Why gov’ts should borrow to fix education

Kano Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Kano Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.

Education under the federal and state governments is mainly financed from domestic revenues as well as grants, allocations and philanthropists contributions but with dwindling revenues, authorities have resorted to approving billions of naira in borrowing to fund the sector.

About a week ago, the federal government pledged to release N220 billion to states with a high number of out-of-school children.

Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who made the assertion in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, at the launch of the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) programme in the state said, “The fund is a credit facility from the World Bank to Nigeria”.  It is disbursed to the states as grant to fight the scourge of out-of-school children as well as strengthen basic education in their respective jurisdictions.

Nwajiuba stated that the objective of the BESDA programme was to ensure that all out-of-school kids accessed and completed education, improved literacy and strengthen accountability at the basic education level.

The minister said the programme is focused on the 17 states which include the 13 states of the North West and North East and Oyo, Ebony and Rivers states. Selection of the states was based on the prevalence of the scourge, he added.

Meanwhile,  following the declaration of free and compulsory basic education, Kano State government is seeking the approval of the state House of Assembly to borrow N15 billion to fund the policy.

According to the letter of request sent to the state lawmakers by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, each of the 44 local government areas of the state would access fund to the tune of N340 million to ensure the sustainability of the policy.

The loan, expected from Guaranty Trust Bank, is to be repaid within 30 months with 15 per cent interest and would be deducted from the monthly federation allocation of each local government area.

According to the action plan, the loan would be used to construct new classrooms and rehabilitate old ones to reduce overcrowding, support the provision of free uniforms for pupils as well as the free feeding programme, the Chairman, House Committee on Local Government, Kabiru Hassan-Dashi said.

The letter was read by the Speaker, Abdulazeez Garba Gafasa, before it was transferred to the House Committee on Local Government which deliberated within two days and gave the governor the nod to collect the loan.

Daily Trust sought the input of some experts on the sustainability and efficacy of the government’s proposal.

A Professor of Educational Administration and Management and Head of Education Department, Bayero University Kano (BUK), Bello A. Bello, said loans are part of the secondary sources of financing education which could be used if all the primary sources are thoroughly exhausted.

“There are two main sources of financing education, namely primary and secondary sources. The primary sources are mainly four: government grants; international aids; endowments and individual or group donations.

“One other primary source of financing education is consultancy services, but it is understandable that at primary and secondary levels of education there are no such consultancy services that could be offered to fetch any fund. So this will not count in this circumstance.

“There are other sources such as PTA, levy and school fees but levy and school fees negate principles of free education, so they are also out of it.

“Government should be careful and ensure that all the four main primary sources are thoroughly exhausted before going to the secondary sources.

“We all know government grants. In terms of international aids and donations, there are a lot of countries and agencies that are willing to finance education in Nigeria. Agencies such as USAID, DFID and Unicef all donate to finance education,” he said.

Also, there are countries that are willing to support and finance education in addition to NGOs and individual philanthropists, he said, adding that the government must exhaust all these avenues before lending.

Prof Bello said it was imperative for stakeholders to be aware of the conventional definition of free education as “education that is tuition-free,” which means pupils would not pay anything to be taught but they would pay for other services. But the concept of free education is beyond tuition-free but totally free.

He said education was an expensive social service that should be financed adequately by the three tiers of government.

One other suggestion put forward was that a special tax should be placed on all public servants in the state, from the governor to the least paid public servant, for a particular period, specifically to fund the free and compulsory education in the state.

“If the funds raised from such tax could finance education, then there is no need for loan. But if all the outlined avenues fail to fund education, there is no harm in going to collect the loan, especially because it is not the kind of loan that will be compounded and become very hard to pay back,” he said.

Another educationist, however, said if a local government council would receive at least N340 million as planned and payback within 30 months, then the authorities may not achieve a great deal as some of the councils have over 120 schools at the basic level?

He further explained that at the primary school level, the headteachers were not given funds directly but provisions were made for free uniforms to the pupils, teaching and learning materials as well as the feeding programme.

By contrast, he said at the junior secondary school level, principals were given the overhead/running cost. For a local government with an average of 120 schools, though depending on the population, that amount would not be enough considering the daunting challenges.

A retired headmaster in Kano said the government must increase public spending on education and that borrowing money to fund improvement of basic schools was not inappropriate.a

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