Going to four weeks now, academic activities in the country’s public universities have been completely paralysed. This is as a result of the industrial action embarked upon by Nigerian lecturers under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). But those at the helm of affairs do not seem to be disturbed.
Generally speaking, the crisis in the Nigerian education sector appears to be intractable since successive governments have refused to address it or failed to seek for its solution.
No year passes without any arm of this all important sector downing tools because of one problem or the other.
As result, the losers are the students who usually are abandoned to their fate and who may end up spending more years in schools than envisaged, their parents who spend fortunes to keep their wards in schools, and the entire education system, which is stunted, and which has refused to grow.
The crisis in our education sector is a reflection of the personality of those at the helm of affairs in the country. It is a reflection of the value which the leadership of the country places on education.
How can a leader whose academic qualifications are in doubt, who believe that the system can be easily manipulated, and who believe that certificates can be purchased, place high premium on education? It’s not going to be easy. You don’t give what you don’t have.
The Nigerian leaders do not value education, because they do not think that there is much to be gained if their citizens are educated. They consider it a waste spending money on education since the beneficiaries of the system do not usually have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the country.
Take this year’s budget, for example. While the Executive arm of government had proposed a paltry sum of N61.73 billion for Education, the Senate in its magnanimity, jerked it up to N102.907 billion.
Even in spite of that, the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing was allocated a whopping N683.309 billion (for roads which will not be built and for electricity which will not be supplied); the Ministry of Transportation, given N251.420 billion; Defence, given N157.715 billion; Agriculture and Rural Development, given N149,198 billion; Water Resources, N147.200 billon; National Assembly, N139.5 billion; and National Judicial Council, N110 billion.
As we can see, the budget for all these sectors are far higher than that of Education, because our government does not think that education is important.
The current strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) stems from the refusal by the Federal Government to implement the Memorandum of Action (MOA) agreed between the two parties in 2017.
According to the ASUU National President, Professor Biodum Ogunyemi, “We have today been subjected to 20 years of continued recolonization under alleged democracy in which all that the ruling circle have been regrouping among themselves in their various factions which they call parties”.
The ASUU President lamented that while the Federal Government could afford to release a whopping N1.3 trillion to a distressed bank, the same Federal Government released only a paltry N20 billion revitalization fund to all the public universities in Nigeria.
“The government is not interested in public universities as the children of top politicians and rich men in the society patronize private universities to the detriment of public institutions”, he affirmed.
That is the tragedy of a country which places its priorities upside down, a country where the blind leads those with clear very eye sight.