THE DISMAL STATE OF HEALTH AND EDUCATIONAL SECTOR
NIGERIA:A COUNTRY AT THE PRECIPICE
The ruling class or working class to the rescue?
By Dagga Tolar
These two sectors; education and health are central to the survival and development of any society, they tend to both the physical and mental development of the working masses. Health and education cannot and should not be fundamentally a question of cash and carry, in a country officially designated as the poverty capital of the world, should this not in itself be the basis for the necessary investment of the resources of society, so as to ensure that the citizens are physically and mentally stable, acquire the required educationally skill to take on the task of exiting poverty.
If there is anything positive about the Corona virus pandemic for Socialists, it is in the fact it brought to the fore the negligence suffered by the health sector under the watch of the bourgeoisie, it exposed the Buhari regime and the entire crop of the ruling elites, indicting them of failure. The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Nigeria 189 out of 191 countries as the 4th worst in the world, coming after the Central African Republic, Lesotho, and Chad.
While the figures of death from Corona virus is marginally small compared to figures of from the US and countries in Europe, this is not due to any particular effort of the Buhari regime, rather to the resilience and strength of character of the working masses to survive at all odds. The numbers of death from the Corona virus are cooked and do not in any way reflect the picture on the ground, the numbers of death from the Corona virus continues to peak, indeed a larger number of people who have died from other ailment in reality has been as a result of the Corona virus, that their weakened immune system have left them opened to attack by the virus and the consequent or resultant death…from other ailments.
Lacking the ability to enter into Vaccine production, Nigeria has had to depend upon the Advance Capitalist Countries for her vaccine. And the statistics are nothing to write home about. Africa suffers from a huge discrimination of the current state of “Vaccine inequality” with only 2 % is vaccinated in Africa and the picture is even more worst for Nigeria with her population of 206 million people… with only 1, 175, 341 of the population recorded to have collected the second dosage of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, amounting to a mere of 0.57% of the 206 million population.
While the country is back to normalcy, with more and more assuming that the corona virus is a scam and does not exist or is a “disease for Europeans” or that “Africans are a tough breed and that they have inbuilt mechanism to resist the virus. Socialist must distant themselves from such non-scientific analysis, coronavirus is real with existing statistics of death here and in the Advance capitalist countries, interestingly more and more death with the poor existing facilities and poor diagnosis and pathological ability of medicine, a lot of death caused by the virus, silently go unattributed to it.
But what is certain is that coronavirus pandemic and the lock down which trapped members of the ruling elites in the country making them unable to access health care abroad, should have helped to redirect and reinstruct the ruling elites to become committed to take up the task of equipping and modernize healthcare service in Nigeria, so that the working masses can enjoy the best of healthcare that members of the ruling fly abroad to enjoy. But no, the reverse is the case, business as usual was in full practice, with members of the ruling elites, seeing all proposed measures to cushion the lock down, or to halt the spread of the virus as new opportunities to continue with its beloved pastime of looting and divert the wealth of the country into private pockets.
As things stand more Nigerians are dying in increasing new numbers that breaks the existing records of deaths in various ailments in the country. Malaria alone has “an estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per year in Nigeria. This compares with 215,000 deaths per year in Nigeria from Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Malaria contributes to an estimated 11 per cent of maternal mortality.”22
In the same breath she has one of the highest maternal mortality rate at 917 out of every pregnant woman.
Ranked 7th in the world with mental cases and 15th suicide on the suicide chat, WHO concludes that in every four Nigerians there is one mental case, which makes a total of 50 million people is suffering from one state of mental disorder. All of these impacts on life expectancy in Nigeria which is placed at 55, in a world where more people are growing old and life expectancy is 73 years. In all the area of healthcare there is one crisis or the other occasioned by inadequate modern medical facilities, and the ruling elites do not care or worry over how this would be fixed. They are comfortable to travelling abroad for all their medical care and needs, both for them and their families.
Yet the fault is no one but that of the ruling class, who have refused to grow the economy by developing the means of production, leaving the working class; who are the ones who suffer and die unable to afford to fly abroad for their healthcare, has the only class that must take up the task, which is only possible by posing the question of power, challenge and defeat the bourgeois and wrestle power from their grip.
Yet medical workers in all fields must be commended, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, they perform near super human fit to even continue to practice in the face of the huge challenges and non availability of necessary modern kits and tools to work, one of the lowest of income for medical practitioners worldwide.
This has meant that many Nigerian trained medical professionals are seeking jobs in more favourable working environment abroad, where they earn as much as a ratio of 1000:1 compared to what they earn working in Nigeria. The implication of this is that the country has become a very cheap source for staffing hospitals outside in various capacity as doctors, nurses, and care givers. According to a report of the House of Commons in 2020, it states that there are 8,241 Nigerians medical practitioners in the UK.
This brain drain has automatically created a vacuum and dearth of doctors at variance with the WHO recommendations that for any country to claim to have enough doctors for its population, it should have one doctor for every 600 persons. This means that with population of about 214 million, Nigeria needs a minimum of 356,666 medical doctors, but presently has about 35,000 and leaving a deficit of about 321,666 qualified doctors, which in percentage total averagely demands a minimum of 1000% more Medical doctors of the current figure to meet the WHO recommendation.
It follows therefore that the insufficient hospital facilities of 33,303 general hospitals, 20,278 primary health centres and posts, and 59 teaching hospitals and federal medical centers are made to suffer shortage of not enough hands to attend to patients.
Yet doctors have not folded their hands, the National Association of Resident Doctors as at August 2021 has counted its fourth strike action within a one year period on the same demand with little or no positive response from the government.
The sectors suffers from the worst of funding, an example is the 2021 health budget of N19.7bn, and the state House clinic alone gulps N1.3 billion, the same clinic meant to carter for the president and his family, and yet the president has been out of the country for a total of 201 days out of a 6 years period in power.
Estimates for the figure for medical tourism puts it at over $1.2billion dollars yearly,24 an annually figure that dwarfs total budget for health these past 6 years of the Buhari regime in power. And Buhari his quoted on record to have assured the nation in 2016 that his regime “… will certainly not encourage expending Nigerian hard-earned resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad, when such can be handled in Nigeria”.
From the assertion above the president himself is the number one culprit of his own rule, since practically nothing has been done to improve the health fortunes of the economy, for basic surgery Nigerians are forced to turn to India, for those who cannot afford the trip to Europe and America.
The very task of ensuring that Nigerians can access the best of medical care in their own country is not a task that can be accomplished on a capitalist programme of deregulation, government has since introduced in 2005 National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), as a means of creating an alternative funding for the health sector, but scheme is nothing more than directly stealing from the wages of workers, with the fund having no corresponding impact on the health sector, it provides for the private hospitals to be able to access funds from taking care of workers under this scheme, but in reality, no serious health issue can be attended under the scheme outside of malaria and the likes.
The working masses can therefore only but turn to themselves, their misfortunes in health as in other sector of the economy is a failing accounted by the ruling elites, who continue to better their own lot at the very expenses of the needs of the working masses. Only a Workers’ and Poor Farmers Government through the accomplishment of a revolution will commence the socialist transformation of the country and reverse the current trend.
From the primary through to tertiary institutions, the education system is in such disarray that you hardly can count any member of the ruling elites whose children or ward school or patronize any of the school in the country. Statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reveals that the huge sum of $28. 65 billion dollars has been spent on “foreign education” between 2010 and 2020, this in itself is an indication of the terrible state of the sector here that the rich and well to do, are no longer willing to have their wards attend schools, here.
Instead of the ruling elites doing everything necessary to fix the educational, given the crucial role it plays as the producers of manpower that would power the economy to the greatest of height to be able to provide for the needs of society. The ruling elites are comfortable with the situation.
Bourgeoisie as presently constituted do not see the need to repeat history of the bourgeois revolution. Capitalism all thanks to imperialism is globalised; industrial Europe, US and China already have done the magic, while waste time to repeat the process when one could just simply access the necessary existing quality on the basis of cash and carry.
This is what in reality explains why the ruling elites are comfortable and home to the idea of going abroad and turning to turn to Europe, to get the very best of education the very same approach adopted in relation to the health sector.
According to the balance of payment statistics of the CBN, Nigerians spent $28.65 billion on foreign education for the period in between 2010 to 2020. The attraction to foreign education is directly a consequence of the underfunding and which directly affects the quality of output compared with other countries. And those with the cash to spent do not hesitate to take advantage of moving their wards abroad.
A rundown of the best 10 ranked universities in Nigeria carried out by on the 2021 Webometrics’ World Ranking of Universities website makes this point clearer. The University of Ibadan, the country premier university, according to it is positioned at 1, 196, while the next best ranked public institution, is Obafemi Awolowo University at 1503. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka is ranked at 1, 554. University of Lagos 1711, University of Port Harcourt at 2102, Ahmadu Bello University 2127, Federal University of Technology Akure at 2172, Federal University of Technology Minna at 2748, Bayero University Kano is ranked 2805 and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology is 2848.25
Even on an African ranking scale, Nigeria with University of Ibadan comes 27 with even far below countries like Ghana, Botswana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. It is no longer news that most parents unable to afford universities in Europe and America, have flooded the campuses of Ghana and Benin Republic as a means of accessing university education for their wards.
The country parades the highest number of “out-of-school” at 1. 1 million children but the UNICEF points out that the likelihood of an increment of the figure with an additional 1 million a consequence of the high rate of kidnapping, banditry that has become the vogue in the northern part of the country. From Chibok, to Dapchi now to Zamfara with the kidnap and adoption of 300 school girls, which combines to worsen the situation of the access to education of the girls child in the North that already exist at a less than 50% compared to boys
In all there are “10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.”
Additional statistics also available from UNICEF informs that “2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected States (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa). In these States, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable.”
The picture is therefore also gloomy, the state of decaying infrastructure and dilapidating classroom. There are no labouratories for science education in most schools in the country; the same thing applies to library, ill-equipped and stocked with old books all covered up with dust that is where they even exist, others have simply closed them down allotting such space as classroom or for some other specific purpose.
This inadequacy in turn has produced a situation where the students round up primary school education and can’t spell their names, some finish their secondary education and can’t construct a sentence of their own, an indication of the poor reading habits and the failure to employ the necessary qualified hands to teach in the schools, even when the country has enough qualified hands to perform this function.
And this is not unconnected to underfunding, as oppose to the 26% so recommended by the UN, education gets an average 8% of the budget. ASUU has gone on strike to draw government attention to the situation, and like in other sectors that also suffer neglect, it receives a cold non-responsive treatment. Its agenda is to privatise education and make it no longer it concern, unmindful that it would mean that more and more children will now no longer bother to access education since they would not be able to afford it.
The example of UNIBEN is a case in hand; it took the organised mass of student’s protest for two days to force the Vice Chancellor, Mrs Salami to reverse the imposed late registration fee payment of N20, 000. This shows the only way forward, we in the MSA must stress that there is the need to build the necessary unity of all workers in the educational sector, from primary to tertiary institution organizing to defend public education and taking united action alongside students to demand for more funding.
While there is indeed a clear case of underfunding in the universities, there is also a clear lack of democratic openness and accountability in the management of the existing funds in the university. The VCs have transformed themselves to Emperor in their domain, who clamp down heavily against lecturers, making use of all manners of guise to come against vocal lecturers, and the fear of being booted out keeps lecturers in check with tongue in cheek.
Thus the idea of the university is now no more that a fiefdom, where all must bow and kowtow to the dictates of the VC, the very idea of discourse, with the freedom of expression of thoughts and ideas; freely canvassed, and healthily countered, with all of the needed academic freedom for scholarship to thrive is gradually no longer the norm in the ivory tower.
It follows therefore that nothing fundamentally can be achieved, if capitalism is not overthrown, and democratic management of all educational institutions with all categories of workers and student involved in the democratic management of the institution which in no way must excludes the finances as well, but then the working masses cannot wait out their education and future alone to the making of a socialist revolution. It must here and now take up the agitation and struggle against the ruling class, insist through its united action that the necessary funds be made available; through such course of action draw the necessary conclusion to carrying out a socialist revolution.