News has reported this morning that the new National Assembly in Nigeria is to receive $43 million in a clothing allowance, meaning that each of the legislators is receiving over $91,000. According to the latest costing estimates by the EFA GMR team, that amount of money could help 112,000 children access a quality, equitable primary education.
We should remember that over two thirds of people living in Nigeria earn below $1.25 a day, according to 2011 figures. The allowance just received by the 469 legislators for new suits, skirts and shirts, therefore, is equal to the amount that almost 34.5 million people exist on per day.
Aside from clothes, of course, the National Assembly is set to receive all sorts of other allowances, including for furniture and for cars. Those in the House of Representatives will receive the equivalent of $9 million for new chairs and tables, for instance, which could send almost 23,000 children to school. It could be spent on chairs and desks for schools, alternatively.
Nigeria remains, with Somalia, one of the only two sub-Saharan African countries never to have reported its education expenditure since 1990. While we don’t know what share of the national income goes to education, by many accounts it remains very low. And this despite Nigeria’s GNP per capita growing substantially since 1999.
As a result, the most basic of resources for education are limited: an additional 220,000 primary school teachers, 15% of the global total, are needed. In Nigeria, primary attainment among the poorest households actually fell, from 35% in 2003 to 22% in 2013, with the gap between the average and poorest households increasing by about 20 percentage points.
Legislators should not be distracted from the task in hand. The fact is that Nigeria houses the largest population of out of school children of any country in the world. Our latest EFA GMR provided the verdict on countries’ progress towards the six global Education for All goals. It concluded that Nigeria lacks progress in almost every EFA goal, with the number of out of school children – already the highest in the world – increasing since 2000.
Recently, we wondered on this blog whether the arrival of the new President might present new hope for the future of education in the country. This bit of news, as a symbol of misplaced priorities, casts a shadow over that hope.