Sustainable quality education: A ticket out of poverty

13 Nov 2018, 12:00 am
Professor Kingsley Moghalu
Sustainable quality education: A ticket out of poverty

Feature Highlight

It is time for Nigeria to get serious with investing in education and fighting poverty.

Kingsley Moghalu, Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 presidential election

This being the text of the keynote speech by Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), at the maiden seminar by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), Delta State, on October 24th, 2018. Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria, was also a senior official of the United Nations.

Protocol: Our host, and Vice Chancellor, Professor Akaehomen Okonigbon Akii Ibhadode; distinguished lecturers and researchers; officials of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network; students of this great institution; ladies and gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be here. The choice of the topic of this keynote address is particularly apt for the time, and forward-looking. Indeed, sustainable quality education is the ticket out of poverty.

The nexus between education and poverty is one that our politicians have little understood in recent years. But it has not always been like this. This gives me hope that we can rediscover the path to a sustainable future and that we would make the choice to do so.

Countries that have invested in quality education for a reasonable length of time, and continue to do so, outperform countries that are doing the opposite. Nigeria is now very prominent among the countries that have invested the least in quality education and are, therefore, the poorest in the world.

Let me highlight some of the findings in the maiden Human Capital Index (HCI), which the World Bank released only earlier this month. A child born in Nigeria today will be 34% as productive when she grows up as she could be, if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This statement is not gender-specific as it is conveniently put. It is generally true.

Here is the reason for the massive productivity gap of the average Nigerian young adult. Children in Nigeria can expect to complete 8.2 years of pre-primary, primary and secondary school by age 18. However, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is only equivalent to 4.2 years: a learning gap of 4 years. It is as if you were absent from school almost half the times you were present!

According to the HCI, students in Nigeria score 325 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment.

What all this means is that there is a wide gulf between schooling and learning in Nigeria. But the situation is even worse. 10 million school age children are not currently enrolled in school in Nigeria.

So, what is the correlation between our dismal performance in education and poverty? Hunger is one of those harrowing experiences of poverty. Those of you here who have been hungry before, can tell how difficult it is to study while experiencing the pangs of hunger. Everyone here is also likely to know how difficult it is to study when you are sick.

The HCI essentially measures investment in education and healthcare to determine the quality of human capital and its productivity. Nigeria ranked 152nd out of 157 countries on the HCI study. On a scale of 0 to 1, the country scored 0.34.

It is pertinent to note that Nigeria performed worse than the average score of 0.40 for Sub-Saharan African countries, and worse than countries on the same income group.

The three best-ranked countries are Singapore, with 0.88 score; South Korea, with 0.84; and Hong Kong (a territory of China), 0.82. The global average is 0.57.

The Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provides a strong correlation of education, poverty and human development. Its 2017 data shows countries with the highest “Mean Years of Schooling” as having the least “Poverty Rate” and highest ranking on the HDI. Inevitably, these include Singapore and the other top-ranked countries on the HCI.

Consistent with this, Nigeria got numbers that are less than half for the best-ranked countries for “Mean Years of Schooling” and our country is at the bottom end of the ranking for poverty and human development.

For years, Nigeria has failed to invest adequately in education. Since 2016, the country, under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, has been budgeting far more for roads, bridges and rails than it is investing in education. To its self-applause, yearly appropriation for capital expenditure by the administration has been around 30%. But only 6% was allocated to education in the 2018 budget.

More than anything else, what we have to show for this idiocy is the addition of N10 trillion to the public debt and more endemic poverty among Nigerians. Nigeria is now the “poverty capital” of the world. According to the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria is now the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world. 87 million Nigerians are living on $1.90 or less per day.

The current minimum wage of N18,000 is a poverty wage. It amounts to living on $1.67 per day. This is why I am strongly in support of a significant increase in the minimum wage. However, a new national minimum wage must benefit from the insights of high-level education in economics, such as I have, and high-level experience in economic management, again as I have as a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

It is time for Nigeria to get serious with investing in education and fighting poverty. At current trend, the World Bank predicts that by 2030 -- the year that the world aims to end poverty -- 90% of the world’s poor will be living mainly in Nigeria and sub Saharan Africa. A poverty time bomb is now ticking in the country, and we must defuse it fast.

I have offered myself for the job of aggressively pushing back against poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. To be successful against the eradication of extreme poverty, I plan to change what we learn in school, and how we learn, as a medium- to long-term policy imperative. This will be combined with short-term measures that will boost job creation.

Let me now highlight some of the policies I plan to pursue, if I am elected President in 2019. I am running for President as the candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).

1.    We will have curriculum reform. For nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education, we will change the curriculum to emphasise science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. We must produce the scientists, researchers, and inventors, as well as the smart business people and managers that will integrate the Nigerian economy into the global supply chains. This will entail hiring more teachers, training them and professionalising teaching again. We will restore the glory days of teachers in the country.

2.    We will modernise the economy and end exportation of raw mineral resources in the country. This means we have to refine our crude oil locally. In the same vein, investment in processing solid minerals found around the country, abundantly in the North, will become one of the conditions for obtaining mining licenses.  This will help create millions of jobs and foster technological development in the country.

3.    We will have constitutional restructuring of the country within one year from the inauguration of my administration in May 29th, 2019. Nigeria will return to a proper federation of the current six geopolitical regions, and we will restore fiscal federalism and phase-in resource control. This has the advantage of economies of scale for each of the regions. The ensuing healthy rivalry among the six geopolitical regions will enhance economic productivity.

4.    We will provide a wider definition for Nigeria’s national security and secure lives and property of Nigerians. In this context, the current states of our educational system and high level of poverty will be declared as national emergencies. Accordingly, we will immediately raise the budgetary allocation for education to minimum 20% and progressively increase it further in the subsequent years. We will also create millions of direct and indirect jobs in the security sector. This includes recruitment of additional 1.5 million police officers, investment in their training and equipment, and also investments in border control, which we believe will see the country develop expertise in this area.

5.    We will restore environmental sustainability to the oil producing states. In this regard, we don’t even have to issue new promises. What we will bring is honesty and political-will to do the right things. So, we will clean up Ogoni-land and other oil-producing communities, where agriculture, including the aquaculture, has been destroyed by oil spillages. We will promote investments in gas production as a strategy to end gas-flaring. We will diversify even the economy of the oil-producing states, with more jobs created in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry as well as in agriculture, trade and other industries.

6.    Let me deliberately end what is a much longer list of innovative policies with this. We plan to institute a N1 trillion venture capital (VC) fund. This fund will invest in innovation. It will invest in the new and existing business ideas and products by young Nigerians as SMEs. The fund will also be specifically mandated to invest in the businesses founded or led by women. To a large extent, poverty in Nigeria is gendered. We will seek to end that.
The injection of VC funding into the Nigerian economy is central to having a functioning entrepreneurial capitalist economy, which I believe is very suited to the industry of the Nigerian people. Alongside this framework to inject massive capital into the economy that will help commercialise innovations, we will also strengthen property rights.
Like I said, I deliberately ended the abridged list of the innovative policies we have in store to transform the Nigerian economy with the venture capital fund. This is the reason I did that.

Since Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, is relatively new, I decided to get a bit more acquainted with the school ahead of this visit. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things I saw when I visited the school’s website.

I saw that FUPRE is already innovating. I saw the Delta Crux 001, the prototype race car that some of you built in 2015 ahead of participating in the SHELL Eco-Marathon Race Competition in Johannesburg, South Africa, and which won the best award.

I read about your innovation of the design and fabrication of a modular refinery. And I was impressed by the innovation of the technology for recycling of waste motor oil to diesel-like fuel.

But often times, these innovative ideas and products don’t make it beyond this stage. The reason is because we don’t fund research products to commercial production and marketing. And the reason we don’t do that is the absence of venture capital funds, which in the advance economies, provide equity financing for early-stage ventures and even the research phase of product development. That is the oxygen for the regular introduction of new products in the market, job creation and economic modernisation.

Therefore, my plan for economic transformation in Nigeria will link education to productivity and the market. I plan to lead Nigeria into the 21st Century.

It is time for Something New, Something Different and Something Bold.

It is time to turn the tide against poverty and unemployment.

And it is time to choose a leadership that has a well-educated plan to end the progressive reign of ignorance and poverty in Nigeria.

Thank you.

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