Educationists Canvass Increased Budget Funding for Education in Nigeria

Seasoned educationists and notable educators have called on the federal, state and local governments in Nigeria to increase the annual funds budgeted for education in the country, saying Nigerian education with 6.7% is the least funded in Africa.

This position was reached on Wednesday, 3rd June, 2020 in Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Annual National Conference of the School of Science (ANCOSOS) themed “Investment in Science, Science Education and Technology in the Face of Daunting Economy” held online.

The e-conference which began online at 9:45 am West African Time on the zoom platform brought various educators in tertiary institutions across Nigeria and Africa to discuss the future of education in Nigeria with a view to finding solution to the problems facing Nigeria in a constantly changing world.

The keynote address presenter, a professor of entomology at the Department of Biology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Michael Olufemi Ashamo, stated that the topic is important at a time when the attention given to education by government and stakeholders is dwindling, maintaining that education as an instrument of national development cannot be neglected.

He noted further that no nation can develop beyond her educational level, insisting that Nigeria needs to embrace science and science education for her uplift in the comity of nations.

The entomologist says, “For every nation to get developed, the application of both science and technology has to go hand in hand. Today, countries are classified as developed and developing countries. The major categorization is based on economy and the application of science and technology.”

He stated further that countries which have a strong base in science and technology are the ones that develop faster, saying, “development at any phase is always linked with technology and technology happens when there is advancement in science.”

Convinced of the contributions of science, science education and technology to national development, Ashamo urges all stakeholders – teachers, parents, government, private sector and students – to pay attention to  investing money, efforts, and time into science education in order to develop Nigeria technologically, arguing that investment in the teaching of science education is crucial to Nigeria’s economic progress.

He laments that, despite the positive influence of science education and technology on national development, the educational sector in Nigeria has been in comatose.  “We have infrastructural decay, brain drain by teachers and lecturers, dilapidated structures, inadequate and obsolete facilities for teaching, learning and research, deficit in teacher quality and quantity, poor remuneration, corruption, not honouring agreements by government, bad policy among others.”

“If Nigeria is going to make meaningful progress in the comity of nations, we must pay special attention to science education and technology and invest heavily in them,” the professor submitted,  adding that investment in primary, secondary and tertiary education has been dwindling over the years.

 The scientist maintained that the future of any country depends on the quality of education that is available to the citizens, especially science and technology, urging government to invest more in education. “Government should invest more money in science and technology education to develop the country,” he maintains.

“The budgetary allocation has consistently been below the 26% minimum recommended for developing countries by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Federal Government spending on education has been consistently below the 10% of its overall budget.”

He admited,  however, that the Nigerian economy has not been at its best, which he explained, may be due to dwindling prices of oil in the international market and the huge amount involved in servicing Nigeria’s debt.

Speaking on the novelty of the e-onference necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Provost, Dr. Samuel Akintunde, praised the School of Science for their enthusiasm and determination in organizing the online conference, which is the first of its kind in the College community, as he declared open the 2020 annual event.

Dr. Akintunde pointed out that the ongoing coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19) has necessitated this remarkable feat, noting that the popular saying that necessity is the mother of innovation has really played itself out.

He expatiated that the theme of the conference is apt to the current global realities. “We are indeed facing a daunting economy as business activities have been disrupted globally as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world. While the world actively pursues a vaccine or cure to combat the pandemic, the pandemic has been of devastating effect on the Nigeria economy which is dependent on oil revenue.”

The Chief Executive Officer revealed that the 2020 budget was benchmarked on the crude oil price of $57 per barrel. “The ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged crude oil prices far below the $20 per barrel. The oil plunge has been further exacerbated by the rift between Saudi Arabia and Russia,” he lamented. 

The Provost is, however, optimistic that the scientific conference is capable of providing solution to reverse the economic woes bedeviling  the world and Nigeria in particular, charging the  August gathering “to provide ideas for robust deliberations towards highlighting the role of science, science education & technology at providing possible solutions to manage such economic downturn.”

 Dr. Akintunde encouraged the delegates to contribute positively and constructively in the plenary discussions so as to generate recommendations that will metamorphose into policy guidelines for the government towards revitalizing the Nigerian economy.”

A former Dean of the School of Science and lead paper presenter, Dr. Folorunso Balogun, lends his voice to the advocacy for investing in science, science education and technology to assist in diversifying Nigeria’s mono-economy which is based on oil revenue.

The member of Adeyemi College Governing Council posited that “there is need to diversify from the unstable nonrenewable resource of oil sector for a near stable if not stable economy,” noting that “corruption must be fought from all angles by all and sundry.”

The lead paper presenter implored Nigeria Government to properly fund the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as research institutes to establish a sound scientific base for technological development, as he calls for the power sector to be improved for industries and scientific research to produce results because scientific research and scientific industries depend on adequate and constant power supply.

Dr Balogun beckoned on the Nigerian private sector to join the government in investing in education as practised in other climes. “Private investment in education is becoming important in advanced countries. Hence, investment in education in general and science and technology education in particular should be the responsibilities of both the private sector and the governments.”

The Dean, School of Science, Dr. Mathew Ojo, observed that the theme of the 2020 e-conference has been conscientiously chosen by the organizers, adding that it could not be more fitting and pertinent especially in this era of economic downturn triggered by the ongoing novel corona virus infectious disease  and dwindling oil prices.

He pointed out that addressing the decadence in science and technology education in Nigeria is an important step in achieving economic diversification and making the economy of the nation more globally competitive.

The physicist reiterated that “investing significantly in science and technology education will deliver a vibrant generation of innovators and entrepreneurs that will liberate us from the economic backwaters.”

Dr. Ojo said he is confident that the deliberations at the conference will evolve intellectually challenging discussions capable of generating policy guidelines for the country’s policy makers.

Earlier, the Chairman, Local Organizing Committee of the conference, who is also the Vice Dean, School of Science, Dr. Mrs. Ayomiposi Akinkuolie, while welcoming participants online, described  “the theme of this year’s conference is germane, salient and well-thought out one considering its relevance to the present pandemic ravaging the globe inter alia other economic issues.” 

The Vice Dean maintained that the present situation has added to our strength as scientists and we are able to salvage the problem scientifically and technologically, portraying us as pace setters in terms of conference organization to other schools in the College.

The chairperson of the local organizing committee commended her team for working to ensure that the School of Science organizes an e-conference at this crucial time is indeed a good innovation.