UNDER the pretext of foreign aid, many African countries would appear to have abdicated their developmental responsibilities, shifting the burden to the donor community. It is such that there is hardly any crucial sector of the national economies of several African countries without the imprints of donor states and agencies. Ordinarily, there is nothing inherently bad about foreign aid. However, as the African experiences have shown, almost across board, foreign aid can produce both positive and negative impacts, depending on certain intervening variables, most notably the attached condionalities and the overall governance of the aid regime.
It is against this background that the recent revelation by Mr. Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and the United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education, about the joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Development Commission of the European Union, The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Global Partnership for Education, to boost Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education (UBE) with the injection of $250m, in addition to the Federal Government’s outlay of the same amount, should be celebrated with caution.. Speaking at the meeting of Coalition of Interventions to Support Access and Quality Education in Nigeria held in Abuja, Brown also revealed that he had talked to the head of the Development Commission of the European Union, who had agreed that the government of Nigeria should ‘submit an application from time to time for the next seven years term will be devoted to education development in Nigeria’.
In principle, the potential benefits of such external interventions cannot be overemphasised. Above all else, such an intervention helps address the funding gap in the educational sector, particularly at the foundational level. If well utilised, it has potentials of transforming primary education for the better, including the improvement of educational infrastructure, level of enrolment, staff training and overall quality of education.
In practice, however, there are obvious reasons for concerns. First, the menace of systemic corruption, which appears to have deepened under the current administration, may serve as a clog in the wheel of progress. It is no longer news that one of the main impediments to the effective implementation of the UBE since its inception in 1999 has been corruption. There are insinuations across many states that state governors not only interfere with, but also divert funds meant for the UBE. So, the “donorisation” of Africa’s development has been counterproductive as a result of corruption. Now that the 2015 elections are around the corner and have become about the only game in town, the willingness and ability of the governments to truly commit the funds, when it comes, into the UBE project is suspect. There are also doubts over the institutionalised mechanisms for enforcing accountability and transparency in the governance of the new educational aid regime.
Moreover, the latest external intervention to fund UBE, though commendable, also exposes the poor commitment of the Nigerian government to investing in the nation’s future. Without any doubt, investment in educational is investment in the future as education provides the foundation for development in all spheres of life. A country that fails to make adequate investment in education, therefore, does so at the expense of its greatness, progress and stability. This reality must have played a major role in the decision of the donor community to boost the funding of UBE in Nigeria so as to save Nigeria from itself.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian government seems unperturbed by the gloomy state of its educational sector. Else, how can it be rationalised, the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria has been on strike for close to three months now due to poor funding and infrastructural decay in Nigerian universities without any serious interventions from the government? Apart from the excruciating image crisis its causes for Nigerian universities, especially the trivialisation and increasing devaluation of its certificates in the global knowledge community, the collateral damage of keeping the students out of school for such a long period is inestimable. It is so ridiculous why Nigeria is so unwilling to invest in its own future.
Now that multilateral agencies have expressed their willingness to help, the least the government owes Nigerians is to ensure prudent, efficient, open and transparent management of donors’ funds. It is crucially important that the government should learn from the examples of the donor agencies, begin to prioritise education as the foundation of sustainable national progress and make appropriate investments in it.
Source: Education News