Technological: Last week, I wrote about Nigeria’s collapsing university system occasioned by government’s underfunding of the universities and other factors that contributed to its rot and the lowering of the quality of their graduates. Apart from other issues I broached in that article, I also made a case for adequate funding of the universities through alternative sources, including alumni associations and through endowment funds.
Today’s intervention, which is a continuation of some of the themes examined last week, will dwell on boosting our technological and innovative education through adequate funding of our colleges of technology, including mono and polytechnics. While the emphasis is on technological and innovative education, the bedrock of the scientific and technological development of any country, attempts should be made to let the government prioritize the development of all levels of education, nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary levels, including research institutes.
It has been established that no nation can develop beyond the development of its education system and to some extent its healthcare delivery system. The crux of the matter today is that practically all levels of education in the country are grossly underfunded. In 2019, the Federal Government allocated 7.05 percent to education, 6.7 percent in 2020. Last year, the national budget for education was 5.6 percent and 5.4 percent for 2022. Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to increase education budget by 50 percent in the next few years and by 100 percent by 2025, the allocation to the sector in 2022 fell far below expectation. We are yet to meet the 15 percent of total budget benchmark by African leaders. Whether it is UNESCO’s recommendation or not; it is good that developing nations should allocate about 25 percent of their national budget to education if they really want to develop.
Countries that spend the highest total on education institution as a percentage of GDP include Norway and Chile at both 6.6 percent. They are followed by Israel and New Zealand at 6.2 percent respectively, the United Kingdom, 6.1 percent and the United States 6.0 percent. Nigeria’s education funding is among the least in Africa and the world. For Nigeria to achieve scientific and technological development, it must lay much emphasis on technological and innovative education.
The utter neglect of technological education is responsible for our low pace of economic development. It can explain why the nation’s unemployment rate is rising. It is also responsible for our low pace of industrialization. While universities have their roles in the socioeconomic development of the country, the roles of colleges of technology in the scientific and technological development of the country cannot be underestimated.
It is important that the nation’s education planners and policymakers need to go back to the drawing board and come up with new pragmatic measures to develop all levels of the education sector beginning with the pre-primary and primary education, the foundation for all the other levels. If the pre-primary and primary levels are adequately funded, the qualities of their products will rub-off on the other levels they might aspire.
With dilapidated primary schools and even secondary schools across the country, our vision of producing global players will be a mirage. The products of some of these dilapidated schools, highly understaffed and underfunded, cannot compete globally with their counterparts from other countries. The poor funding of education is why Nigeria accounts for the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa, put at over 18.5 million. Unfortunately, the majority of these children are girls. Hitherto, the figure was put conservatively at 10.5million by the UN agency.
It is based on the foregoing that one can appraise the plan by the foremost technological institution in the country, the Yaba College of Technology, to reposition technological and innovative education through the launching of the N50 billion endowment fund for the overall development of the school. Although the event has been earmarked for next month, it is worth interrogating the place of colleges of technology and even colleges of education, especially the technical ones, in advancing our scientific and technological education in a globalized world.
The school’s vision to be the leading higher educational institution in Nigeria by providing first-rate academic, professional and entrepreneurial education to their students will be vitiated if the school is not adequately funded. Their mission to produce knowledgeable and innovative graduates, worthy in skill and character through effective teaching, learning and research for the technological advancement of the country will not materialize in the face of utter neglect by the government through paucity of necessary infrastructure and equipment.
During a recent interaction with the management of the college, the Rector of the College, Engr. Obafemi Omokungbe, eloquently captured the problems that saddled the 73-year-old institution. According to him, the college is grappling with attendant challenges of dilapidated infrastructure and obsolete and non-functional equipment in their laboratories and workshops. Since the government alone cannot fund education or be in a position to salvage the situation. The N50 billion endowment fund, which may come in cash or kind, will be deployed to address the challenges of the college. At both its Yaba Campus and the one at Epe, the college is in need of some basic items to be able to fulfill its vision and mission. The Chairman of the Governing Council of the College, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), explained: “The Endowment Fund is therefore a clarion call to all friends of the College, Alumni, Private and Public institutions and Donor Agencies to come on board the Development Train of Yaba College of Technology to sand and be counted as our development partners.”
He further stated: “Your support for the Endowment Fund Project is an investment in the future—one that makes a real difference in the lives of our students, staff and departments by enhancing the College’s physical development, research, programmes and overall academic excellence.” The endowment projects include investments in infrastructure upgrades, manpower, research and development and others. The shopping list of the College include; the construction of 3 High Rise Towers, Centre for Continuous Studies, College of Medical Centre, Multi-storey Car Park Student Affairs Building and Students Hostels.
Others are endowment of academic chair and laboratory and workshop equipment. Therefore, the College is calling on public and private institutions, individuals, the alumni association and others to be part of the great event to enable the college achieve its vision in providing technological education.
Apart from the need for tertiary institutions to look for alternative sources of funding as Yabatech and others intend to do, the Federal Government should commence the adequate funding of its tertiary institutions, including colleges of technology. Boosting technological education will hasten Nigeria’s quest for scientific and technological development.