“A Nigerian’s destiny is the size of the education budget”
It is an honour to have contributed my bit to the much commended Obi/Datti manifesto(2022/2023). I made policy inputs around education, tech and the creative industries.
Expanding on the education policy in the manifesto;
“The Ministry of Education will work out a Public-Private model that involves private corporations assuming funding and managerial responsibilities in a specially restructured taxation plan. This design will see some private corporations pay their taxes in the form of taking management of a school while the Ministry continues to retain ownership, set the national curriculum and manage other oversight functions. This will reduce the bottlenecks and burden of the government and ensure that education is delivered with consistent high quality.”
When I listened to Dr. Oby Ezekwesili speak on this subject, in an event I invited her as a guest speaker in 2019, I knew there was gold in it. She talked about how her plan as Minister of Education in 2006, to get private corporations to manage the schools was scuffled. The idea was to evade the bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption impeding efficient management of the schools. Sadly, the same maladies still bedevil Nigeria’s growth.
The World Bank’s Human Capital Index ranks Nigeria 168 out of 173 countries. Nigeria falls short of UNESCO’s recommendation for developing nations to allocate 15-20% of their annual budget to public education. It is even more important to acknowledge that an allocation on paper doesn’t always translate to concurrent results. Therefore, It is evident that there’s an urgent need for innovative solutions that cater to, efficiency, transparency, scale, access to resources, funding and consequently, a measurable impact.
On education, I have refined and streamlined some of the available ideas into a PPE (Public-Private Ecosystem). Let’s call this; Smart Education Ecosystem. (SEES).
1. Redesign an educational curriculum for Nigerian students that doesn’t prepare them for exams but engages their critical & independent thinking and develops curiosity & innovation. The emphasis will be on specialized, specific and quality knowledge in line with the country’s vision and economic value proposition (EVP).
2. Introduce a tax system where large companies above a threshold pay their taxes in the form of ‘adopting’ a school by funding and managing operations.
3. Maximize both funding and people resources available. The government will serve as an aggregator machinery in designing adaptive strategies and synergizing key players to produce the best outcome for the Nigerian children.
4. Create a round-table relationship between the government and private corporations to enhance productivity and efficiency.
5. Institutionalize private responsibility in community development and child education. And boost a renewed sense of national pride amongst citizens.
6. Build a disruptive ecosystem of educators, managers, funders, welfare professionals, international partners and a global opportunities pipeline to save education and thus, the future of Nigeria.
7. Build essential systems without bureaucratic clogs. Design models that allow for each school, room for flexible decision making, scaled output and measured impact.
8. Boost a healthy competition amongst private corporations in the quest for developing and sustaining the best ‘adopted school’.
The Smart Education Ecosystem (SEES) explained;
Establish an organization made up of representatives from the government, alumni (Old Boys/Girls Association) and the designated private companies. [Owned by the government, managed by a smart partnership]. The pilot schools;
I. 104 Unity schools
Each school will have its own Trust Fund account open for funding from;
i. private company
ii. the government
iii. the public
iv. international cooperations
A picture of what a school under the SEES operates like;
MTN adopts King’s College, Lagos. The telecom giant will treat the school as a duty to the government and as a CSR. MTN on assuming this new adoptive role wears the school with the identity the company is known for. With managerial and financial board members consisting of the government, Old Boys Association and the Telecom team, decisions for the success of the school will be swift and efficient.
MTN will only need to deploy a required percentage of their taxes to the co-management of the school. The rest of the taxes will be remitted as the government deems fit.
0.5% of MTN’s 2021 approximate tax of N600bn is N3,000,000,000. This money is transferred to a trust fund with signatories- representatives from the Ministry of Education, MTN and the Old Boys Association.
King’s College will see an overhaul of facilities and faculty, with a new management led by professional educators. Through its brand popularity and business network, students will be sure to enjoy a premium learning experience, access to scholarships and grants, frequent tours of industries within and outside MTN’s influence. To top it, intellectual and athletic abilities will be pruned and success stories will be more easily reported by the local and international media
For MTN, they will see the effect on their taxes in real time, parade the successes of the school as theirs which is good for publicity and marketing campaigns. Public fundraisers may be conducted to support and expand the company’s financial obligation to the school. The company will be delighted to play active roles in building the country.
The Old Boys Association will serve as co-managers. Not legally required of them is co-funding, but they may perform this task amongst; creating a mentorship network, perform oversight functions, provide accountability and serve as signatories where necessary.
The representative from the Ministry of Education will ensure compliance of tax duties and the national curriculum. Perform oversight functions and will prepare reports to the government.
It is ideal, moral and essential for every Nigerian to experience quality basic education. So, how can SEES expand beyond the Unity schools?
After a 5-year window of efficient funding with the projected results, other schools will be adopted into the ecosystem. Schools running on charity donations, mission schools with limited resources and an active alumni network may be able to apply to the board of any Unity school to be partly funded. The aim is that SEES has an exponential spread across the country. In 10 years, the face of basic education in Nigeria will be completely changed and globally competitive.
For Tertiary Education
Existing funding for tertiary education is through TETFUND. It comprises 2.5% Education Tax by all registered companies in Nigeria.
Now, each higher institution will have an account that receives from TETfund and will be open to the public for donations from alumni network, international agencies, private corporations and individuals.
The school’s governing council or representatives from different faculties and the Ministry of Education will form the board of this fund. Based on certain criteria like departmental/faculty needs, impact of publications, commercialization of research, infrastructure, scholarships and others, funds will be distributed to where needed.
Goodhart’s law gives credence to one of the reasons why Nigerian universities produce less research than her global counterparts- Rewarding quantity instead of quality.
Strict uniform benchmarks across the higher institutions must be followed and that may be the basis to access funding. Universities must be the catalyst for the country’s focused economic valuable proposition. This means that the university’s intellectual output, research scope, inventions and commercialization of same ideas should be guided by the vision of the country.
For instance, with the Goodhart’s principle, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka should be awarded funding or grants based on the quality of graduates, impact of the school’s graduates, commercialization of research, patents, quality of intellectual properties and ease of studying. As against the traditional indices of; number of students and faculties and population.
The State governments will have their role to play in building modern alternatives to higher institutions. There are strategies in impressing on them such partnerships. The goal is that every Nigerian should have a direction of their life that leads to success- university or not.
It is quite evident that introducing such disruptive solutions to Nigeria’s education sector can only be done by a firm leader with the utmost commitment. Nothing less. And consequently, the fortune of Nigeria today and in the future will not change without quality education.
Nigeria is decades behind in education. To measure up and close up the gap, we must employ innovative solutions that are efficient, cost-effective, scalable and performance-driven.