Strikes: Are Nigerian Public Universities Dying?

By the time the Joint  Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, concludes the ongoing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, and gives a breakdown of the choice of universities made by admission seekers, it is obvious that more candidates would have applied to private universities than ever before. 

For the ongoing examinations, about 1.8 million applicants are seeking admission to tertiary institutions across the country. The nation has 99 licensed private universities that are expected to admit students this year. 

The expected surge in the number of applicants to private universities is not unconnected with the incessant workers’ strike leading to the closure of public universities now and then. The fifth month of the year is about midway, but public universities have been shut for three months. 

They were shut for nine months in. 2020. The situation is already taking its toll on the rating of Nigerian universities and the certificates they issue.

Within the country, if you clutch a foreign certificate, especially from Europe and America, you have become a hot cake. Before the Ukrainian/ Russian war, about 5,000 Nigerians were in Ukraine studying. With about $10,000 yearly tuition, you get a degree in medicine from that country. Sunday Oye, a chartered accountant, who has worked in some major finance houses in Lagos and is currently with a major player in the upstream sector of the oil industry, shared with Vanguard, his experience. 

“Now, if you don’t have a foreign certificate, you may not get some jobs. People now bring certificates from universities in places like Vietnam, Turkey and places that Nigeria used to be better than in those days. After watching the trend for a while, one of my friends told me that one major gift one can give his children now is to send them abroad to study,” he said.

Only last February, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, started another round of strike, a private university in Ogun State held its matriculation ceremony. The manner parents and guardians flooded the event made some wonder whether it was a graduation event.

 A journalist who was at the event, and who noticed the excitement on the faces of the students and their parents, said:  “Having your child in a school like this has become more than a status symbol. The prestige it has is now too high. It is like the people are saying, ‘our children are in school, while those of hapless masses are idling at home.”

While most of the demands of ASUU are financial in nature, the National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said it is government’s lack of priority for education that is the major cause of the face-off between the two parties.

The National President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, is of the view that university education in the country is heading for the rocks.

 “The sector has been set back many years. If you are not a Nigerian and you hear these stories of schools being closed today and tomorrow, are you going to be pleased with that? 

Will you have faith in such a system? How many Nigerians can afford to send their wards to private universities here in the country not to talk of abroad? “Even locally, you may pay up to N5 million per year for some courses in our private universities. 

Many Nigerians cannot afford that. What is their salary? How many even have jobs now? With the inflation in the country, most people are struggling to eat. Please, the government and the lecturers should help save our universities, they are dying,” he noted. 

The National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Sunday Asefon, said the student body would not watch allow the universities to die. 

“We know it is a kind of conspiracy between our leaders and owners of private universities in the county. 

They want to kill public universities and allow private ones, owned by their friends to thrive. That will not happen. Not in our time. Government is not serious about funding public varsities and no matter their tricks, they will be forced to do he needful,” he said. 


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