A non-profit organisation, Human Development Initiatives(HDI), has commended the Lagos State Government (LASG) for progressively increasing its funding for education.
The organisation’s Executive Director in Nigeria, Mrs Olufunso Owasanoye, gave the commendation in a statement on Thursday in Lagos to mark activities for the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE).
Education stakeholders around the world join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) annually to mark the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE).
The aim is to amplify voices for redressing the issues affecting the rights of all children to quality, equitable, free, and inclusive education.
Owasanoye said that the theme for the 2021 GAWE, ” improved Education Financing”, was apt and a call to action for Nigeria.
She noted that this was against the backdrop of the shortfall in education financing and the consequent continuous fall in the standard of public education in Nigeria.
The executive director said that Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State THEMES’ agenda, with the cooperation of the State House of Assembly, especially in prioritising education in the 2021 Appropriation Act, was a positive step in agreement with the theme of the 2021 GAWE.
The project T.H.E.M.E.S is an acronym for his administration’s six strategic development agenda namely, Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology.
According to her, HDI believes that the increase in the allocation to education from N103.7 billion (as revised) in 2020 to N146.94 billion, representing 13 per cent of the overall 2021 budget of N1.16 Trillion will do more to improve the delivery of quality and inclusive education for thousands of children in the state.
“ The 13 per cent of the 2021 Lagos state education budget is only two per cent short of the lower boundary of the UNESCO recommendation of between 15 – 20 per cent for education financing.
“We are encouraged by this budgetary commitment as well as other notable ongoing initiatives of the LASG such as teacher recruitment, capacity building, and digitization of teaching in Primary Schools which show that the state is on track to fulfilling SDG 4 if this progression is sustained.
“While this is an improvement on what we had in the past, HDI believes that Mr Governor is fully aware of the enormous educational challenges that are yet to be addressed.
“Especially with the influx of new families and children into Lagos; the consequent increase in the number of out-of-school children as well as the educational needs of children with disabilities,” Owasanoye said.
She urged the Lagos government to do more to fix the remaining gaps, some of which include inadequate public schools and infrastructure especially in hard-to-reach and emerging communities.
“Over-populated classrooms with poor teacher/student ratio, insufficient professional teachers cum low education support staff capacity, and inadequate funding for inclusive education, ” Owasanoye added.
She advised the LASG to be decisive in reversing the privatisation of education trend in the state.
The HDI chief, noted, however, that fixing the challenges in the education sector would require more than 15 per cent of the state budget.
She said that more resources were needed beyond the current allocation to support the critical area of needs especially teacher recruitment and capacity building, adding that there was a need for special resources for teachers’ capacity development.
Owasanoye said that HDI, alongside Actionaid and Norad, its partners, strongly believed that setting up a community of practice to drive and support the existing efforts towards full inclusive education practice was commendable.
“It would go a long way in bridging capacity gaps and driving full inclusive education system in Lagos State”.
In charting a way forward for the education sector in Lagos, HDI, Actionaid, Norad and some other critical stakeholders in the education sector made some recommendations to the LASG which include increasing state funding for education to 20 per cent of public expenditure.
“Increase its tax base to increase resources.
“Ensure inclusive education systems through equitable financing and programmes that prioritise the most marginalised.
“Provide free quality and inclusive education for all and end the trend towards the privatization and commercialisation of education.
” Improve the quality of teaching through adequate recruitment of professional teachers, improved remuneration and continued teacher training such that there will be no vacuum in manpower.
“Continues to listen and respond to the voices of the socially excluded and most affected especially the girl child and children with disabilities”
Also, they advocated and encouraging safe space for individuals and civil society to speak up and participate in the governance of education.
The executive director said that all leaking holes in the state’s finances are blocked and granting of tax holidays would be avoided.