A Fellow at the Africa Education Watch, Mr Divine Kpe, has advised the government to resist any temptation to cut education expenditure in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said any attempt to cut education expenditure would further worsen the disruption COVID-19 had caused to education with an irreparable harm to the education of children, especially those from low-income families and children with disabilities.
Speaking in an interview with the Graphic Business, he said recovery plans for the education sector rather needed extra funding and not a cut in education expenditure which was already woefully inadequate.
“As tempting as it will be, the government needs the discipline to stay away from it.
“The coronavirus is not just a health crisis but financial crisis that is waning government’s revenue mobilisation.
“This revenue shortfall, coupled with the increasing spending on public health to fight the COVID-19, will undoubtedly be tempting for the government to cut revenue allocation to some sectors as some solution to the covid-induced budget deficit.
With the education budget being the second largest single expenditure in the government’s annual budget after infrastructure, he said the government was more likely to consider a slash in the education budget.
He said such an action would ,however, be suicidal for the country’s education sector.
Impact of COVID-19 on education
Mr Kpe said Covid-19 had left the majority of children without learning, a situation that would leave many of them behind.
He said some were also likely to drop out as result of teenage pregnancy, child marriage and general lost of interest in school.
“With the school feeding programme being the major source of daily meal for some of them, it is without doubt that such children may not have had access to nutritious meals over the covid-break and will need to return to school to meet the school feeding programme running effectively.
“The pandemic may have had effect on the social and emotional health of some because of fear and panic the virus caused, absent of social connection with their school mates and the abuse some may have faced at home,” he stated.
Improved education system
He noted that post COVID-19 would ,therefore, require an improvement in the education system, something which would not be possible should the government decide to cut education expenditure.
He said post COVID-19 required an education system that would accelerate learning for all children, especially those in poor districts/communities; implement “re-entry” programmess to reduce dropout rate and successfully keep the school feeding programme running to encourage attendance.
“It will also require the training of teachers on how to provide social and emotional services to children who might have been psychologically affected by the pandemic, promotion of students and staff safety and the provision of teaching and learning resources to schools to help in recovery of lost instructional times,” he stated.