A N2 trillion Plan to Save Nigerian Education

Nigeria has no money. The government has ruled as such. It struggles to carry out its domestic responsibilities. Education is one of these tasks. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February 2022 in the midst of this conflict. Nobody is certain of the strike’s end date. The official position of Nigeria has not changed. The issue is far from being fixed since Nigeria offers free education from the elementary to the university levels, where money goes in and only knowledge (which we barely utilize) gets out. Even if the federal government is able to provide funding for ASUU at this time, it may not be able to in the near future.

On how to rescue the situation, several proposals have been put out. They seem to be inclined to undermine the government’s educational strategy. The fact is that Nigeria does not have the financial stability to fund free education at all levels. However, free education is the way to go as many Nigerian children would not have access to it otherwise. We cannot afford to put it off since we are a developing country. For the growth and ongoing existence of our country, we need as many educated individuals as we can.

Taxes are used to fund education in other countries where it is either free or heavily subsidized. But the size of our tax base is likewise insufficient to fund this system of free education. Nigerians often point to countries like America or Europe as having schools with better facilities than ours. In actuality, such sites are a result of the taxes paid by citizens. Only 10,006,304 Nigerians pay taxes, according to the Joint Tax Board of Nigeria. That amounts to 5% of Nigerians bearing the weight of 200 million people. While 144.3 million out of the 332,403,650 Americans in the United States, which we often mention, pay taxes. That translates to 332,403,650 being carried by 43.4% of Americans.

31 million of the 67.44 million citizens of the UK pay taxes. That translates to 46.2% of the population bearing their countrymen’s burden. Nigeria accounts for 5%. These truths are not comparable. Yet, Nigerians continue to contrast. What is the most effective strategy to finance free education in Nigeria? First off, what is the solution if poverty is the reason for free education?

Nigeria shouldn’t charge exorbitant fees in order to deny any Nigerian access to free education. That has always been ASUU’s and impoverished parents’ justification. Instead, the government should enact the Post-Schooling Tax, which would require every adult Nigerian under the age of 60 who received a free education through public schools—whether primary, secondary, or tertiary—and who is currently employed in Nigeria or abroad to contribute a token to the system each year in order to maintain the free education system. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed about implementing this. If the 40 million Nigerians who attended public schools are tracked down and ordered to pay N50,000 each year, the system would get N2 trillion per year.

In addition to guaranteeing and increasing access to free education, this will also guarantee the provision of high-quality education. By doing this, the government would guarantee that every Nigerian kid has access to a free, high-quality education. With such a system in place, it will be guaranteed that those who received free education would repay the favor when they start working and earning money.

Between 1999 and 2004, my generation attended University of Lagos (Unilag) for N35 each session. Except that the charge increased to N3,500 in the last year. The cost of a bed at a hostel was N90. Students still only pay N15,000 in Unilag for each session. Nigerians of certain generations received free schooling and subsidised meals. The infamous “Ali Must Go” riots of 1978 were a result of a plan to raise the daily meal price from N1.50 to N2.

The average sessional tuition at private institutions in Nigeria is N500,000. Even larger businesses charge more than this. The cost of a session at Pan Atlantic University (PAU) is around N3 million. The cost for Babcock University is around N800,000. Covenant, Bells, and Landmark Universities all charge this amount. These fees guarantee the efficient and proper operation of certain private institutions. Governments at the state and federal levels not only provide free education, which enables a guy from a low-income family like me to attend Unilag just only N35, but they also provide scholarships for different postgraduate programs both locally and abroad.

Numerous Nigerians constantly profit from this and attend the greatest colleges in the world to further their education. Yes, every Nigerian has the right to enjoy this luxury, but it is in jeopardy because of the country’s present economic situation and, according to some, corruption. Therefore, it makes sense that if Nigeria has been kind to you by saving you from the grip of illiteracy, you should repay the favor by making a little donation to maintain the system for Nigerians who have not yet been born.

That was the perspective of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his cabinet colleagues, if we go back in history. According to history, Nigeria has gone a long way in providing free formal education. Scholars and specialists have recorded the voyage. However, the country’s movement from amalgamation, colonialism, and independence are reflected in the origin, practice, and model. It was modified when Nigeria gained independence. In his academic work, Olalekan (2018) reminds us that missionaries introduced formal education to Nigeria. That time period came before the union. Up to independence, the colonialists combined the missionaries’ efforts.

However, the intent of education was also in line with drivers’ goals. According to Olalekan’s citation of Abernethy (1952), the missionaries’ goal was to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It was done so that the Colonialists could create low-cadre civil workers like clerks, apprentices in the public works sector, and wole wole (sanitary inspectors), among other positions.

The situation altered with the creation of the regions, with the western area taking the lead. The administration of Chief Obafemi Awolowo instituted free elementary education. The strategy was created and put into action by Professor Stephen Oluwole Awokoya, who was the minister of education at the time. Free education, he had said in front of the House, is “a essential catalyst for local production of commodities, the development and acquiescence to contemporary science and technology, and upliftment of Africans’ minds and souls.” It began formally in 1952. Since Nigeria’s founding, education has advanced beyond the narcissistic goals of missionaries and colonialists.

According to Olalekan (2018), who referenced the academic works of Oni (2006), Taiwo (1980), and Fafunwa (1974), 391,859 students registered for primary 1 in 6,274 schools across the area at the time it was implemented. The number of kids receiving free basic education increased in only four years. However, the financial burden also grew. It increased from £2.2m in 1954 to £5.4m in 1955. By the academic year 1957–1958, the region’s recurrent spending on only education increased to £7,884,110. The sum was used to pay for personal expenses, other costs, special expenditures, and help grants.

When General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former head of state, introduced the Universal Basic Education Scheme throughout all 19 states of Nigeria in 1976, the idea and practice of free education were adopted as national policy. In Nigeria, education is now both free and accessible. At all levels, education has always been free.

Additionally, it has had constitutional support. Free education is clearly mentioned in the 1999 Constitution. The Constitution’s Chapter II, Section 18 states that the government must provide free, universal, and mandatory elementary education as well as free secondary education, free university education, and a free adult literacy program. What purpose would it serve for the government to guarantee free education for all? to make illiteracy extinct.

Free education needs significant financial allocations from state and federal governments, which many Nigerians cannot afford, as the Western Region example has shown. It’s true that the federal and state governments both budget money for free education each year, but it doesn’t seem like they’re enough to provide us the education we want. It is clear that the government was exposed by providing free education. Because of this, private persons and organizations continue to have authorization to educate Nigerians. Private elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions are now available.

NUC estimates that there are now 111 private universities in Nigeria, albeit only around 70 of them are operational with Vice Chancellors in place, complementing the efforts of the federal and state governments to provide higher education. In a similar vein, the nation is home to several polytechnic institutions. Federal and state governments still create new universities in addition to the existing ones. There were 43 operational federal universities as of the most recent count, but 49 had received licenses, and 57 institutions were owned by state governments.

Private colleges charge significantly more than the typical Nigerian household can afford, as was already indicated. Institutions funded by the federal and state governments cannot charge what private universities do. If they do, the concept of free tertiary education will be destroyed. Millions of Nigerians are considered to be poor. As many as 4 out of 10 Nigerians, according to a 2022 World Bank estimate, are below the poverty level. 40% of that is. Perhaps the Western Region realized that, as crucial as education is to the region’s growth, asking people to pay for it would turn them off and fail to heed the call.

This was the situation in the Eastern area, where the NCNC launched its own free education program in 1957 but was unable to offer the required funding, classroom space, or other educational resources. In its first two years, it was a failure. The Eastern Government changed the program to only cover the first two years as a result (Oni, 2008). Therefore, the government was correct, and is still right, in providing free education to all Nigerians, particularly those from low-income families, in order to eliminate illiteracy as well as for individual growth and national progress.

The elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools will receive the following amounts of the post-schooling tax that I am suggesting here: 25% for elementary, 25% for middle school, and 50% for high school. The state where a payer attended their elementary and secondary schools, as well as their university or polytechnic, is specified. A student who attended a public elementary school, a public secondary school, and a public tertiary institution would get N12,500 for their primary school, N12,500 for their secondary school, and N25,000 for their higher institution with an annual salary of N50,000.

If this person just attended elementary school, they would only have to pay N12,500, and the money will go to the state where they attended basic school. Regardless of when the person attended the public school or schools, this is true. The individual is responsible for paying as long as they are working or self-employed and are under the age of 60. Nigerians would be enrolled on the net and watched over using BVN. The specific states where payers attended school will receive payments owed to public elementary and secondary institutions.

Owners of higher institutions—either states or the federal government—will get it. There will be a special account created for this. If 40 million Nigerians can be included in that net, Nigeria would get two trillion Naira annually. This implies that there will always be N1trn available for both the federal government and the states. That means the strikes by ASUU, ASUP, and the colleges of education are over.

The money will be available to run our primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions as more and more people are captured. Then, the legal structure will be developed to safeguard the money against all individuals, governments, and politicians. In Nigeria, we are aware that wherever there is money, things will happen. Government will “steal” it if politicians don’t “smell it,” or employees will embezzle it, or rats will eat it or snakes will swallow it, etc. We must all keep an eye on how the money is distributed and spent in order to prevent this. In order to ensure that all of our public schools are rebuilt and outfitted to provide free, high-quality education to Nigerian children, ASUU, NUT, ASUP, and Colleges of Education Staff Union will work together with respected religious and traditional leaders to form the committee that will oversee the money and its disbursement. New schools will be constructed when required. Once this money is readily accessible to spend each year, all of these won’t be tough. I therefore submit.

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