ASUU, FG And State Of Nigerian Tertiary Education: Before It Becomes Late

As one who passed through the four walls of a Nigerian University and is still passing, the state of tertiary education is indeed worrying and leaves one weary as we ponder on the future of the nation.

Haven witnessed the numerous number of strikes as an undergraduate in the greatest university in all Africa, (the University of Benin) spending months one should have spent engaged in academic work at home while our lecturers agitated for better working conditions as well as the provision of basic infrastructure to make teaching more meaningful to undergraduates, I wonder why the Nigerian Elite continues to play ‘ kalo kalo’ with University education.

Recently the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU has yet again threatened to embark on another strike following the FG’s repeated failure to meet a number of agreements reached with ASUU previously.

While ASUU sees the employ of strikes as its resort to enhance the state of tertiary education in Nigeria, the FG on the other hand acts like an inveterate dawdler, moving only into full throttle when the threat of strikes becomes inevitable. Only then would the FG hold a marathon series of meetings with ASUU’s leadership, pose for photo-ops and engage in the drafting of another memorandum of understanding, one it much intends to violate in no short time.

It is common knowledge that when two elephants fight, it is the innocent grass that suffers, the Nigerian university student is like that grass. He or She comes to the academic turf with immense dreams,’four years and he should be done with his academics. How true? Such dreams are the stuff of Sugar Candy Mountains or Utopian of sorts. By the time he or she is baptized with all sorts of strikes, some lasting for as long as three to six months , four years is then extended to five and six years! As if this is not enough, these strikes rarely yield much as a visit to many Nigerian universities reveals the rot tertiary education is experiencing. Lecturers are poorly paid that they have to rely on the sale of handouts or engage in sharp practices to keep body and soul together. Others engage in moonlighting, dividing their time between their duty of engaging in teaching and academic research and a number of other activities. Little wonder why smaller nations like Rwanda and Ghana are creating academic miracles, fulfilling the manifest destinies of what a university is created for which are – teaching, academic research and the creation of new technology or its transfer. This is despite the fact that the Nigerian academia boasts of the best of academic minds all over the world and even with the many improvisations that they are forced to cope with, one marvels at how they are able to do the little they can with their situation, imagining whether there would be any limits if they are given what is their due.

What is ASUU asking for that the present federal government has continued to dribble everyone and itself, year in, year out?

Why would the Federal Government enter into agreements knowing fully well that it will not be able to fulfill such obligations? Three years after penning the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding reached between the Federal Government and ASUU, a cursory look at agreement reveals that the federal government is yet to fulfill a heavy number of arrears of such an agreement. Areas such as the funding for the revitalization of our public universities, mainstreaming further payments of EAA into the annual budgets beginning from 2019 budget,as well as the provision of documented guidelines on procedures and roles of parties in the process of renegotiating FGN-ASUU Agreement of 2009 are amongst such agreements.

The FG’s ‘ajoro-jara-joro’ on releasing the report of the visitation panels sent to the universities smacks of bad faith, otherwise why should panels be constituted , dispatched to our universities and yet fail to release these reports? What is the federal government hiding? Even if the report is somewhat indicting, how does locking the report help the current state of tertiary education in Nigeria?

There is also the demand for the immediate deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS which ASUU believes is unworkable with the concept of university autonomy!

At a point where our nation continues to grapple with the challenges of producing poor graduates, deemed as unfit for employment; at a point where medical students lack cadavers for their studies whereas in some climes this is a rite of passage for many a medical student, and where computer science students are taught outdated computer languages, without computers and engineering students lack access to the much needed basics for proper learning then it is no wonder that the Nigerian society and nation remains at a dysfunctional level.

Sadly, the Nigerian elite is comfortable with sending his wards to the US, UK and Ghana and even Benin! Others resort to private universities which charge exorbitant fees far from the reach of the ordinary man. The elite who should be worried about the state of tertiary education in Nigeria is playing deaf and dumb to the warning signs and in turn have accused the academia of requesting for much but doing little! One former governor once accused lecturers in his employ of sleeping with university students, because they had demanded better working conditions Another, accused the academia of being corrupt and failing to justify the little funds allotted to the system.

While any reasonable Nigerian will agree with the corruption allegations leveled against the academia, will withholding funds or barely funding the university education system save the situation? Isn’t there corruption in all facets of Nigerian life, particularly in a number of agencies and parastatals of government? Are these agencies or parastatals also denied funding?

Tertiary education in Nigeria is indeed on the brink, the federal government should do the needful before it becomes late.

The Nation

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