The United Nations (UN) has urged the Nigerian government to increase its funding for the education sector a s part of effort to actualise the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which is “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
It warned that the country may fail to achieve the SDGs by 2030 if the current seven per cent budget for education by the federal government was not increased to 20 per cent, with clear accountabilities on delivery.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, gave the charge at the State House in Abuja, during the official launch of the ‘Reports of the Independent Country-Led Evaluation of SDGs-3 and 4 in Nigeria,’ by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The reports were technically and financially supported by the Federal Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Health and Education and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria.
According to Schmale, in Nigeria’s 2022 federal budget, there was an increase to seven per cent on education, but the evaluation says it would need to increase to 20 per cent with clear accountabilities on delivery.
He also noted that Nigeria was the first country to conduct and deliver independent comprehensive evaluations of SDG-3 and SDG-4, adding that the reports showed how quickly the government had established robust institutional monitoring and support frameworks at the national and sub-national levels to support effective SDG implementation across the country.
While hailing efforts of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Schmale noted that the two reports point to the importance of significantly increasing public spending in both health and education services.
He said: “Country-led evaluations are a critical tool to provide data regarding what is and isn’t working, why, and for whom, and where to best target our limited resources.
“Good data makes for good policy. Without it, we are flying blind. While the findings of these evaluations show some improving health and education outcomes in Nigeria, the reports also contain some worrying analysis.
“In relation to SDG-4 on quality education, it is, for example, concerning to note that Nigeria is unlikely to achieve the global agenda for universal inclusive and equitable basic education for all school-age children by 2030 if the current very low public investment in the education sector remains the same.
“The evaluation indicates that the right policies (especially around free basic education and gender) are in place, but an increase in quality and access to education is critical.
“In the 2022 budget, there was an increase to seven per cent on education, but the evaluation says it will need to increase to 20 per cent with clear accountabilities on delivery. Similarly, government resources for health financing are inadequate for the achievement of SDG-3 targets related to good health and well-being.
“It is good to see that the recommendation of revitalising the Primary Health Care has already started and its effectiveness will be enhanced with a clear plan and accountability on human resources and financing at state level.
“Business as usual is not sufficient. In support of Government, we are keen to identify truly transformative initiatives that will catalyse tangible change in the lives and livelihoods of the Nigerian people. This new data will help determine which health and education programmes are really moving the needle. We can then look to expand, renew, and replicate them.
“We must collectively push forward with education and health sector specific transformative initiatives such as prioritising and revitalising basic Primary Health Care and improving the quality of teachers and learning in and out of classrooms.”
In his keynote address, Osinbajo affirmed that building the commitment and incentive necessary to prioritise and increase Basic Educational financing up to 12 per cent at all levels was crucial.
He said: “The timing of the use of appropriated funds is also important. State government should take advantage of the UBEC matching grants by making the required contributions.
“Educational stakeholders are encouraged to develop and strengthen coordination mechanisms that can help tighten the collaboration with information sharing between federal and the state on the one hand, and non-state actors on the other hand.”
According to him, the federal government would leverage existing institutional framework to promote stronger partnerships and synergies among stakeholdersnin a bid to improve effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria has a suitable institutional framework, and the federal government would continue to promote strong partnerships and synergies among its Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) and development partners for a coordinated implementation of the SDGs.
He said, “these strategic evaluations reinforce the evidence for improving health and education outcomes in Nigeria and highlight how all stakeholders – government, development partners and civil society can best address systemic gaps and challenges.
“This official launch comes with a responsibility for us to intentionally use the key findings of the two evaluations to strengthen policies that support the achievement of the SDGs.”
Making reference to government’s efforts in ensuring attainment of the goals, the VP noted that “achieving inclusive sustainable development is an objective that aligns closely with our government’s desire to bring 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.
“It is for this reason that the Federal Government of Nigeria established a number of ambitious programmes to support the acceleration of the achievement of the SDGs.
“More positively, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) helped increase school enrolment and slight improvement in learning outcomes.”
Speaking about the outcomes of the evaluation, the vice president said, “on SDG-3 ‘Quality Health and Well-being for all’, the report notes that Nigeria has a suitable institutional framework, key among them include the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and the National Health Insurance Act – both of which address health financing as a means of improving access to care.
“On SDG-4 ‘Qualitative and Inclusive Education and lifelong learning for all’, the report noted that education sector policies and strategies, both at the Federal and State levels are aligned with SDG-4.1 target, particularly in the formulation of the plans.”
While noting some loopholes in the implementation of the SDG-3, Osinbajo said stakeholders must synergise to “create a self-sustaining financial architecture, universal health coverage, improved clinical governance and a harmonious health workforce – all which should prepare us for the challenges of the 21st century.
“This must be accompanied by strengthening accountability mechanisms at the level of the state governments to improve resource mobilisation”
In resolving challenges in implementation of Goal 4, the Vice President said “transparency around education budgeting and spending needs to improve. Similarly, governance issues at the Federal, State and Local governments remain at the heart of education provisioning in Nigeria.”
Earlier in her opening remarks, Orelope-Adefulire, noted that effective implementation of the SDGs requires periodic evaluation to ensure progress measurement, generate knowledge and inform policy shift.
According to her, the evaluation on SDGs 3 and 4 had been prioritised based on Nigeria’s national development priorities as embedded in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP -2017-2020).
She said Nigeria, in launching the reports, showed that countries could begin to look beyond evaluation in the context of global reporting through Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), to embedding evaluation at the national and local level to achieve transformative development.
“Going forward, we must as a nation enhance capacity building of policymakers and strengthening of data systems to support SDG evaluation and reviews”, she said.