The continuous underfunding of education in Nigeria has resulted in inadequate resources to ensure the quality of teachers and students as well as provide world-class teaching and learning infrastructure. This suboptimal situation may be the stark reality that has prompted the National Economic Council (NEC) to direct the 36 Governors of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency in the education sector.
There has been an unending debate over whether or not to re-introduce tuition fees in public education institutions, especially at the tertiary level. Some education stakeholders have advocated a cost-sharing approach whereby parents, guardians and government share the financial burden of education. These stakeholders think that the re-introduction of tuition will help improve the quality of education and sustain tertiary education in a Nigeria that is perpetually undergoing economic vicissitudes. Indeed, in a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting in March last year, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities argued that the “current inclination towards free tuition or free university education is unrealistic to the national vision for practical and qualitative education and not sustainable”.
Contributing to the debate, a former Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Professor Suleiman Bogoro, is of the opinion that any planned re-introduction of tuition fees in public education institutions should be preceded by an increase in government funding to the education sector. He made this known in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle of Education. “If governments at both federal and state levels increase their budgetary funding of the education sector to not less than 15–20%, I am convinced that the students and unions in our tertiary institutions will hardly oppose the gradual re-introduction of tuition fees”.
He said that “I believe that the Unions have been protesting because they are seeing public funds being wasted in other areas which should be used to subsidize education for the less privileged. When the government increases its allocation, you would see that many parents will not mind sacrificing”.
Taking a definite stand on the tuition-fee debate, Professor Bogoro declared: “I will support re-introduction of tuition if the precondition for adequate public budgetary funding of tertiary institutions is affected by both federal and state governments”.
In May of this year, the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwuka, declared that the position of the Government was that tuition fees remain abolished in Federal tertiary education institutions.
It would be recalled that tuition fees were paid in all Nigerian universities before 1978 when they were abruptly abolished by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo.