Education: Social Science Academy of Nigeria and others

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As the Nigerian Academy of Social Sciences held its 2023 Annual General Meeting this week in Abuja amidst a severe budget crisis, I learned that the Nigerian people are beginning to reap the fruits of underfunding or lack of funds and rampant corruption in education that began in the 1980s. The Second Republic was established by President Shehu Shagari in 1998.

As an undergraduate, I remember that tertiary education in Nigeria was almost free. The cost of accommodation was only N90 and every Friday the house staff would provide one or two bed covers to the resident students, they would pick up those on the bed to wash. The hostels had refrigerators and sometimes cooking equipment for those who didn’t want to go to the cafeteria. The food in the cafeteria was very cheap and meals with chicken were served twice a week. The price of each dish is from 50 kobo to 70 kobo, not naira.

Tea was free so buy some bread from the shops near your hostel and go to the cafeteria to wash it down with tea. A tea competition was held among students. On Sundays, lunch is served with fruit and/or ice cream. Politicians When they arrived in 1979, they found that hostels were no longer part of higher education abroad and all benefits were withdrawn by the end of 1983, leaving students with empty accommodation. A few years later, I had to find a similar hostel service in the United States; This made me realize that politicians are just lying to change the system and steal money from the education sector. The continuous cuts in funding to universities at the time culminated in the ASUU strike in 1983. Many game-changing politicians benefited from the system they destroyed. Some have received full federal government scholarships in good governance from colonial, first republic and early military governments.

As far as accommodation was concerned, there was a maximum of two students per class, but since there were categories of students accommodated on campus, there could be squatters who could not rent a house off campus. He did not sell beds to beggars as is the case today in deep-rooted corruption. Students were somewhat innocent and he was seriously worried about corruption among student politicians or student union officials. Any student union office holder found guilty of financial malfeasance shall be a delinquent. I understand that student union governments today are no different from the politicians on the march at the state and federal levels.

There was no TETFund and the government was the only funder. Unless the plan anticipated the rapid population growth in the universities, most of the buildings from that time stood much stronger than today’s. Therefore, lecture theaters and classrooms soon become seriously inadequate. Part of the problems was the inability to plan long term. Today, almost all the buildings in the campuses are supported by TETFund, so many students mistakenly think that, a Nigerian Mr. TETFund, is a charity in education development.

Most of the laboratories in the old science buildings have special or private laboratories for professors, it is expected that they are sleeping in their laboratories and producing research results for scientific development at the national and international level. It was in the spirit of such a research orientation that Nigerian academics joined their counterparts around the world in establishing academies of science, arts or letters, social sciences and other research academies.

Shortly after entering the academic profession, I vividly remember seeing stickers on the doors of some of our senior colleagues that read, “I am a social scientist.” On enquiry, I learned that a new association had been opened and was meant for the top leaders of the academic profession, ie professors! That was in 1984 when the Social Science Council of Nigeria (now the Nigerian Academy of Social Sciences) was established. As it is the practice of such institutions around the world, it was strictly to promote research and the publication of research results.

Over the years, SSAN, like other academies in the country, has received domestic and foreign grants (more of the latter) to carry out research of national interest. The objectives of the Academy, which show its importance to the country’s existence, include promoting the development of social science disciplines, especially encouraging creativity and innovation in social science theory and application, and focusing on indigenization, as well as its contribution to knowledge. General and specific to social science; Encourage inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches to the study of social problems in Nigeria; Assess and determine research priorities and disseminate research findings in the social sciences to make social science research in Nigeria more relevant to the development needs of the country; In collaboration and cooperation with African and other international organizations that have the same objective as the academy.

Nigerian academies, like their international counterparts, are non-profit organizations that provide professional advice to the government. For example, the United States’ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine “provides independent, objective advice to inform policy with evidence, foster growth and innovation, and address challenging issues for the benefit of society.” This is the role of other academies in the US in various disciplines and in other countries and to that extent they receive funding from both governments and the private sector.

In terms of funding, Nigerian academics, especially SSAN, have received research grants ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 from the likes of MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, International Labor Organization and others. To carry out research that is of great value to the arts of science and the political economy of Nigeria.

Not much came from domestic sources except NISER, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Aid Committee. When foreign donors realized that domestic financial support was low and the results of studies mostly benefited the Nigerian economy, they began to decrease, expecting domestic donors to fill the gap, but this was not the case. Eventually, as most foreign donors shifted their focus to poorer African countries, most academies began to collapse and research efforts were comatose. It was the government of President Goodluck Jonathan that mandated an annual grant of N5,000,000.00 to the academies through the Ministry of Science and Technology and made the academies sustainable.

In typical fashion, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government killed the academies’ hope of survival. But it’s not just the academies, education as a sector has suffered death at the hands of the Buhari government. For example, the annual budget highlights the government’s priorities. Buhari in 2012 During the Buhari administration, the budget allocation for education has continuously declined and ended up with only 4.52 percent in 2023.

Today, most of the academies that used to compete with their peers around the world are a shadow of their former selves due to lack of funding for research. A hallmark of their existence. Some are dead and others appear once in a while to raise money for some events like SSAN, general assembly. The theme of this year’s SSAN General Assembly is on the economic, social and political foundations of democratic governance. The conference includes guest lectures and paper presentations. We hope that the federal government will remember these academies when it fulfills its promise to promote education; The country’s multi-billionaires also lay the groundwork for funding studies abroad. Research is the foundation of education and itself the foundation of economic development.

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