannot be waiting for two per cent and not talk of 20 per cent. Our whole lives depend on the quality of education we give to our children.”

She also revealed that “I went to school and all government schools from primary to university. I cannot even send my girls to any of the schools I attended because there is no school.

“Children are sitting in the same secondary school where I attended and we were only 25 in my class; same class, chair and accommodating 150 students and you want them to learn? To learn what? If they can’t have seats to learn proper manners they are going to learn criminality and attack us, and that is what we are facing.

“When I was in the third year in my university I have to go on exchange in the United Kingdom, UK, and nobody had a quarrel with my certificate but now go with your certificate they give you a prelim class before they allow you to do your Masters, and we are talking about quality, there is no quality.

“Government is doing photo-ups and not development. A seven-year old girl who supposed to be in school has been raped and a man has a temerity of asking us to send him a video of what? Pornography?

“Our girls are taking away from the school in Chibok. Are they back? Indeed our children are our heritage. Let us start investing in them today or be prepared for the war that is ahead of us.”

Also speaking was the Secretary and Director, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Secondary Education Board, Nanre Emeje, who said, “This is a very important dialogue that ActionAid has brought to the front burner and I want to ask that such dialogues should continue. But beyond that that two questions we are to ask; is really important that we cannot manage education without money? The answer is no, we can’t manage education without money.

“Secondly, if really we can’t manage education without money then where do we source for this money? There are places we can source for this money, but if sourced how do we manage this money to achieve the desired goal? I believe that that is the dialogue will address and please put it in the communique. Let us send the communique to the appropriate authorities until we get the desired results.”

While recalling the experience of parents and students, especially of the poor after school resumption when the lockdown was eased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Junior Secondary School class 3 student of JSS Kubwa, FCT, Asuzu Angel called for urgent government attention to the plight of students in secondary schools across the country.

Angel said: “Schools in Nigeria need infrastructure and buildings that will aid better learning of students.

“Insecurity in Nigeria is another challenge to our learning and that is why some parents do not allow their children to come to school.

“2019 was an eye-opener because it was only the rich’s children were allowed to go to school but the poor couldn’t because they could not afford all the necessities to enable their children be in school.

“Focusing on the essential is to start from the grassroots so students can make progress from the level.”

In a goodwill message the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, who was represented by Murtala Muhammed Adobi, called for re-emergence of education in Nigeria, which according to Adobi is all about rethinking, re-assisting, re-evaluating, and re-checking the whole situation and “see where we are and what we want to do.”

“This means we need to do everything humanly possible to connect the space and gap between the rich and poor to have access to learning; we need to have an emergency and responsive evidence-based education sector planning at state and federal levels where we will able to capture some of the issues of school reopening, public response and tackle future challenges. Having this data is very important to be able to deal with them.

“When we have the plan and have to follow is realistic and evidence-based budgeting system where we need to allocate resources where the need is very important.

“The plan should allow the budgeting and when we are financing or investing in education is it fighting inequality-we have a classroom with over 150 children and learning is not taking place the way it supposed to. When we have a plan that is a crisis and emergency response areas we have a budget that goes with that we should be able to put resources in those areas.”

He also emphasized the need to involve stakeholders in the budgeting process for education, whereby there will be proper monitoring of education resources, which states are to provide information or report on how the budget is being implemented to give children quality education. He said there should be an annual sector implementation report.

He also added that there is a need for Public-Private Partnership where the banks, telecommunication companies operating in the country, and other corporate organisations provide funding for education.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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