Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari has not built a single institution of learning, a former aide to his predecessor recently tweeted this to his 300,000 followers.
“In his first year in office, Jonathan built 9 federal universities and 78 Almajiri schools. In 2 and a half years in power, Buhari has not even built one nursery school,” wrote Reno Omokri, who worked for ex-president Goodluck Jonathan.
How accurate are the two claims in his tweet?
Africa Check contacted Omokri for the source of his claim, but he is yet to respond. (Note: We will update this report should he do so).
Jonathan took office in May 2010 following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. In November 2010, his government decided to establish nine federal universities – one in each of the country’s geopolitical zones.
Of the nine universities, two – the Federal University of Wukari in Taraba State and the Federal University of Kashere in Gombe State – started academic operations in September 2011. The others opened their doors to students from September 2012 onwards.
Three more universities were opened during Jonathan’s term, the most recent in 2015.
Public universities rarely built from scratch
While the universities were announced within Jonathan’s first year, Omokri’s claim misses the mark by stating that they were “built”, which connotes construction, an education policy expert told Africa Check.
“The claim that Jonathan built 9 universities in his first year can only be accurate if you use the word ‘established’ instead of ‘built’,” Hassan Taiwo Soweto, coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign told Africa Check.
New public universities’ campuses in Nigeria are almost never built from scratch, but are usually converted from existing ones, like secondary schools and technical institutions.
What about Almajiri schools?
Almajiri schools are specialised schools mainly for poor children in northern Nigeria. More than 100 such schools were constructed between 2010 and 2015, a report by the state-backed Universal Basic Education Commission shows. It does not say how many were constructed in the first year of Jonathan’s tenure, however.
Media reports said 35 such schools had been built by April 2012. This number rose to 80 by July 2013, according to a progress report the commission presented to the National Economic Council that month.
President Buhari – or Jonathan, for that matter – could not have built a nursery school because the federal government does not handle pre-primary education.
Such schools are established by private individuals and organisations using guidelines set by state governments, according to the country’s National Policy on Education.
In April 2016, a federal government minister said no new federal secondary schools would be built to supplement the existing 104 that Buhari inherited, known as Unity Schools, saying the problem was not numbers but quality.
‘You cannot measure Buhari’s administration on Jonathan’s policy’
But directly comparing different administrations using brick-and-mortar achievements is misleading, according to Prof Segun Adedeji, who specialises in education planning and economics of education at the University of Ibadan.
“The policy of any government is dependent on the need of the society at a particular time. The need of the society during Jonathan’s administration was to create more educational institutions, but this administration [Buhari’s] is not looking in that direction.”
“To measure an administration, you need to look at the manifesto and the objectives of that administration and then determine if it has done what it promised to do. You cannot measure Buhari’s administration on Jonathan’s policy. What Nigeria is battling with now is beyond creating universities. Ensuring that the universities are well funded and well-managed is essential.”
Education and development consultant Dayo Odukoya agreed. “The previous government may claim that it set up a lot of schools, but if you set up schools and you cannot pay salaries of the [tutors], of what use is it?” said Odukoya, who works for the Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa at the University of Lagos.
-Edited by Lee Mwiti
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