Opinion: The rot in education hinders Nigeria’s economic progress

by Jaye Gaskia


When a nation’s workforce is untrained, unskilled, and or has no opportunities to or lacks access to qualitative retraining and skills development, then such a nation’s economy will either fail to grow or slide into a decline relative to the economy of others where the reverse is the case.

Let us begin by establishing what should be a commonsensical fact; that there is a direct and dialectical link and relationship between the quality and level of accessibility of education; the level of economic productivity and growth; the job creation capacity of the economy; the level of insecurity; as well as with the high cost of governance in any given human society.

One would have thought that any leadership or elite that claims to be exposed and educated, would have understood the basic principles of human and economic development; That the quality of the future of a country or people, the level of productivity and viability of an economy, and the degree of competitiveness of such a peoples’ economy; is dependent on the nature and quality of such a peoples’ investment in the training, education, socialisation and preparation of its youth and children!

Without the availability and accessibility of quality all-round education for a country’s citizens, such a nation’s economy is deprived of quality technical and technological skills and expertise; as well as of trained, and skilled expertise to raise productivity, create wealth, and run and manage the economy.

When a nation’s workforce is untrained, unskilled, and or has no opportunities to or lacks access to qualitative retraining and skills development, then such a nation’s economy will either fail to grow or slide into a decline relative to the economy of others where the reverse is the case. The end result will be the same; economic decline, leading to high levels of joblessness, and creating a fertile soil for crime and insecurity to fester and for their levels to soar uncontrollably, as is the case with Nigeria.

Let us take a more critical look at the state of education, and therefore the state of capacity development of the nation’s youth and children.

In 2011, after the last round of a prolonged general strike in tertiary education across the country, the Federal government under the current president and his transformation agenda set up a presidential monitoring and assessment committee to evaluate and assess the state of the nation’s public Universities. The committee assessed 61 out of a total of 75 public Universities owned by both Federal and State governments. It consequently submitted its report in July 2012.

Overall the presidential assessment committee found public universities to be in a near comatose situation; it found that none of our public universities met the average minimum standards for such institutions globally. It found conditions of facilities, equipments, teaching aids, lecture rooms, laboratories, staff offices, support services, service delivery, hostels, etc ; all the things necessary for creating a conducive environment for research, learning and character training to be very appalling.

Yet no nation in existence has developed and advanced socio-economically, militarily and politically; without heavy, and sustained investment in public education.

In our own context for example, the committee found that no Nigerian public laboratory was ranked among the first 1000 globally! The committee found that abandoned capital projects litter the public institutions, hovering around 30% of projects being abandoned, and with less than 20% completion rate for projects; and the rest in various levels of completion as at the time of the assessment; The committee found the state of learning resources to be very alarming; grossly inadequate; and consisting mostly of obsolete facilities.

Furthermore, it found that most state universities do not have adequate mix of teaching staff, with most of the teaching staff being visiting or adjunct lecturers. More appalling is the fact that less than 10% of Nigerian public universities have up to 60% of teaching staff with PHDs!

At another level the committee found that there are 37,504 teaching staff across all public universities, compared to slightly more than 1.5 million enrolled students. This gives a teaching staff to student ratio of 1:40 double the globally accepted ideal ratio of 1:20. Some of the universities in fact have abnormally high ratios, for instance; NOUN – 1:363; UniAbuja – 1:122; LASU – 1:114; Adekunle Ajasin University – 1:77. Six universities have ratios of 1:50 and above; 11 have ratios of 1:40 and above; while 22 have ratios of 1:30 and above.

It found that a majority of the public universities are grossly understaffed; and that of the 61 assessed, 12 require critical and immediate special attention.

With respect to academic qualifications and teaching experience of teaching staff, the situation gets even more ridiculous and interesting! Of the 37,504 teaching staff across all public universities, only 43% have PHDs; 45% have masters; while 12% have Bachelor’s degrees. Meanwhile of the total 37,504 teaching staff, only 75% are full time, while 9% are visiting, 6% are adjunct, 6% are contract, and 4% are on sabbatical placements.

The level of qualification of the teaching staff as well as the staff to student ratio have grave consequences for the quality of teaching, learning and research that is being undertaken in our public universities.

Furthermore only 7 universities have up to 60% of staff with PHDs; these are, IMSU, UNICAL, OSUS &T, NOUN, UNIPORT,UNILORIN & UNIUYO. This is in addition to the fact that 85% of teaching staff are male, with only 15% being females [compared to male to female ratio among students of 57% to 43%]. This has great implications for example for the education of women, as well as with respect to incidences and levels of sexual harassment.

In the same exercise the committee found in its report that in most universities there are a lot more non-teaching staff than there are teaching staff; For instance there are a total of 77,511 [to 37,504 teaching staff] non-teaching staff across public universities, of which 70% do not have a first degree! Some Universities have disproportionately higher figures and ratios for non teaching staff. In this instance UNN, with 6,000 non-teaching staff has a number that is twice that of OAU and Unilag respectively.

In some Universities [Uniben, OAU etc], the number of senior admin staff alone is more than the total number of teaching staff; in some others [Uniben], there are more principal assistant registrars than there are Professors; while on a general note, the Registries, Bursaries, and office of the VC have the highest numbers of staff as opposed to the number of support staff posted to Faculties and Departments.

After making this observation, the committee concludes that ‘almost all universities are overstaffed with non-teaching staff, resulting in over bloated personnel costs and overheads!

With respect to students enrollment, the committee found that 1,525,913 students are enrolled in our public universities; with 76% of these being enrolled in 25 out of 61 public universities; while of these 76.6%, 67% are enrolled in 16 Federal Universities [out of the 25], and 33% are enrolled in 9 state universities [out of the 25]. For example, UniAbuja with a student population of 62,528 has more students than 2 of the oldest universities [UI – 33,481 & UNN – 23,815] put together [57,296]. Furthermore 7 universities alone account for 33.5% of national enrollment – LASU, UniAbuja, NOUN, Uniben, Uniport, ABU, and Unilag.

Program enrollment, an indication of the future distribution of skills and competences on the other hand were as follows; Arts & Soc Scs: 33.1%; Mgt Sc & Educ: 33%; Sc [including SC education]: 16%; Engineering: 6.3%; Medicine: 5%; Agriculture: 3.9%; Pharmacy: 1.4%; Law: 1%.

The connection between this appalling level of public education, the only one that is even remotely available and accessible for a majority of citizens, as only the rich and well off can afford over priced private education; the connection between the level, quality, and accessibility of this state of total rottenness in public education and the decline in national economic productivity and consequent high levels of unemployment and unemployability particularly among youth cannot be more obvious! And so should the connection between consequent economic decline and rising levels of poverty, crime, criminality, and insecurity on the other hand.

A decadent and rotten public education system is incapable of servicing in any quantitative, much less qualitative manner the driving levers of an economy in order to improve productivity, generate wealth, and increase competitiveness. And without these, economic decline and contraction sets in, with attendant loss of jobs, as well as inability of the economy to absorb more workers and participants. The combined effective resultant of this is a situation that contributes significantly to rising poverty levels, and increasing levels and incidences of crime, criminality and other forms of disruptive violence and insecurity.

Nevertheless, at the root of this grossly inadequate levels of quantitative and qualitative investment in education is the misplaced priorities of a ruling elite, and the grossly disproportionate levels of consumption of public wealth by the elite.

So for instance, while critical services and basic infrastructures like education, health, housing, roads and transport etc, are grossly under funded through public investment; the personal consumption and needs of the ruling elite in political and public office as well as at senior levels of public servive are grossly over funded with public investment. So for instance, according to the report of the Adamu Fika committee on the public sector; the country spends roughly N1.3tn [roughly 23% of the annual federal budget; slightly higher than the annual federal capital vote; and just about 50% of the annual federal recurrent expenditure] on the salaries and emoluments of only 18,000 political office holders and senior public service personnel annually!

To make the point about the impact of high cost of running ineffective governance even more glaringly; the N1tn expended by the National Assembly [NASS: that is a total of 469 legislators + roughly 3,000 in total number of aides and NASS public service staff] in the 8 years between 2006 and 2013, is just slightly less than the N1.3tn recommended by the presidential assessment team on public university education as being needed as immediate public investment in public universities [that is a total of 1.6 million students, plus 37,000 teaching staff, plus 78,000 non teaching staff across 75 public universities] to raise and upgrade standards to internationally accepted and competitive levels for knowledge generation and production.

As can be seen from the above, so whereas the nation spends annually N1.3tn on salaries of 18,000 over bloated senior federal personnel – in public service and political office; and has spent N1tn in just 8 years on salaries and allowances of a mere 4,500 National Assembly law makers and staffers; it claims it is unable to find and invest N1.3tn in public funds on public universities which will directly impact on nearly 2 million staff and students; while also having direct multiplier effects on the level of economic growth, productivity, wealth and job creation etc.

It is such levels of disproportionate consumption of national wealth by a tint privileged parasitic elite that has resulted in one of the highest levels of gaps between the rich and poor anywhere in the world. So for instance while the top 10% of Nigerians own and control 41% of national wealth; the bottom 50% of Nigerians own a mere 20% of national wealth, with the bottom 20% in fact owning just 4.1% of national wealth. The abnormality of this wealth distribution and levels of consumption is made clearer by the fact that one person alone, has a personal wealth which is almost equal to the total volume of the country’s external reserves at $48bn, and with companies controlling more than 40% of the assets traded on the Nigeria Stock Exchange! The more amazing part of this ‘economic miracle’ is that this transformation in the personal fortunes of Africa’s wealthiest [the world’s 25th wealthiest] man all happened to have occurred over a period of about 8 years, the same period within which national poverty levels grew from 54% to 70% throwing roughly 112 million Nigerians into poverty.

With such wastage and leakages in government; with such uncommon levels of treasury looting taking place from the lowest to the highest levels; with levels of public protected criminality and criminal enterprise ongoing [leading to more than N3tn loss in oil subsidy scams without convictions + more than $14bn annual loss to crude oil theft at a daily loss of 400,000 barrels of crude + more than N100bn annual loss to ghost workers, etc]; with these levels of insane pillage going on, it is little wonder that we have one of the highest costs of governance anywhere in the world; and why public education, public health services; public infrastructure etc are in such appalling states; as well as why we have over 18 million housing deficits, an economy that performs consistently at lower that 40% capacity utilisation, and more than 50 million unemployed Nigerians, hungry and angry.

From all of the foregoing, it is obvious that the ruling political elites who super intend on this waste and treasury looting spree, and who are the major beneficiaries of these anomalous situation, that is of their making; cannot be interested in effecting any major transformation of our situation and context.

It should be very obvious to us now, that only us can help ourselves, only us can liberate our nation and emancipate ourselves. It is therefore critical, and decisive, that we take our destinies into our own hands, take advantage of the current situation; and seize this moment of intra ruling class turmoil to Take Back Nigeria from the alliance of thieves and bandits.

We must make sure that these are the issues that are raised in electoral campaigns, that the solution and workable plan to redress these and other issues, are the demands we make of parties and their candidates; and that our mandate is given only to those parties and candidates that can give us satisfactory answers, devoid of the thick veil of lies and deception.

And what better moment to act than now, this moment in time? What more auspicious moment to act collectively in our own interest? With the implosion of the PDP, the hurried marriage of convenience of the opposition; history presents us with no better enabling environment to gird our loins, and build our own enduring, radical and revolutionary alternative to the treasury looting vehicles of the ruling class which they present to us as parties.




Jaye Gaskia tweets from @jayegaskia


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (0)

  1. “in some others [Uniben], there are more principal assistant registrars than there are Professors; ” and I bet you students still can’t get a transcript or certificate when they need it. Loooool.

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