China has 99% primary education enrollment with less than 10% university attainment. They put all the good money in primary education. America does the same where primary and secondary are largely free. But in Nigeria, we flip it, taking care of a few to the detriment of many. Why should a professor be paid $2,000 per month when a primary school teacher cannot even get $100 monthly? The most important education is primary education.
Yet, from state to federal levels, Nigeria continues to pump more money into universities, leaving primary and secondary severely underfunded. That is not to say that we are funding universities adequately – my point is that the little money we have should be prioritized for basic education.
U.S. does it this way – if you want to go to a university, pay for it or take loan; government has nothing on it. But if you are super-talented, U.S. can give you a scholarship. China follows the same playbook. But in Nigeria, public university students are on partial scholarships, through subsidies, thereby making people with no need to be near any university to enroll. Why not? There is no cost-to-benefit analysis to be undertaken at individual level because it is government that is wasting its money. So, people waltz through universities, sustainable the current paralysis.
But as we subsidize the few to attend universities, illiteracy is massively scaled in pockets of communities: Yobe has literacy rate of 7.2 according to the National Bureau of Statistics. You may wonder if the across the board subsidies in the pubic universities could have gotten more kids to schools.
Nigeria needs to invest more on basic education – the current trajectory is not efficient. Making that turn is a challenge which has to be managed. Yes, it is either we find money to fund basic education and universities concurrently or we prioritize basic education, and remove all subsidies in universities. Everyone needs basic education – a really good one – but those that want to go to universities should find alternative sources to do. Subsidizing few thousands while millions fade, as we do, will not advance this nation.(Government can always award scholarships to extremely talented kids.)
Sure – you can accuse me that I benefited from this subsidy while a student in FUTO, Owerri. But notice that I have been an advocate to push more money to basic education in many speeches. Simply, I do believe that it is the right thing to do.