The United Nations (UN) has advised Nigeria to increase its present seven percent budget for education to 20 percent with clear accountabilities on delivery.
The world body said unless Nigeria acts fast on the issue, the country might not achieve the global agenda for universal inclusive and equitable basic education for all school-age children by 2030.
Speaking yesterday during the official launch of the Reports of Independent Evaluation of Sustainable Development Goals-3 (SDG-4) and SDG-4 at the Presidential Villa at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, observed that Nigeria is the first country to undertake and deliver independent comprehensive evaluations of SDG-3 and SDG-4.
He said the reports indicate how quickly the government has established robust institutional monitoring and support frameworks at the national and sub-national levels to support effective implementation of the SDGs across the whole country.
Schmale said, “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 7% on education but the evaluation says it will need to increase to 20% 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 see that the recommendation of revitalising the primary healthcare 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 catalyze 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.”
While lauding the senior special assistant to the president on SDGs, Princess Orelope-Adefulire, the UN official said the effective implementation of the SDGs requires periodic evaluation to ensure progress measurement, generate knowledge and inform policy shift.
Schmale said the two reports point to the importance of significantly increasing public spending in both health and education services.
He added: “This cannot happen without finding ways to promote sustainable economic growth, increasing domestic resource mobilisation and making some tough choices on public spending.
“It is evident that achieving SDGs 3 and 4 will not happen in isolation. Significant progress must be made on other SDGs such as SDG on reducing poverty, SDG-8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG-10 reduced inequalities.
At the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stressed the need for building the commitment and incentive necessary to prioritise and increase basic educational financing to 12 percent at all levels.
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.”
The vice president noted that with the adoption of the agenda and the SDGs, Nigeria has set for itself a vision to end extreme poverty and to safeguard our planet by the year 2030.
According to him, achieving inclusive sustainable development is an objective that aligns closely with the present administration’s desire to bring the 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.
He explained that it is for this reason that the federal government established a number of programs to support the acceleration of the achievement of the SDGs.
On the findings of the report, Osinbajo stated, “The findings contained in these strategic evaluations reinforce the evidence for improving health and educational outcomes in Nigeria, and highlight how all stakeholders, governments, development partners and civil society can best address systemic gaps and challenges.
“The findings of this strategic evaluation support further evidence for improving the rights of children to education in Nigeria and how the Government at all levels, along with development partners and civil society, can best address systemic gaps and challenges, including the negative effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to progress on our shared commitment to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development,” she further said.
In her message at the occasion, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, commended Orelope-Adefulire and the UN team in the country “for organising this important and timely event.”
She said, “As evidenced by the reports, Nigeria recognizes that health and education are cornerstones for sustainable and equitable development. progress in these areas is crucial to their resilience to global shocks. And whether the multiple crises the world is confronting, strengthening the Nigerian healthcare system is the key to be better prepared for current and future pandemics.
“And the report sheds some light on key priority areas to do so. including improving the governance and accountability of the health care programmes across the country. The report is also very timely as the recommendations on education aligned with the focus areas of the transforming education summit, including on inclusive and equitable education, especially for our girls, Safe and Healthy Schools, foundational skills, and lifelong learning, digital skills and education Financing.
“I encourage you all to swiftly turn these recommendations into actionable levels so that we can accelerate our implementation of the 2030 agenda. I congratulate Nigeria for the progress identified in the report. Let these results serve as a catalyst for even greater achievements.’