The United Nations on Thursday urged the federal government to increase its current budget allocation to the education sector from seven to 20 percent to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4: universal, inclusive and equitable primary education for all school-aged children by 2030.
United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, sounded the warning at the official launch of the Independent Assessment Reports on Sustainable Development Goals three and four by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in the banquet hall of the state house, Abuja.
Schmale, who described both reports as the first of their kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, said they indicate Nigeria’s commitment to establishing robust institutional monitoring and support frameworks at the national and sub-national levels.
He said: “While the findings of these assessments show some improvement in health and education outcomes in Nigeria, the reports also contain some worrying analyses.
“For example, regarding SDG-4 on quality education, it is worrying that Nigeria is unlikely to meet the global agenda for universally inclusive and equitable primary education for all school-age children by 2030 if current, very low investment in the education sector remains the same.
“The evaluation indicates that the right policies (especially on free primary education and gender) are in place, but improving the quality and access to education is crucial. In the 2022 budget there was an increase to 7 percent for education, but the review says this should be increased to 20 percent with clear responsibilities in delivery.
“Government funding for health care is also insufficient to achieve SDG-3 goals related to good health and well-being. It is good to see that the recommendation to revitalize primary health care has already started and its effectiveness will be increased with a clear plan and accountability for human resources and funding at the state level.”
According to the UN coordinator, ‘business as usual’ is no longer sufficient to achieve the objectives.
He therefore pledged the UN’s support to the federal government in this regard, saying: “We are eager 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 programs are really setting the needle in motion. We can then extend, renew and replicate them.”
Vice President Osinbajo said during his keynote address that the federal government will use the existing institutional framework to foster stronger partnerships and synergies between stakeholders to achieve the SDGs.
He also stated that it is critical to build the required commitment and incentive to prioritize and increase primary education funding at all levels to 12 percent.
“The timing of the use of allocated resources is also important. State governments should take advantage of the UBEC matching grants by making the required contributions.
“Education stakeholders are encouraged to develop and strengthen coordination mechanisms that can help strengthen information-sharing cooperation between federal and state actors on the one hand and non-state actors on the other,” he said.
He noted that achieving inclusive sustainable development goes hand in hand with the Buhari regime’s desire to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
This explains, he said, why the DPO has set up several programs to support accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.
The VP also noted that the findings of the assessments strengthen the evidence for improving health and education outcomes in Nigeria.
He pledged that the DPO will continue to promote strong partnerships and facilities between its ministries, departments and agencies, and between development departments for coordinated implementation of SDGs in Nigeria.
In her opening address earlier, the president’s senior special assistant on SDGs, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, noted that periodic review is needed to effectively implement the SDGs.
She described the two reports as products of a series of efforts led by her office in close collaboration with the federal ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health and Education, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Nigeria.
“The findings of this strategic review support further evidence for improving children’s rights to education in Nigeria and how government at all levels, working with development partners and civil society, can best address systemic gaps and challenges, including the negative effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to advance our joint commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she said.
Also speaking virtually, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described the reports as “timely” and said: “I encourage all of you to quickly translate these recommendations into actionable levels so that we can accelerate our implementation of the 2030 can accelerate the agenda.”