The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and the Vice Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019 elections, Mr. Peter Obi, have both spoken on the need for the government to pay attention to education, saying that a nation’s development is directly proportional to the level of educational investment in the nation.
Speaking Monday at the TECHISD 2020 Online International Conference, Osinbajo and Obi agreed on the need to pay more attention to education in the country by way of more government funding and introduction of specialised technological educational trainings that will enable Nigeria students and youths to fit into the emerging world and compete favourably with their global counterparts in areas of science and technology. They both noted that the world is fast changing technologically and anyone who does not catch up with the new wave of technology would be left behind.
Obi, who also appreciated Vice President Yomi Osinbajo for showing leadership by making out time to share his knowledge with the participants, maintained that human capital development via quality education remained the easiest way of fostering development in a country.
He further said that the amount of financial investment countries of comparative stand commit to education showed far more seriousness than Nigeria. Using South Africa as an example, he says: “Besides extra-budgetary funding for education, what is our provision for education in our budgets? Between 2010 and 2016, for instance, South Africa invested over 5%; Egypt more than 3.5%; and Nigeria barely 1%” of their Gross Domestic Product [GDP] in Education. From 2010 to 2014, Nigeria budgeted N1.860 trillion for the sector – or US$11.1 billion at the exchange rate of N160 to the Dollar. In 2015 and 2016, the combined budgetary allocation was N761 billion – or US$2.1 billion at the rate of N360 to a Dollar.
“Therefore, over a period of 7 years, 2010-2016, Nigeria, then with a population of about 190 million people, spent just US$13.2 billion on Education. Juxtapose this with South Africa, the second biggest economy in Africa which, with a population of 55 million invested over US$15 billion on that critical sector in 2015 alone; and Egypt, the third biggest economy with a population of 95 million people spending about US$12 billion in that same year only. Obviously, Nigeria is still in slumber as far as investment in education is concerned.”
Obi called on the government to prioritize education which he said could give more returns on investment than oil. He argued that countries like Venezuela had more oil than Nigeria and indeed many countries, but Venezuela remains undeveloped, a proof that oil proceeds alone cannot guarantee national development. He said “our world today is more technology and knowledge driven. All the countries ranking high in sustainable development have all made serious investments in their education sector. These developed countries have prioritised human infrastructural development through education which is more important. If our leaders can pay more critical attention to education in Nigeria, the return on investments will be far better than the oil proceeds the nation currently gets”.
Answering questions from participants on his level of commitment as the former Governor of Anambra State, Obi reiterated that he had always preached and practised investment in education. He recounted how he provided over 30,000 (thirty thousand) computers for schools in Anambra State, which he said, was the highest number of computers any government had bought at a time in sub Saharan Africa. He also told of how under his administration, schools in Anambra State were connected to the internet and computer teachers massively employed and trained to teach ICT in schools. Obi urged leaders not to see financial commitments to education as expenses, but see them as investment which have short term, medium term and long term returns.
A Canadian based IT Expert, Mr. Magnus Ekwunife, who spoke on e-learning, said Nigerian leaders should emulate what Obi did in education in Anambra which earned him international awards and accolades. He recalled how Prof Paul Collier of Oxford University was contracted by the United Nations to study what Obi did, which he said was comprehensive rehabilitation of education in the state, with emphasis on the introduction of ICT to make it globally compliant.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director of Lion Gadgets and Technologies, Engr. Dr. Edward Anoliefo, a Rev. Fr who recalled the aim of the establishment of the centre, their output so far and the continued efforts to achieve their target, said they would continue to seek ways to solve local problems through the use of technology.
The conference was organised by the Centre of Lion Gadgets and Technologies in partnership with the Department of Electronic Engineering of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).