By: Aduwo Ayodele
In twenty-three years of Nigeria’s surviving democracy, there have been sixteen dire gestures of a nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, including other staff unions that have also had intermittent records of strike. Actions that protest for or demand a better education system in Nigeria.
The effect of these recurring strikes by staff unions or the contempt of inattentiveness from the Government’s end has made the Nigerian education sector become menaced haphazardly. We can count the hatched eggs already with its spoil. Students are away from the traditional classroom experiences, while the impacts of the ongoing would be sweeping and could outspend repair.
It’s important that we go down in history to know how Education got to a wallowing point, or to predetermine if it would be abandoned here forever in this torrent of storm.
In 1985, a policy named ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ was adopted by Nigeria and many other African nations. It’s formulation was canvassed by two Western economic institutions; World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The duo convinced many underdeveloped African nations to simply reduce their willful spending on Higher Education among other public impacts. They admonished Governments of developing African nations to concentrate their act of public spending preferentially on Basic Education only.
This policy birthed the establishment of Universal Basic Education in Nigeria (UBE). But its leaning effect, remotely considered, has resulted into diminishing the standard of public universities and discounting social regard for Education. This is to say the strike did not just happen.
The ongoing ASUU/NASU/SSANU/NAAT strike is however an out-form result of SAP. Ever since the idea to underfund Universities was implemented – first and crudely in the minds of the Nigerian leadership of that decade, as against considering the pivotal role it would play in enhancing an underdeveloped nation or enlightening its own people to the same degree that global civilization needs. But Nigeria’s education sector has trailed off, even sadly out of Government’s knowledge. Emeka Nwajuiba, Minister of State for Education of Nigeria, confirmed this in an interview with The Punch recently.
The willingness and self-drive of the government to place Education at a height of regard has continued to depreciate. And as a result, quite sudden and startling, investment in education sneered into glitch and steadily into ditch. Shortcomings widened. Universities began to be under-resourceful. Infrastructures; lecture rooms, laboratories, workout rooms, transportation facilities, communications networks and electricity systems deteriorated.
Salary devaluation began to have a firmer root and its untamed appearance victimized staff comfort. Universities and the quality of those who have been tasked to manage them ‘commodified’ education. Only those who can afford Universities do so today. I will only wonder how some stand akimbo over conscience to say commercialising education has not discouraged some supposed-to-be students from benefitting from the global academia experience.
Students are rather opting out or painstakingly schooling in debt today. This should be worrisome but its lead should not be spared. How do we draw a corresponding parallel for a Government that decries it does not have enough to fund public education, yet, establishes more?
It is sad that while this persists, the fate of thousands students, who are in intellectual pursuit and the nation’s collective future is being breached. No one knows when normalcy will return to academic activities in the country, but the Government knows.
Students are at the receiving end of the civil strike action by ASUU and the double-dealing response from the Government. The Staff are also not left out. Their labour was cheated and their profession has become drafted to be the only combatant or most resolute body that demands for wins against odds that we may have better public education that is knowledge-driven.
To end the ongoing strike, the ball is sitting at the foot of the Federal Government. The Government can decide to play the ball judiciously or erroneously. But the latter will not do. Following NEEDS assessment and several recommendations, resolving the elongating strike is possible. But only the Federal Government with willpower can make it possible.
However, in a pool of strikes what is the lifesaver? Should it be silence? Should we allow the suicidal arrogance on the neck of education to sink its boastful claws as the ongoing strike goes down into coaches of months? Should we, students and the prospective ones believe the thunderbolt would peel away one day, while our fingers are crossed and tucked in our pockets?
We can only help ourselves as students, going forward, by seeking to understand the present and building a momentum that calls for resumption, revitalisation, and stricter funding. We must not deny the fact that the decrepit state of education is a sad one – where hostels have turned out to look beggarly and unsanitary because ‘there is no fund’ or where students are denied the ability to cook their foods efficiently, but with kerosene burners because ‘no fund’ is an excuse.
We must help ourselves as students in what we hold on to as our resolve. Unless we want to be an outcast of the global academia, we must demand one basic thing – better, well equipped, properly funded public universities, without which there will be no sustainable resumption.