Saturday, March 29, 2014


     Rev. Dr. Reuben G. Maiture (JP)  
        Institute of Education, ABU Zaria

Being a paper presented at the International Conference on
Integrating Higher Education, organized by the International Council for Higher Education West Africa, held at Abokoki Ghana, from 25th -28th October 2011.

Education at any time anywhere is capital intensive. Education is a gigantic programme and regarded as the main driver of any national development.  Funding has been a major hindrance to the expansion and rapid development of higher education in Nigeria.  This paper discusses the financing of higher education in Nigeria and the sustainability of higher education in this 21st Century in light of the global economic challenges and the dwindling economy in Nigeria.  Factors affecting the funding of education are discussed and possible solutions offered. The paper examines the budgetary allocations to education which could be regarded as a measure of government attitude to education.  The paper also examines the consequences of inadequate funding as it affects admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria.  It concludes with the recommendation that the state of higher education in Nigeria demands a declaration of a state of emergency in order to arrest its eventual collapse, and the participation of private sector in funding education be encouraged.
The seed for the development of higher education in Nigeria was sown in Yaba College in the 1930s.  Although the advent of the 20th century was pregnant with the need for a university education, this dream was not realized until the 19th January 1934 when Yaba College was officially opened by the then Colonial Governor, Sir Donald Cameron. According to Fafunwa (1974:143) the delay in the take up of higher education at Yaba and Zaria was caused by “the depression period and funds were hard to come by.”  This was what led to cut-backs in government spending including funding education. The Yaba College finally took up as a full grown institution, because it already had had its first in-take in 1932 and by 1934 there were second and third year students (ibid, p133).
The scarcity of funds which hindered the smooth take up of a higher education system in Nigeria left the system infested with underfunding which was inherited right from the initial establishment of higher education. The Second World War did not help Yaba College as it eventually led to the dispersion of the students and the college was turned into a military camp (op. cit. 44).
On 13th June 1943 the Elliot Commission was set up and saddled with the need for a university education in West Africa (Taiwo, 1980:88).  The Elliot Commission earmarked Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, Achimota College in Ghana, and Yaba College in Nigeria as campuses (but were designated as Colleges) each with various faculties. With this development, Ibadan took the birth right of Yaba, and the first university college was established at Ibadan in 1948.  However the establishment of a university College was not the wish and aspirations of the people; the popular yearning was a full pledged university. Nonetheless, it was received with mixed feelings. “The public and the press was critical of the institution and even refused to cooperate with it.  The reasons were firstly that Nigeria wanted a university but was given a university college (Fafunwa, op. cit. 149).
Beginning with the establishment of the University College Ibadan in the 1940s, up to the setting up of the first generation universities in Nigeria in the early 1960s, higher education had been described as having their honeymoon in terms of funding.  This was because of a number of reasons. Firstly, it fell within the period of the National Development Plan which had education as one of its top priorities. Secondly, it also fell within the period marked as Nigeria’s “Oil Boom”.  Of course at that time everything was booming, including the funding of education. Akinsanya (2011) points to the fact that during that period, “high priority was accorded to funding higher education, thereby creating the wrong impression amongst Nigerians that funding of higher education is the exclusive preserve of ‘government’.” The government was so carried away that it went ahead to take over private schools mostly mission owned schools. The questions often asked are, “How long did the oil boom last?” and “How well was funding education sustained?”
Conceptual and theoretical framework
Education means many things to many people. The National Policy on Education (NPE) which can be regarded as the encyclopedia of the goals, purposes, and guidelines covering the entire philosophy of education in Nigeria, describes education as a huge government venture. The NPE further states that, “Education is the greatest force that can be used to bring about redress; it is also the greatest investment that the nation can make for the quick development of its economic, political, sociological and human resources” (FME 1981, p5). There is no doubt that education is the largest industry in Nigeria. It is the only social service that has spread so widely into the nook and cranny of the Nigerian society, yet what has always hampered its rapid growth is funding. This implies that government alone cannot execute all that it takes to achieve education. It means that education should be everybody’s business.
Education can be defined as communicating knowledge from one person to another.  It is the process of transferring attitude, wisdom, skills, and information, in preparation for the next generation. Ilori (2005) sees education as the process of adding value to life. Therefore, education is targeting the people to add meaning to the people’s life for national development. Education is one of the necessities for social and economic development of a nation. Education is needed to develop the economy of any nation and funds are required to develop education. Education and human capital development are the only strategies for a sustainable national economy. Education is therefore the main driver for ensuring a healthy and growing national economy. As such education must be properly funded in order to be sustained.
At present Nigeria operates a three ladder educational system namely:  Primary education (Basic education), Secondary education (Post primary), and Tertiary education (Post secondary). Higher education which is the third ladder is the pillar of every development.  It is where the final product of the education industry is completed. Higher Education is the pinnacle of all education. The tertiary level of education in Nigeria is: a) designed to produce an academically sound mind, b) aimed to equip the individual with the essentials of a teacher and leader,
c) dependent on people who are passionately devoted to the search for truth, wisdom and knowledge.
Global Economy and Globalization
The world is shrinking and being described as a village because of globalization.  There have been advances in communication and transportation; space and distance have been overcome by technology.  Globalization increases the influence one part of the world has on the other part of the world (McCain 2009).   Whenever there is a disaster in any part of the world, other parts of the world know it as it is happening. Nations are working hard to catch up with each other nations in terms of national development, vis-a-vis science, technology and ecology through providing quality education. The Global Economic Prospects, published in June 2011, explains that “global economy or world economy generally refers to the economy which is based on economies of all of the world's countries’ national economies. Also global economy can be seen as the economy of global society and national economies – as economies of local societies, making the global one”. The largest economies in the world in 2011 are the United StatesChinaJapanGermanyFrance and the United Kingdom (qtd. in http/ Beginning with the global economic meltdown from 2007 which saw the impact of the global recession on the world's poorest countries, economy of the whole world is in bad shape. Responding to the rise in inflation and the closing of output gaps, authorities in many developing countries began the process of adjusting macroeconomic policy, which had been loosened in the wake of the financial crisis, to a more neutral stance. This made the economists warn of its implications on the Nigerian economy. It could be recalled that the late President Musa Yar’adua (supported by Mr. Charles Soludo, the then CBN governor) and being so carried away with his 7 Point Agenda and the roadmap to achieving the much talked vision 202020, while reacting to the global economic meltdown in a media chat defended by saying, “Nigeria has no cause for alarm” as if Nigeria is not in the comity of nations. He was reminded that Nigeria is part of the international community, so whatever affects any country affects Nigeria.
The Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines, “sustainable” as having the necessary physical strength, mental power, skill, time, money or opportunity to do something. Maiture (2010) (quoting United Nation 1987) that stated that; “Sustainable development is about satisfying the needs of the present generation without compromising or diminishing the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs”. Development is all about growing or progressing from a lower to a higher state or level.  Thus “sustainability” is holding the development that meets the needs of the present and making sure that that development can continue in the future. Every meaningful development must be sustained. Education is a development that must be sustained, maintained and supported at all cost even in the face of economic crisis.
The State of Higher Education in Nigeria
In 1970 the Ashby Commission made a recommendation that 7,500 student be enrolled in Nigeria universities.  But the facts on ground revealed an explosion of 15,272, twice the recommendation.  The admission distribution was as follows: ABU (Zaria) 2,689, UNN (Nsuka) 2,929, Ife 2,413, Unibadan 3,655 and Unilag 2,536. By 1993 the enrolment of Nigeria universities has risen to 97,000 (Baikie, 2002). As pointed out in this report the violation of the recommended enrolment figure by Nigeria universities marked the beginning of a lack of funds in university funding. Funding was expected to grow with population expansion.  The question that people are asking is why should universities that had facilities for only 7,500 students admit 15,272, twice the target? However, the admission was based on the reality on ground.  Take for instance, the UNESCO report of 1985 as in Baikie (2002:269), projected an enrolment into Nigeria’s educational systems as follow: Primary Schools 13.6 million, Secondary schools 2.24 million and Universities 130,000. These figures when compared with the Nigerian population of 120 million at that time, was too small to be contemplated.  When one looks at the demand for university education it is evident that our universities cannot cope, neither can they absorb even a quarter of the number seeking admission as shown in the table below.

Table 1: Pattern of application and admission into Nigerian Universities 1999 – 2005
YearNo. of candidates
seeking admission
 No. admittedPercentage of admission of candidates that applied

Source: JAMB quoted in Kajuru (2011)
This table shows that less than 15 percent of the candidates secured admission into Nigerian universities. Year in year out there is always a stampede into higher education in Nigeria as the result of the mounting pressures for admission.  The admission exercise is always hectic as can be seen in what transpired at ABU for the last 5 years.
Table 2: Admission into ABU 2006 - 2010
YearCandidates seeking admissionAdmittedPercentage of admission of candidates that applied
Source: Academic Office, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
This table shows that the number of candidates seeking admission is always on the increase. Surprisingly ABU has never exceeded 20 percent of the number of candidates seeking for admission even with 63,560 as the highest number of candidates applying for admission in 2010. Out of that number ABU admitted only 8,554 candidates constituting 13 percent, which is the lowest percent it had made in five years. So as seen in both Tables 1&2 it is clear that admission into higher education in Nigeria will continue to be low as long as there are inadequate facilities that cater to the teeming number that are craving to be admitted every year. There is always a huge demand for higher education but only a tiny percentage is able to be admitted.  In a nation such as Nigeria with a rapid population explosion, the facilities on ground could not reasonably sustain education. Population growth would always force an increase in educational enrolment.  Thus there should always be economic develop to grow, support and sustain education.
With the emergence of state universities, private universities, colleges of education, polytechnics and other institutions of higher learning, one would have thought that the problem of the perilous demand for admission into tertiary education was over, but nonetheless it is like a drop in a bucket. At present there are more than a hundred universities and more than two hundred other tertiary institutions in Nigeria (refer to JAMB 2011 Brochure and NUC Bulletin 2009). One fact still remains that there has always been a wide gap between the demands for enrolment based on the desire for education and the available facilities.
Funding Education in Nigeria
Sams (2010) in an interview with Mahmood Yakubu, the executive secretary of the Education Trust Fund, asserts that funding is not the challenge to education in Nigeria but misappropriation and lack of priorities. In his words,
I used to think that the major problem of education sector is funding. But I have slightly modified my views. The major problem may not out rightly be funding. If you start by saying that the problem is funding, you miss a point. Money is supposed to help you solve problems. You have to identify what the problem is first and how much you need to solve the problem. Some institutions say they need some amount; but if you ask them to propose what they want to do with the money, they leave the core objectives and propose to spend the money on tangential issues. So even if the money is available, they will spend the money without addressing the core challenges. How can you tell me that you want to build a fire service centre when students hang around the window in your university because they don’t have enough seats? On the permanent site of a particular university, one of the first things they did was to construct a gate into the university. There is a long stretch of dual carriageway with street lights and at the end of it; the first building you will see is the senate building, housing the vice chancellor’s office. In that university, the library building is still at foundation level, but there is a beautiful edifice for the vice chancellor. In another university, they completed convocation square even before they graduated one person and there is no library building there. So, we need to think fast and prioritize (qtd. in Sams, 2010).
Mahmood Yakubu may be holding an unpopular view about government expenditure on education which he claims has been adequate. He went ahead to debunk the allegation that government has been starving education. In his word, “if there is a fundable proposal and the money is exhausted, we will go to government and ask for more; but if we don’t have fundable proposals, the money will be there unutilized. … You cannot say that the system is starved of funds whereas you have huge backlog of allocated but un-accessed funds” (ibid). Mahmood Yakubu’s claim seems to be supported by Baikie (2002:149,276)) who describes the funding of education as “one of the intractable problems.” He loads the blame on implementers. In his words, the problem is “the excesses of educational administrators, who deliberately inflate contracts, pay ghost workers, present expensive gifts to curry favour, and dot their campuses with uncompleted capital projects, mismanaging funds meant for education.” But contrary to these minority views Akinsanya (2007), Okuramiri et al (2009) hold tenaciously that funding education in Nigeria has never been encouraging, describing the Nigerian government attitude to funding education as ridiculous.  Looking at a rundown of the budgetary allocation to education by the Nigeria federal government from 1990 – 2006 shows the following:

Table 3: Federal Government of Nigeria budgetary allocation to education for 15 years 
 YearPercentage of Annual Budget to Education

Source: Shekarau (2006) quoted in Okunamiri (2009) adapted from CBN report in
Vanguard (2006)

Judging from this table it reveals that Nigeria has never met the benchmark of 26 percent recommended by UNESCO.  The highest that Nigeria has ever allocated to education was 14.9 percent in 1994.  And instead of growing, the practice has been forward and backward. Okunamiri et al (2009:213) conclude that “the fact that Nigeria has continued to budget lowly to education stands out as evidence that the leaders of this nation have not realistically decided to address the issue of poverty, disease, and hunger in the country. Available records have shown that the National University Commission (NUC), the Education Trust Funds (ETF), the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) and other sister bodies entrusted with funding education are accused of slicing even more than 50 percent of any amount requested by institutions. With such attitude Nigeria has continued to be lagging behind in terms of funding education when compared to what is obtained in other countries as seen in Table 4 below;
Table 4: Percentage of Expenditure on Education as a ratio of the total Government Expenditure by some selected countries in Africa Asia 1986-92.

Ghana26 o/o
Botswana21 o/o
Kenya20 o/o
Malaysia19 o/o
Uganda15 o/o
Egypt13 o/o
Indonesia0.09 o/o
Nigeria0.03 o/o
Source: Okunamiri et al (2009) in Shakarau (2006) adapted from UNICEF Report 1994
According to this table Nigeria being the big brother in Africa occupies the lowest position, while Ghana tops the list by satisfying the 26 percent benchmark pegged byUNESCO. It looks unbelievable and ridiculous. One would have expected that the story would be different at the lower levels of education, the secondary and primary, but an analysis of school enrolment in 1991 in some selected countries rated Nigeria as occupying the last position as seen in Table 5 below.
Table 5: Secondary and Primary Schools Enrolment in seven selected countries in 1991

CountryPercentage of Enrolment to Education
Source: Okunamiri et al (2009) quoted in Shekarau (2006) adopted from UNESCO 1995.
This table should serve as a challenge and a wakeup call for Nigeria and all stakeholders in education in Nigeria to go to the drawing table to arrest the situation before its eventual collapse.
Consequences of Inadequate Funding of Education
During the oil-boom period of the 1970s to 1980s Nigeria had a strong economy, but as described by Kolo (2011), there was a jungle approach to expand the educational system. He added that the education sector was expanded by leaps and bounds guided by overly-ambitious policy decisions which had little or no built-in strategic development approaches. So because of the scare-crow on the Nigerian economy, it resulted in a gross underfunding of education, poor resource inputs that can make education functional and qualitative, unwillingness to implement even the best policies and reforms agendas, and a massive brain drain (Kolo, 2011).
The Nigerian government attitude to education has often been evidenced with fund-starvation which has created and promoted a catalogue of corresponding consequences such as:
a)      Poor conditions of teaching and learning
b)      Lack of job satisfaction
c)      Ineffective research and innovation
d)     Weak manpower development and weak capacity building
e)      Production of a hopeless generation
f)       Creation of a generational gap
g)      Increase in armed robbery, kidnapping, trafficking, area boys, Boko Haram, etc.
h)      Prison congestion
i)        The fallen standards in education and low enrolment as well
The managers of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria are in consensus that these institutions are grossly under-funded. Evidence exists on the degree of dilapidation that characterizes the primary and secondary school buildings in all parts of the country; the non-payment of teachers’ salaries and allowances as a result of which strikes are the order of the day; the lack of necessary teaching and learning materials at all levels of the educational system; poor working conditions of all teachers in the country, among other indices. It has also been argued that financial mismanagement and lack of accountability by officials has led to diverting substantial resources from the educational institutions to other ends. In this case two issues are relevant: the need for enough funds and the need for responsible and proper management of the funds. How to achieve these two is a major problem for the Nigerian educational system, and achieving them holds the key to educational development in the country, (qtd. in Onlinenigerian Daily News, Oct. 2011).
However it is a fact that there have been remarkable advances in the nation's educational system at all levels, although bedeviled by several problems, which have continued to plague the educational system. If the proposed Universal Basic Education scheme takes care of the problem of access, those of discipline and funding are yet to be seriously addressed, and addressing them should be one of the major policy thrusts of the present democratic dispensation at both state and federal levels. Undoubtedly, education must be adequately funded if quality is to be guaranteed. In pursuing the ideals of quality, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) should be strongly supported in its efforts at curriculum reform towards greater relevance. Accountability must be enshrined in our socio-economic philosophies and policies. The anti-corruption crusade initiated afresh by the Obasanjo-led administration deserves to be widely supported.
In regards to the agitation for university autonomy, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) did clarify that, “University autonomy and academic freedom connote the right of universities to run their affairs in accordance with the laws and statutes setting them up.  It also means internal democratic governance through the committee system set up by the statutes of each university” (Baikie, 2001: 250).
Hitherto the agitation for the autonomy was necessitated by the fact that “the excessive centralization and laborious bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education could no longer cope with enormity and complexity of the task assigned to the Federal Ministry of Education (FME)” (ibid). One fact remains that autonomy was inevitable since the problems the Ministry of Education had to contend with created a serious flaw.  It could not handle the growing demand in education.  So when the autonomy was finally granted the FME issued the statement that the autonomy for universities is defined in terms of their freedom to govern themselves, appoint their key officers, determine the conditions of service of their staff, control their student admissions and their academic curricula, control their finances and generally regulate themselves as independent legal entities without undue interference from the federal government (Baikie, ibid).
With the granting of autonomy to Nigerian universities, one would have thought that the problem of funding would become a thing of the past, but alas! the situation every time has been going backward.  The National University Commission (NUC), the regulatory body for universities, would always insist that universities should operate within the confines of funds made available to it.  In 1984 an analysis of the disbursements of money to universities shows that hardly any university ever received up to 50 percent of what it demanded from the NUC.  There was always just a slice of the amount approved from what was required. But today whenever there is a showdown between the ASUU and government, the later would go to the media and tell the world that the ASUU is asking for a pay raise for its members. Take for example the 2009 agreement which the ASUU entered into with the Federal Government which centered on the conditions of service, funding of education, university autonomy and academic freedom, as well as other related matters including non-salary components. For two years the government would not honour its part of the bargain, thereby forcing ASUU to issue this resolution: “Budgetary allocations to education have continued to decrease in curious violation of the terms of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement. The agreement provided for a gradual but progressive push towards the provision of 26 percent budgetary allocation for education. On the contrary, budgetary allocation to education in the last two years has continued to diminish while facilities in universities have remained grossly inadequate and in very serious state of disrepair. The attempt by the FGN to convert the ETF into a funding agency rather than the intervention agency that it was meant to be is very unfortunate, (ASUU, Special Bulletin, Vol. 12.No 1, August 16, 2011). The lack of heeding to this agreement made the ASUU go on a one week warning strike thereby grounding academic activities nationwide.
Turaki (2009) summarizes the problems of Nigeria to financial recklessness which has become a cankerworm.  So is the problem of Nigeria’s education a lack of funds?  Does it mean that Nigeria is a poor country?  Absolutely not! Our problem it is said is that of corruption which has become an incurable disease. Nigeria depends so much on one source of revenue; that is oil. There is need to explore other ways of diversifying the sources of funding education in order to get everybody involved.
Ways to Improve Funding of Higher Education in Nigeria
Kolo (2011) argues that a “fledgling economy is no excuse for not making the policy functional if the maxim that no Education System can rise above the quality of its teachers is to be used to anchor an era of functional and quality education system in Nigeria.” For in order to achieve adequate funding of education in Nigeria, a number of deliberate policy measures should be taken and the actions forward are not farfetched. First and foremost there is need for overhauling and reforms in the economic and education sectors. Secondly there should be a change of mindset towards the nation’s economy and education by imbibing positive values and attitudes. Thirdly there should be stringent instruments for transparency and accountability in funds management.
The era of lip service is over. Many people have advocated several cost sharing measures in funding education:
  • Government contributions; governments at all level to provide grants, scholarships, bursaries and loans, etc.
  • Student contributions; fees, tuition, registration, etc.
  • Parents contributions; PTA, levies, etc
  • Alumni Association contributions; levy, sponsoring projects, etc.
  • Private sector contributions; endowment funds, grants, voluntary donations, scholarship schemes, etc.
  • Institutional contributions; investments, printing press, farms, etc.
  1. Government should declare a state of emergency in the higher education sector and government should try to meet the UNESCO benchmark at all times.
  2. Government should finance education properly as underfunding can strangle the development of education. Money should be made available in order to sustain education.
  3. Private sector participation, individuals, organizations, communities, and groups should be encouraged to invest in education as government alone cannot shoulder the burden. The establishment of private universities, colleges of education, and polytechnics is a welcomed development. But there should be strict supervision in order to safeguard against giving people a substandard education.
  4.  Failure to meet the demand for higher education has escalated many of the problems in Nigeria. There is the need for the establishment of more tertiary institutions in order to absorb all the qualified candidates to avoid the stampede in admission exercise that has become an annual saga.
  5. Companies and industries both national and international should be levied to contribute a certain percentage towards education.
  6. In spite of the economic crisis which is a global phenomenon, Nigerians should follow the Rule of Law; shun corruption and misappropriation that have always drained education funds. For Nigeria that is all that it takes to sustain education even in this time of global economic challenges.

There are financial constrains in Nigeria which has made education to suffer. Financing education is supposed to be a crucial, top priority of the government. In order to sustain higher education Nigerian government needs to adhere to the UNESCO 26 percent benchmark of its annual budget. As it is today the demand for university admission has continued to outweigh the available spaces in the universities. The growth in the education sector should attract corresponding growth in funding. There is also the need to adopt a cost sharing formula which will make education everybody’s’ business by participating in funding education. It is only when stake holders strive to play their part in funding education that we can be sure that education will be sustained in the face of seeming comatose state of global economic challenges. The state of higher education in Nigeria demands a declaration of a state of emergency in order to arrest its eventual collapse.

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