Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Education Workers' Strike in Nigeria: Causes and Implication

Source: Channels.tv
Over the past few months, the world has witnessed many striking issue ranging from government shut down in the States to the sudden fall in the Indian Rupee, the Kenyan Westgate Mall shooting, the issues in Syria, Egypt and beyond. But none of these touches me like the issues from Nigeria especially the ongoing Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) strike. Not only because I am a Nigerian, but largely due to the fact that my role as an economist keeps bringing me in contact with country facts that I find difficult to ignore. I decide to write this piece in order to provide a clear-cut knowledge of existing trend on education expenditure and linkage with work disputes/strike actions, unemployment and economic growth. I draw on several reports and data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigrian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), World Bank, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) among others to capture trends and developments surrounding strikes and their implication for the youths and the Nigerian economy as a whole. After a careful synthesis it became obvious that a better funding mechanism for education in Nigeria is urgently needed for the country to become a serious player in the new global economic, social and political order.

A Retrospective look at Education funding in Nigeria
The general economic downturn of the 1980s resulted in instability and financial inadequacy for the Nigerian educational system. Crisis between 1979-1999 led to several work stoppages. Regular occurrences include unpaid teachers’ salaries, the degeneration of educational facilities and infrastructure at all levels and the attendant common place strikes across all tiers of Nigeria education system. Poor financial investment has generally been seen as the plague of Nigerian education system so much so that budgeting allocation has been very low compared to other sectors.  During the oil crisis in the 80s, the administration and funding of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme was decentralized. At college and University levels, the changes included the termination of the student – teachers’ bursary awards and subsidized feeding for students in higher education institutions. Furthermore, the federal government allocation to education has declined steadily since 1999 and this is particularly important in view of huge rise in number of intake at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. In 1999, government scrapped the National Primary Education Fund (NPEF) and reconstituted it under another name (The National primary Education Commission). This action was taken in recognition of the states and local governments’ constitutional responsibility for financing and managing primary education. Alternative source of funding education explored by government is the Education Tax Fund (ETF, 1995) which ensured that companies with more than 100 employees contribute 2% of their pre-tax earnings to the fund. Primary education receives 40% of this fund. Secondary education receives 10% and higher education 50%. Primary education has in the past also received from Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) for capital expenditure and provision of instructional materials. In higher institutions, gifts, endowment funds, consultancy services, farms, satellite campuses, pre-degrees etc are other alternative funding sources.

Despite all the alternatives, infrastructure and facilities remain inadequate for coping with a system that is growing at a very rapid pace. As a result of poor financing, the quality of education offered was affected by poor attendance and inadequate preparation by teachers at all levels. The morale of teachers is low due to basic condition of service and low salaries. Recent World Bank Development report pointed out problems emanating as a result of this which can be called "functional illiteracy": increasing enrolment rate but with a missing quality-application of knowledge-dimension in literacy. In addition, physical facilities need to be upgraded and resources such as libraries, laboratories, modern communication and Information technology equipment have to be provided. The quest for meeting these basic education needs has been the cause of unending crisis between government, and trade unions such as ASUU, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT),  Non Academic Staff Union (NASU). 

A close look at the distribution of government budgetary allocation to education as a percentage of total budget shows a level of inconsistency. Instead of maintaining an increasing proportion of the yearly budget, it has been largely fluctuating since introduction of SAP in 1986. Regardless of incessant strikes and negotiation to stimulate governments to increase the proportion, the proportion has been below 8% apart from 1994 and 2002, which were slightly above 9%. A breakdown of the education allocation to capital and recurrent expenditure is shown in the chart below. Since the oil crisis in the eighties, the proportion of capital budget allocated to education has been consistently lower than the proportion of recurrent expenditure. Over the years, the government capital expenditure allocated to education as a percentage of total capital budget ranged from as low as 1.71 in 1999 and not up to 9% in all cases. This has retarded progress in building new facilities and meeting with growth challenges.
Chart 1: Capital and Recurrent Expenditure on Education in Nigeria

The estimates of government education expenditure in Nigeria as a share of GDP and of total government expenditure can be compared to the situation in other sub-Saharan African countries. UNESCO’s World Education Report 2000 presents the data for 19 countries across sub-Saharan Africa for 1996. The average share of GDP was 4.7% and of government expenditure was 19.6%. In both cases, the measures of educational expenditures for Nigeria (2.3% and 14.3% respectively) are relatively low. Again from the sample of state government education expenditures, plus the Federal and local government expenditures, it is possible to provide an approximate set of shares of expenditure across levels of education for 1998 for the country as a whole. These values are: 35.6% primary, 29.0% secondary and 35.3% for all tertiary institutions, including 19.0% for universities. The shares across education levels for Nigeria can again be compared to those in other countries. Across 18 sub-Saharan African countries in 1996, the shares were 48% primary, 31% secondary and 21% tertiary (UNESCO, 2000). According to CBN (2011) the allocations to primary schooling were significantly lower in Nigeria and those to tertiary education significantly higher. Public investments in social and community services accounted for 10.0% of the total in 2011 and as a ratio of capital spending, expenditure on education declined to 3.9% in 2011 from 9.9% in the preceding year, while that on health rose from 4.0% in 2010 to 4.3% in 2011. At states level, analysis of spending on primary welfare sectors indicated that expenditure on education decreased by 17.0 per cent from the level in 2010 to N212.6 billion ($1.34billion) and accounted for 6.0% of total expenditure (CBN, 2011).
Chart 2: Federal Government Share on Education as a share of Total Federal Expenditure, 1997-2001
Chart 3: Federal Government Share by Level of Education, 1996-2000

Moja (2000) has showed that building of classroom has not kept up with the increase in enrolments in all levels of education in Nigeria. Primary schools and secondary schools are worst affected where classes are offered in the open-air leading to class cancellations and lack of quality instructions. In several secondary schools, as many as four classes, are accommodated in one classroom. These are classrooms that are already jam-packed and in poor state of repair with licking roofs and broken windows. In tertiary institutions the picture is not different. It is a common phenomenon for students to sit on bare floor or hang by the window side because lecture rooms cannot accommodate them. In addition, laboratories and equipment are grossly inadequate. The attendant problems in terms of quality of education usually tell on the competence and effectiveness of the products.

Man-days Losses Due To Strike
The problem of education funding has been over the years a subject of great concern to all stakeholders in the sector. The magnitude of the problem has consistently led to strikes by NUT, ASUU, NASU and other bodies coordinating the grievances of the workers. The cornerstone of the struggle is to make the Nigerian state to be responsive to the problems. As shown in Chart 4, the strikes causes the nation serious man-day loss. It ranged from N27,072($172) in 1972 to about N234million($1.49million)in 1994. Apart from 1995 when the loss dropped down to about 2 million, it has been more than 100 million man-days since 1996. The number of declared trade disputes in 2003 declined by 2.0% to 49%, in contrast to an increase of 11.1% in 2002. Of the total trade disputes declared, 42% or 85.7% led to work stoppages involving about 302,006 workers (CBN 2005). The total man-days lost to the work stoppages, including the six months industrial action embarked upon by ASUU in 2003 were put at over 5.5 million.
Chart 4: Man-Day Lost due to industrial Strike Actions and Trade Disputes in Nigeria with 1994 values isolated

Chart 5: Man-Days lost due to industrial strike Actions and Trade Disputes in Nigeria, 1970-2004

Mechanism for Translating Education Allocation to Education Allocation To Economic Growth
Earlier literature indicates that the quality of education in some Nigerian institutions in the 1970s was comparable to high quality education offered by top world universities. Sadly however, the quality of education offered by higher education institutions at the present time has deteriorated substantially. The effect of the poor funding on students, apart from fear of increase in tuition fee or its introduction in federal university is that they are mostly ill equipped for self-employment and or entrepreneurship in a context where limited jobs exist to absorb them in the nation. The poor quality of many Nigerian university graduates has accelerated. As a result, there is high unemployment amongst graduates especially in fields such as engineering. There is also concern about the lack of recognition of Nigerian degrees by overseas universities. If education allocations are increased to meet all the basic infrastructural and recurrent needs such as ICT facilities, standard libraries, laboratories and workshop facilities and the institutions are made to have adequate enrolment base that is open to all Nigerian irrespective of ethnic derivation, social status, religion and political aspiration, teachers shall be highly motivated, conscientious and efficient in delivery of their services. These will produce able manpower capable of uplifting the cultural, social, scientific, and technological development as well as development of the talents of young citizens. The knowledge produced for industries, agriculture, scientific and technological development will translate to increase in national income. Ajetomobi and Ayanwale (2005) concluded that like yam which the size of yam set planted determines the size of yam tuber harvested, increase in government education allocation to 26% as recommended during ASUU-FGN negotiation of 1992 and 2001 tremendous growth in economy will result. At the moment, unemployment rates have been steadily increasing and the over 1.8million new entrants into the labour force (predominantly youths) are encountering increasing difficulty in finding gainful employment.
Chart 6: Population growth, Economic activity, Labour force, Employed and Newly employed and Unemployed , 2006-2011
Chart 7: Unemployment in Nigeria by age group and Rural/Urban Area
Chart 8: Unemployment is trending upwards in Nigeria, 2000-2009

The final word is that despite the fact that education emerges as a critical determinant of knowledge spillovers and entrepreneurship across 1500 subnational regions in 110 countries, why has Nigeria failed to fund its education? We can continue the conversation on twitter 

Ajetomobi J.O* and Ayanwale A.B (2005) Education Allocation, Unemployment and Economic Growth in Nigeria: 1970-2004, World Room at Texas A&M University 

UNESCO (2000), World Education Report. Paris
World Bank (2001), World Development Report 2001. WashingtonDC
Hinchcliffe, K. (2002). Public Expenditure on Education in Nigeria: Issues, Estimates and Some Implications. Abuja, World Bank.National Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey 2009
Moja, T. (2000). Nigeria Education Sector Analysis: An Analytical Synthesis of Performance and Main Issues. Abuja, World Bank.


  1. While we can describe the ASUU union being on the extreme with their requiest (and rightly so), quiet sincerely, education needs to be better funded in Nigeria.

  2. I believe Nigeria education will be very great will just need to be patience and watch our leader the lord help us in jesus name.
    I really appreciate your blog

    1. Thank you Aunty Titi. We have to just keep praying first for good, visionary leadership (who will see the bigger picture and lives of future generations at stake); we shouldn't forget that the starting point is our own immediate environment.

  3. Wonderful article sir.
    Hope the Ph D president can do the right thing and stop crying foul play.
    He who must meet justice must come with a clean hand.

    1. Thank you for your comment Sunkanmi. Hopefully they will read reports like this and know where the real issues are so that they can know how to tackle it in a sustainable way so that we will not come back to the same issue again in future. Education is too important for any government to be joking with.

  4. Education needs to be given much attention, because it is very essential .

  5. Guru Nanak Instituions is one of the best engineering college in Hyderabad, Telangana, India with best placements in all top MNC companies. At GNI we provide best education with world class infrastructure.

  6. Great article it really portrays facts about issues bordering on our education system in the country.