Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, the chief education of UNICEF Nigeria, says the 1.2 per cent of Nigeria’s annual budget allocated to primary education is anti-development and counter-productive.
The UNICEF official, who spoke on Wednesday at a one-day seminar for assessing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FNL) in Abuja, lamented that the country had perennially fallen short of the 4.6 per cent benchmark for countries’ budget for education.
“The Nigerian government should of necessity improve funding of primary education because what obtains at the moment is practically not encouraging for a sustainable future that could ultimately affect the GDP positively,” Panday-Soobrayan said.
“Currently, Nigeria is experiencing a severe learning crisis with three out of four children in basic education unable to read with meaning or solve simple math problems.”
She faulted the government’s resolve to fund tertiary institutions with 2.8 per cent of the country’s annual budget while grossly underfunding primary education which she described as a foundation for learning.
“The misplaced priority has been highlighted over the years with poor funding for primary schools, as well as poor training for teachers and poor instructional materials, all of which do not support future development in any way,” she said.
Assessing the foundational literacy and numeracy level in Nigeria, Panday-Soobrayan expressed delight at the numerous interventions which UNICEF had impacted on the country’s primary schools, particularly in the insurgency-devastated states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
“UNICEF will come up with a comprehensive assessment of its various interventions on the FLN in Nigeria in July this year,” she said.
Speakers at the seminar include Jutaro Sakamoto, education manager, UNICEF Nigeria; Muntaka Mukhtar, education specialist, UNICEF Kano field office; Grace Malgwi, senior pupils teachers performance advisor; and Lincoln Ajoku, education specialist, Borno field officer.
The seminar dwelt on ‘Overview of FLN in Nigeria’, ‘Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA) – an effective model on FLN’, ‘Early grade reading, the USAID model’, and ‘Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) – how to remediate learning’ respectively.