Abuja — The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, has apologised to Nigerians over his inability to keep to his promise to reduce the number of out-of-school children by half before the end of his tenure.
This is coming as the federal government has approved additional N25 billion as earned academic allowances for members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The minister said the uninspiring status of Nigeria parading the highest number of out-of-school children globally was a big mark of shame to him as a person and to the entire country.
Nigeria remains the highest in the number of out-of-school children, reducing from 13.2 million to 10.1 million.
Adamu who spoke yesterday during his valedictory session at the ministry's headquarters in Abuja, said the menace has been so embarrassing.
"When I attend conferences outside the country and the issue of out-of-school children is being discussed, I feel embarrassed. It is a big mark of shame to me as a person and to us as a nation. Nigeria is the highest even though we are not known for poverty.
"We promised to reduce to reduce out-of-school children by half. I must apologise, we have failed in that. I am hoping that the next minister will address it," he said.
Commending ASUU, and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), as well as other unions on campuses, the minister pleaded that strikes should be a thing of the past, while noting that the sum of N20 billion had been released directly to universities with emphasis that all universities had gotten their share of the money.
According to him, the federal government has approved additional N25 billion as earned academic allowances for members of ASUU.
The money was part payment contained in the Memorandum of Action (MoA) the union signed with the federal government.
The government said the N25 billion was in addition to the N20 billion that was released last year to public universities in the country.
Adamu was joined by the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, and Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed at the briefing.
The minister said all universities in the country have benefitted from the N20 billion released last year by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
He said the Buhari administration inherited an unimplementable agreement of N1.3 trillion when it assumed office in 2015.
Adamu said: "Let me inform you that the federal government has just approved an additional N25 billion to be shared to beneficiary institutions directly. Last year, the federal government released N20 billion directly to universities. As I speak, all universities have got their share of the N20 billion.
"The sad news is that the N200 billion that was released to the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2013 for the universities has not been fully accessed. In specific terms, all the 73 public varsities have accessed the 1st tranche of 50 percent of the N200 billion.
"For the second tranche of 40 percent, only 56 institutions have been able to access their funds. The last 10 per cent representing the third tranche of the N200 billion has not been accessed at all," he explained.
He said the government invested N1.338 trillion on the sector in the last four years.
Adamu said: "In spite of the economic downturn, we have done well in terms of investment in capital expenditure. The UBEC interventions in states have recorded a total of N350 billion, while TETFund and NEED Assessment interventions have recorded N857 billion with the main ministry and other agencies recording N86 billion, totalling N1.338 trillion in the last four years.
"This is aside from the N25 billion just approved for public universities. These figures have nothing to do with personnel and overhead cost in the education sector, which are also well over a trillion naira.
"Private sector investment in the education sector from the basic, secondary and tertiary levels far outweighs government investment. Our aggregate expenditure in the education sector (public and private) therefore exceeds the much touted 20 per cent of our national budget. We are poised to do more," he added.
On his part, the ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the N25 billion was supposed to be released by government to its members in March this year as part of the MoA it signed with the union.
He said he could not confirm if members of the union had received the funds or not.
The ASUU president said the N20 billion that has been fully accessed by its members was for revitalisation of universities in the country.
"I can't confirm if the money has been released to our members. We still have issues with the money.
"The N25 billion is part of the Earned Academic Allowances for our members. It is a part payment. We have been chasing that money to be released to us. The money was supposed to be released in March 28 this year but the government released only N20 billion leaving a balance of N5 billion.
"The balance is supposed to be mainstreamed into 2019 budget," he added