Some stakeholders in the education sector at the weekend in Lagos, urged the Federal Government to ensure immediate implementation of the 2014 budget as it related to education.
The educationists told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews that the increase in the size of the budget allocated to education was commendable and must be sustained.
Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, the former Head of the Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos, lauded the government for allocating the largest chunk of the budget to education.
The don said that the releasing of the funds meant for the sector before the end of the fiscal year was a challenge that must be addressed.
He said that the budget must focus on infrastructure, training, research, provision of various laboratories and provision of electricity in classrooms.
“The budget must address accommodation problems in all tertiary institutions, payment of allowances and equipping of existing laboratories.
“The increase in the budget will be a waste if it is not released as soon as possible, to address the challenges facing the sector.
“What is released of the budget, how it is released and when it is released is more important than the amount allocated.
“We thank the government but it is the amount released that matters,’’ he said.
Prof. Sat Obiyan, the former Head, Political Science Department of the ObafemiAwolowo University, Ile-Ife, said that the education budget must be judiciously implemented.
Obiyan said the increase in the education budget was a clear demonstration of government’s commitment to revamping the sector.
“It is a commendable step; everything goes beyond the budgetary allocation; government must sustain the tempo and ensure that there is accountability.
“It is the first time in the history of Nigeria that education will be given the highest budget; it is a clear demonstration of the government’s effort at revamping education.
“No matter the amount of funds injected into a sector, if not judiciously spent, it will amount to nothing.’’
Obiyan urged fund administrators to utilise the budget wisely.
Dr Moses Salau, Director/Head, South-West Zonal Office of the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council, said that releasing the budget in time would have positive impact on the sector.
Salau described the increase in the education budget as a positive development that must be sustained, to achieve the UNESCO recommended 28 per cent benchmark for education.
“It is a positive development but what percentage will be released before the end of the year will determine the success.
“If the budget is released 100 per cent at due time, it will be of great benefit.
“Government should release the funds fast without delay; it should release funds for capital projects in totality because that is when the sector can witness positive development.
“Anybody can quote any amount on paper without releasing the funds. So, what is on paper will not translate to what will be released,’’ he said.
Salau urged the government to continue to invest more in education, to bring about the desired development.
DrAdekunleIdris, Chairman of the Lagos State University Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, lauded the government for increasing the budget allocation for the education sector in 2014.
Idris said that the allocation should focused more on equipment and the development of facilities.
“Presently, the technical and vocational department deserves more attention because the sector has been neglected for long.
“The technicians who are supposed to mount the industries are not available because there is no training ground and personnel to tutor them.”
According to Idris, more attention should also be placed on basic education. He described education as the bedrock upon which other sectors lie.
“The public primary and secondary schools should be better improved because they are in a poor state, and most parents do not wish to send their children there anymore.”
Idris noted that more attention should also be given to science at the tertiary level because it was the base and leverage for development.
The Senate had on April 9, passed the 2014 budget totalling N4.695 trillion, an amount which is N52.2billion higher than the N4.642trillion, submitted by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The budget was made up of statutory transfers, N408.687 billion; debt servicing, N712 billion; recurrent expenditure, N2.454 trillion, while capital expenditure is N1.119 trillion.
Also, the House of Representatives on April 10, passed the 2014 budget of N4.695 trillion, which was N53 billion higher than the N4.642 trillion estimates submitted by the executive.
According to the 2014 budget, education received N424.3 billion, representing the highest.
DrNgoziOkonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, had on Dec. 19, 2013, submitted the budget proposal to the National Assembly.
NAN reports that the 2013 budget was N4.987 trillion, N308 billion more than the 2014 budget figure. (NAN)