It was a hot, sunny afternoon and I was seated on a wooden bench under the shade, attentive to sermons from an elder brother like someone who had confessed his sins to a Reverend Father. I had just finished my secondary school education and this particular young man was curious to know if I intended to pursue my education and what university I would like to choose. My response came in a cool, rehearsed, “University of Ibadan.”
Not too long after, he began to recount his experience during his university days. He said I shouldn’t be surprised if I see a university student who cannot spell his name and all sorts. Now that I am in the university, I have not seen students who cannot spell their names—after all, we wrote matric numbers.
What he forgot to tell me was that: It may not be possible for me to graduate in the next four years, for reasons attributed to recurring industrial actions in the university; that the lecturers may be false in loco parentis, and that at some point, out of frustration, I would cogitate if I was sane enough to pursue tertiary education.
It is apparent that there are many wrongs in the educational system in the country. Quite Saddening is that the need for quality education has become, if not totally, the secondary consideration of our political leaders. Leaders who are negligent to the fact that millions of kids are out of school. Even the government-owned schools are nothing to write about—dilapidated, grossly understaffed, inadequate teaching and writing materials, etc.—yet, our leaders will announce publicly that there are winning the war against ignorance.
The educational sector in the country lies in a moribund, over the years. No successive government has been able to effectively and efficiently restructure the system. After all, whether or not you are educated, you can still hold the helm of affairs provided you know “big persons.” The government is not doing enough to curb the menace of lack of proper education among its citizens. The lawmakers find it hard to legislate for an increased budget in the educational sector but feel at ease to make cunning moves for bigger salaries and allowances, while trying other dubious means to slam imprisonment, death on those who criticize them. The country, painfully, has become a haven where quality education for the masses is relegated even as the big barracuda of the political forces enrol their children in the best schools abroad.
When the last National Budget was presented to the Senate, the educational sector was allocated a paltry sum of money—even as it needs urgent intervention, and perhaps, a state of emergency. It looks as though our political leaders have blatantly disregarded the great Malcolm X’s maxim—not verbatim—that the future belongs to those who are educated.
Hardly will you see parents enrolling their wards in public secondary schools. These parents know, for sure that their wards will receive less qualitative education. In federal universities, the ugly story remains the same. Inadequate classrooms. Theorized knowledge. Library with old books. And lots more.
For every nation to succeed, proper education of its citizens must be given priority. However, our lawmakers have decided to give this priority to the terrorists who emasculate, annihilate and render thousands of citizens immobile. Their gestures can simply be translated as thus: “Give foreign education to the marauder of souls, but minimised knowledge to the locals.” It is heart-wrenching also that as economically buoyant we are as a nation, education still suffers—if one will be right to say—as a result of “political elements.”
Moving on, it is not uncommon that as federal university students, you will be forced to go home, not because varsities have not resumed or that you cannot afford the fees—but, as usual—the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on a nationwide industrial action. The University of Ilorin who is immune to these industrial actions in the last twenty years, has, sadly, also been affected.
Here in the University of Ibadan, the on-going industrial action is greeted with city-wide jubilations from the students who see it as an escapade to academic activities. The government will most likely look into the clamours of ASUU, but in our popular lingo here, like thunder, ASUU will “strike” again. Like little children, the federal government will give little honey to ASUU to soothe their cries, after which they will continue their negligence towards ensuring qualitative education.
Before ASUU went on strike action, the Non-academic Staff Union (NASU), University of Ibadan, had made life unbearable for students in the prestigious university as they had to read for the just concluded examinations with little or no power supply. The truth is that there was power supply but the NASU members who will supply power have stopped working. Hence students had to improvise as no one wants to fail. Isn’t this saddening?
ASUU will call off the strike action soon but will embark on it again when the federal government reneges in its promise, and the students will suffer in silence—except those who are in private universities.
On February 11, 2020, Premium Times reported that the Director of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Salibu Bakari, made a shocking declaration that university lecturers spend research grants on building more houses, buying more cars. Corruption, the evil coronavirus, has infected the learned men of the teaching profession. University lecturers are entitled to a good life, not by diverting research grants—that will give them the comfortability of researching more to impact more knowledge to the students—into personal gains.
Even worse is that some university lecturers are not accommodating. Some are very autocratic. Some will not attend lectures. Some will just record scores they wish for students. So, when I hear that ASUU embarks on strike action and lecturers are to stop attending lecturers with immediate effect, following the federal government’s non-compliance to a Memorandum of Understanding, I feel hypocrisy is at play. What of those lecturers who don’t attend lectures, yet receiving government’s salaries? Do they have to go on strike?
The federal government, through the lecturers, will ensure qualitative education, but then, some lecturers abandon the students to research on themselves with little or no supervision. Yet, they earn salaries. To be satirical in Orwell’s voice: What’s a federal university, anyway? A haven where carefree lecturers teach not-too-motivated students with superannuated materials.
Students are ready to learn provided there are adequate learning materials. After reading from dusk to dawn, researching—gainful employment should be readily available for the students. Sadly, there is nothing as such considering the brain drain in the nation’s economy. However, students are being advised to look into available opportunities since the government leaps to cater for them.
Lamentably, students are no longer interested in education. Some students believe there are other means to excel, illegally—as long as they are able to grease palms. This declining interest in education is alarming because one cannot guarantee proper leadership if there is no qualitative education. The system rots from the central, and the grassroots are not spared from its associated malfeasance.
Before I draw the curtain, let me share a conversation I had with some friends. I felt woozy when a friend had preferred a “rise in entertainment” to a “rise in intellect (education)”. Another friend had said United Nations would prefer to send the sing-nonsense musician than the literary maverick, Wole Soyinka, to serve as a mediator in a national crisis. According to him, education in the country has become a redundant phenomenon—education no longer pays. But he probably forgot that with quality education, one can make what does no pay, pay.
If I am asked whether education in Nigeria can experience a turnaround, I will say YES, albeit with a “clause.” Education in the country will become better when the worst persons at leadership positions who constantly devalue the need for quality education are ousted from power. It is never too late to shout down the “evils” that do not want to give the citizens a quality education.
Once again, Nigeria will rise again if there is quality education.
And things will get better. Won’t they?
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