Struggle for Daily Bread May Hinder Quality Education
Times are hard, feeding is expensive. With a large population living on unbuttered loaves of bread, food inflation has made students food penny pinchers.
As the country’s economy deteriorates and citizens go through untold economic and financial hardship, Nigerian students have not been exempted from this unpleasant reality. While price inflation may not be a problem for some high-end students, for most, the upsurge in the price of food is taking the chunk of their wallets.
It is rather unfortunate that feeding has become difficult, as students are forced to live with the terrible situation of food prices on campus amidst the country’s poor economic situation.
Reports have shown that the current inflation crisis that has rocked Nigeria’s economy has hit a four-year peak in February as food prices skyrocket to more than 20 per cent. Consequently, there has been a heavy financial burden on not only households but students who make up a large percentage of the dependent population.
Recent statistics reported by Nairametrics show that Nigeria’s food inflation rate for March 2020 rose to 18.17% from 17.33% recorded in February 2021, representing 0.82% points higher than the February figures.
According to the Consumer Index Price, on a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 0.99% in April 2021, down by 0.91% points from 1.9% recorded in March 2021, while the average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the twelve months stood at 18.58%, indicating a 0.65% points higher than 17.93% recorded in the previous month.
The report further states that the rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of coffee, tea and cocoa, bread and cereals, soft drinks, milk, cheese and egg, vegetable, meat, oil and fats, fish and potatoes, yam, and other tubers.
With the continuous hike in the prices of goods and commodities, amid other economic and security issues, many students are poorly fed and the standard of living is falling.
Which way to go? Food Cost and Cooking in UNILAG
A general outlook of things on campus has revealed mounting costs of essential goods, food items and a decline in the quality of life on campus.
For instance, cooking on campus has been considered a cost-effective way of feeding for many students to avoid frequenting the seemingly extravagant restaurants, and food vendors on campus. In the face of the current economic downturn and hike in food prices, it has become more of a necessity.
However, the power supply model on campus has been a stumbling block for students who need to cook. As a result of the 12-hour night power-sharing model implemented by UNILAG to cut costs, students scramble for the limited spaces available for cooking whenever there is power.
Following the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Company’s increase in electricity tariff last September, the model of electricity supply in the university community has been considered unsustainable in the long-term, hence the current situation.
The university should alternatively operate power shifts in rotation during the day in place of the 12-hour night power-sharing to supply hostels with electricity during the day.
The Federal Government should speed up the implementation of the ‘Energizing Education Programme’ in 2019 aimed at ensuring a stable power supply across higher institutions of learning in the country.
While we understand that the economic tide is not favourable, the school management, through a committee on Price monitoring, should endeavour to implement a general price regulation on campus.
On the part of the government, there should be a food subsidy programme to reduce the feeding cost as well as influence overall price stability for students. There is no gainsaying that hunger could prevent students from learning.
What is the way forward for the economy at large?
Although the Muhammad Buhari administration at various times said that it has facilitated an improvement in the nation’s economy and also improved the lives of the citizens by lifting millions out of poverty, this is an illusional accomplishment as this claim conflicts with Nigeria’s unenviable reputation as the world’s ‘poverty capital’.
This present administration who rode on the crest of ‘change’ and ‘next level’ mantras into their first and second terms need to consult and create a sustainable plan towards alleviating the 82 million Nigerians living on less than $1US per day.
Reuters in a report quoted the Head of macroeconomic research at NKC African economics in South Africa, Jacques Nel, who predicted that inflation pressures would probably remain high in the coming months. He added that just 30.6 million Nigerians of a population of about 210 million were considered fully employed.
Also, there is a need for the Buhari-led administration to map out viable sustainable strategies and directional plans to revitalize the economy beyond the current fiscal responses it has implemented.
As experts have predicted, the series of micro-interventions by the CBN and fiscal authorities such as Tradermoni, Marketmoni, COVID-19 intervention funds and food palliatives, amongst others, would have minimal impact in the present year as economic multipliers linked to the microcredit schemes are low.
To accelerate growth and reduce both unemployment and inflation, the institutional and infrastructural constraints inhibiting business expansion must be faced down firmly.