OUR SCHOOLS HAVE GONE ON STRIKE
I know you would think this title is the same conation as Ola Rotimi’s play ‘’ our husband has gone mad again ‘’ but our title here is to address the deteriorating condition of Nigeria’s education system just because it is now an interplay of shame.
Whether you like it or not, the irregularity in the education system in Nigeria has been like the famous poem of the Senegalese Poet, Birago Diop ‘’ vanity ‘’ because our education is an outcry of balderdash. What this means is that education in Nigeria is total mischief.
I feel bad to start this essay with these two paragraphs. It is not my fault. I think it is because of the deplorable condition of our citadel of learnings, which are previously known as the notable universities in Africa in the early 1960s to late 1980s. And the current condition of these universities is now shockingly bad as the Federal Government is recalcitrant to pay ASUU’s debt. The people of ASUU are just like a character who has a spirit of garrulity whenever he is hungry. Is it that ASUU calls for a strike when they are broke?
But then, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Chris Ngige, who was asked about the Federal Government’s response about the ongoing strike, said: “A lot of ASUU issues have been dealt with after our meeting in October last year.” This he said during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today. He also said “He was shocked they went on strike’’
Meanwhile, in Punch Newspaper of 04/03/22, the minister stated that the Federal Government does not have the funds to meet its obligation in the agreement signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU). When I saw this newspaper report, I laughed hysterically. I felt bad and was disappointed that the minister could say this. Is Nigeria that broke? But what of the billions worth of luxurious properties EFCC confiscated from impish Nigerians?
On Monday, the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, while reacting to the declaration of the rollover of the strike by the lecturers’ union during an interview with Journalists at the end of the commemoration of the 2022 Commonwealth Celebration in Abuja insisted that the federal government had met all of the demands of the union, adding that all earned allowances, as well as recapitalization funds, had been released.
If the government has met the demands of the union, then I don’t know why they are on strike. The question is; who now is lying?; the minister or our erudite professors? We pay zero tolerance to education. Forgetting that for a nation to grow, education needs to be pivotal. Well, our dilatory people have made education in Nigeria to become depressing, because a course that’s supposed to run for four years will assuredly become six years because of the strike. Is this not the biggest havoc on education? I think the Federal Government needs to find a solution to this incessant strike because if serious attention is not taken, the students who we refuse to give education, would eventually turn to miscreants, and they will fight back. Like they say; an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
This issue of the strike has become a norm. It is a display of incongruity that our youths who are supposed to be in their classrooms are now shepherds of the streets. Many of them gesticulate the streets like urchins, while only a few occupy themselves with menial works. But it bothers me that Nigeria fails to take education seriously as a part of the very significant things that can shape people’s literacy. A proper education given to the citizen is the pillar of development. That is why late Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo who was the premier of the Western Region for seven years made indelible marks, and yet, the profound influence on Nigerian education. His establishment of free education made him a visionary leader. Unfortunately, education in Nigeria since the late 1980s to date has been in a conundrum because our leaders have failed to prioritize sustainable education.
I will blame ASUU as well. Is it impossible for the union to improvise and fund the universities themselves? If truly they want to teach our students; why can’t they stop asking for debt and do the work? According to a verifiable report, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has spent a cumulative period of 49 months and two weeks boycotting the classrooms between 1999 till date. That is to say, a total of four years and two weeks was lost to an industrial dispute between the lecturers and their employers, the Federal Government in a short span of 22 years.
The government is surrounded by incredulous and inept people. These people have made education a paradox of what the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote as a title to his famous play ‘’ the master-builder ‘’. For Nigeria, our government and ASUU are both master builders because they are not helping the child of an ordinary Nigeria.
Nigeria currently has 43 Federal Universities and 48 state-owned Universities. And I think the government should sign a concession contract with some private companies, such as Dangote Group, BUA cement, Shell, NLNG, and MTN to manage some of these universities. Instead of being under the bloated system of this yearly strike. While the government can take one best university each from the six geopolitical zones, and upgrade these six to Ivory Tower of status.
A higher standard can be set to admit students into the special six and ensure only the bright and clever are absorbed and still get fully funded scholarships to these universities by their state government. Education in Nigeria should be taken seriously if we want to seek development.
Thus, I believe the government can sit down with ASUU to develop concrete strategies that will bring our great UI, ABU, UNILAG, and the Great Ife back from their heydays; by signing a concession contract to ensure that our students get all the academic resources they need during their undergraduate year.
Nonetheless, for Nigerian public universities to be great again, I suggest the government set up a panel and carry out reasonable modalities to make it work. Part of the modalities should be to ensure our universities fund themselves. But Nigeria is rich enough to finance free university education if the politicians would stop stealing the totality of the budget.