A major national newspaper has made several statements about the education sector in Nigeria. We took a closer look at six of them.
The national newspaper was largely correct in its description of what it called the “catastrophic” state of education in Nigeria, including the “paltry” percentage of the federal budget allocated to education.
The paper also accurately reports that only about 61% of Nigerian children who should regularly attend primary school and as few as 35% of three to five year olds receive formal early childhood education.
But the newspaper was completely off the mark when it reported the trillion naira allocated to education from 2016 to 2021 – 55.3 trillion naira compared to the actual number of 3.7 trillion naira.
To mark this year’s International Day of Education, Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper shone a spotlight on learning in the country.
In a largely scathing editorial from February 2022, the publication, which circulates in Nigeria and Ghana, made several claims, including on funding, attendance and the number of out-of-school children.
We verified six of the claims.
“N55.3 trillion naira has been allocated to the education sector by the federal government between 2016 and 2021.”
The newspaper claimed that from 2016 to 2021, it was “reported” that the Nigerian government allocated 55.3 trillion naira to the education sector.
We emailed Business Day asking for the source of their data and clarifying some of the claims. We will update this report with their response.
Documents from the Federation Budget Office, however, show that this amount is much less than the amount that was set aside for education during this period.
The figures cover statutory transfers under the country’s Universal Basic Education (UBE) program, in addition to recurrent and capital expenditure allocations by the Ministry of Education and its affiliated agencies.
The first nine years of education in Nigeria are free and compulsory and are funded under the basic education curriculum.
The table below shows the planned funding for the six years under review.
The total education allocation over the six years was N3.70 trillion, a fraction of what the document claimed.
The newspaper’s 55.3 trillion naira figure is actually closer to the country’s total budget for the six years, which was 56.92 trillion naira.
We therefore consider this statement to be incorrect.
“Less than 10% of funds allocated to education during the period, amounting to 3.5 trillion naira, had been given to the sector.”
Business Day went on to say that less than 10% of the 55.3 trillion naira it claimed was budgeted for education was ultimately spent on the sector.
He gave the figure as 3.5 trillion naira, suggesting a chasm between what was budgeted and what was eventually released.
Budget execution documents for the years of interest suggest otherwise. They show that for each of the years from 2016 to 2021, 100% of the amounts intended for the UBE program have been released.
The share of capital budget released has also exceeded 50% in all years, rising to over 100% in 2020.
The percentage of the education budget allocated to the sector was well above 10%.
“In Nigeria’s 2022 budget of 17.13 trillion naira, only a measly 7.2% is allocated to the education sector.”
The editorial stated that the share of the education sector in Nigeria’s 2022 budget was 7.2%. This equates to 1.23 trillion naira, out of a total of 17.13 trillion naira.
He said an international agreement in 2021 commits countries to spend at least 15% of public funds on education.
Available data shows that the budget allocation to education in 2022 is actually slightly lower.
The Finance Act 2022 released by the Federation Budget Office shows that N593.47 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Education and its agencies for recurrent expenditure, and N159.66 billion for projects of investment.
N112.29 billion has also been earmarked for basic education and N306 billion for the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
This represents 1.17 trillion naira or 6.83% of the total budget.
However, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed’s public presentation of the approved budget for 2022 had a total education allocation of 1.23 trillion naira, or 7.2% of the total budget – the newspaper claims.
The disparity was due to the fact that the budget presentation document gave a total of N815.69 billion while the Appropriation Act figures came to N753.13 billion. But the newspaper’s general argument of low funding holds, as analysts told Africa Check.
Insufficient funding seriously affects teacher morale
The still insufficient financing of education has “serious implications” for the country, according to Comfort Edemenang. He is a Professor of Educational Administration and Planning at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, North East Nigeria.
He gave the example of universities. “Sometimes there is no electricity or water for several days. Infrastructure is poor and both teachers and students are demoralized. Many want to go abroad.”
Nigeria’s education indices from primary to tertiary level are poor, Sidiqat Ijaiya, a professor of education management at the University of Ilorin in north-central Nigeria, told Africa Check.
He also linked this to insufficient funding for education. “A major impact is the poor infrastructure. Due to the lack of basic laboratory equipment, we are doing practical work alternatives in secondary schools. There is also a lack of equipment in universities.”
Speakers struggled to stay motivated and often lost their tools, Ijaiya said. In February 2022, professors went on strike, with better funding for universities as one of their demands.
“It’s not just about increasing teachers’ salaries, it’s about infrastructure and teaching materials,” Ijaiya said.
“In 2021, there were 25 attacks on schools. 1,440 children were abducted and 16 children were killed.”
We traced this claim to a November 2021 press release from the Nigerian office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). But the statement did not include the number of school children killed in the 25 attacks.
We found a death toll of 16 in a previous Unicef press release, dated September 16, 2021.
“So far this year, there have been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria, with 1,436 children abducted and 16 children dead. More than 200 children are still missing,” he said.
The figures come from geopolitical intelligence firm SBM Intelligence, said Unicef Nigeria spokesperson Folashade Adebayo.
“In their methodology, they use a dual approach. First, they work within a research network that collates information on attacks on schools as part of election violence monitoring and other indicators. any reports collected are independently verified, only verified information is reported,” Adebayo said in an email.
She said “17 learners are believed to have lost their lives in 2021” and it was possible that some attacks went unreported.
A December 2021 report by human rights organization Amnesty International described some of the attacks on schools and school children in Nigeria in 2021.
The report says more than 780 people were kidnapped for ransom in 2021 and more than 61 were still in captivity months after their abduction. However, he did not provide any balance sheet. But there is no doubt that insecurity is a challenge for learning.
“Only 61% of children aged 6 to 11 regularly attend primary school.”
Various sources provide estimates of the country’s net primary school attendance rate. This is the percentage of the school-age population attending primary or secondary school.
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2016-2017 showed that 60.9% of children of primary school age in Nigeria were attending school.
The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey put the net primary school attendance rate at 61%. It was 59% for girls and 62% for boys. This survey sampled children aged 6 to 12 years. (Note: The official primary school age in the country is 6-11+.)
The Nigeria Living Standard Survey 2018-2019, which was conducted between September 2018 and October 2019, revealed that the net primary school attendance rate was 65.8%. Over 22,000 households were surveyed by the National Bureau of Statistics with support from the World Bank.
“Only 35.6% of children aged 36-59 months receive preschool education.”
On this point, the newspaper was right based on the most recent nationally representative data on access to early childhood education.
The 2016-2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey showed that 35.6% of children aged 36-59 months attended an early childhood education programme. (These are children between the ages of three and five.)
This indicator varied considerably from state to state in Nigeria. It was as high as 97.1% in Ekiti (South West) and 94.7% in Enugu (South East) and as low as 4.4% in Yobe (North East) and 4.6% in Sokoto (South West).
Neither the Nigeria Living Standards Survey 2018-2019 nor the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018 had data on access to early childhood education.
Folasade Sulaiman is a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, South West Nigeria. She said the percentage may not have increased since 2017.
“Many parents are still not convinced that they should put their three-year-old children in kindergarten. The situation has worsened with attacks on schools, especially since 2019. Some schools are closed in the north, and in some cases, parents have pulled their children out of school because it’s no longer safe.
Greater public awareness of the importance of early schooling is needed, she said.
Some previously verified claims
The newspaper also repeated claims about the rate and number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which we have covered in previous fact checks.
The most ambitious claim, that “an estimated 10.5 million children in the country between the ages of 5 and 14 are out of school,” is neither recent nor accurate.