Stories by Dayo Adesulu
UNESCO Consultant and former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola has disputed claims making the rounds for years that UNESCO recommends 26% bugetary allocation for education in every nation.He noted that having consulted for UNESCO for years, he can authoritatively say there’s no such recommendation.He said: ”There is nothing like 26% budgetary allocation to education recommended by UNESCO anywhere, you can’t get this anywhere”
Okebukola who spoke in Lagos to journalists during Caleb University convocation recently said the talk about 26% budgetary allocation to education began in 2001 when he was the scribe of NUC stressing “Seventeen years ago, I was executive secretary, NUC and kept hearing this and I was like, where is this one coming from?.I have been consulting for UNESCO for years, I have been writing on funding university education everywhere and you are talking of 26% , where is it coming from? In October, there was a UNESCO general conference, the minister and I went to the director general of finance and asked about the 26% budgetary requirement and he said which 26 percent is that? I also took another minister, a woman there, when we had another conference two years later and they said there is nothing like that.
”When you keep telling lies everyday, it becomes like truth. Go to Ghana and anywhere else in the world, check the literature, you will never find it anywhere else except in Nigeria where they are talking 26% budgetary allocation to education and because it’s coming from the unions in the educational system, people will think it’s true and the public is also quoting it. I just laugh when I hear about it, there is nothing like it anywhere except in Nigeria”.
Okebukola who believes that peging national education funding at 26% could be adeguate or inadeguate, however said that funding should be measured on the basis of needs.He added ”When people are talking about measuring your needs and addressing the funding to meet your needs, such needs could be 50% or 10%. I have been priviledged to participate in at least two UNESCO global conferences and when it comes to issues of funding, we don’t recommend 10 % or 30% globally. We only encourage member states to provide financial resources for their education sector in a way that will meet the peculiar needs of each country”.
Prof. Peter Okebukola
On whether our education standard in Nigeria is falling or not, the former NUC scribe posited that the standard is rising and not falling.He said: ”We do have standards and our standards are encoded in what is known as the benchmark, minimum academic standard for all the courses that are taught in the Nigerian university system.’’According to him, any student in any of our 165 universities who wants to take a course in history, philosophy or medicine, the standards are already there. ”The standards are the courses that you must take and the content of the topics that you must take within the course.The standards are the offices that should be available for lecturers, the proportion of books relative to students, the furnishing of classrooms relative to the population of students, the proportion of professors relative to senior lecturers and all that should teach you all the programme, so we have all these standards laid out.
”Every university will now have to subject students to those standards. What has happened is that the standards are rising and not falling, they are being enhanced by the day.Professor Abubakar Damu Rasheed, the current Executive Secretary of NUC is on the match, on a revolutionary match to improve quality in the university system and standards are now being enhanced. If you look at the standard at the end of the year, you will see that they are richer and higher in terms of scope than the ones we had before. So, when the standards get to the universities, the lecturer who will teach them or teach a topic in the curriculum at Caleb will be different from the one at the University of Ibadan.
”The way I will teach the topic will be different from the way the lecturer in the University of Ibadan will teach it. You expect also that there will be exposure of students to practical work, because of a number of things, chief of which is resource handicap. Our public universities are not able to provide laboratory experience, taking example of sciences to implement the standards. At the end of the training period at the point of graduation like this, if you can get a student from the University of Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Caleb University, you will expect that they should have the same theoretically but practically, you will find out that on account of all of these variables it’s relative. The other is interruption of academic calendar.
”It’s a four-year program, there is a strike in between and when the lecturers come back, they would want to cover a thirteen-week semester in three weeks. The standard is not covered for the graduate. In our private universities, it’s a lot better for a number of reasons. You have better student-teacher ratio and staff who are able to address individual needs of students unlike the public universities where you have large number of pupils and staff discipline is weaker.
”In Caleb University for instance, God helps a lecturer who just vamoses. The students will make noise and when you tell parents, they say they are paying a lot of money here. So, there is tighter control in the private university system. What I am saying is generic , because we have a hierarchy where the private university system or sub-system is doing better in terms of production of quality graduates than public universities. I can assure you here that if you look at the report of the Vice Chancellor where many of our students are doing well all over the place, look at Covenant, they are all doing quite well over there too”.