1st February, 2012
As Nigeria battles to overcome the callous and infamous dreaded Islamic sect called Boko Haram which has succeeded in brutally killing innocent Nigerians in the Northern part of Nigeria for no just cause, there are other serious challenges facing the country.
Hundreds of Nigerians have lost their precious lives while property worth millions of naira have been destroyed in recent times by the evil group. The unrestrained activities of the group led to the sudden sack of the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim and immediate replacement by his intelligent and indefatigable colleague, M.D. Abubakar. Abubakar has promised Nigerians full protection of life and property and that normalcy will eventually return to the Northern states very soon.
The insecurity in the North has prompted the NYSC authorities not to deploy graduates to those troubled regions. The fact that the perpetrators of the havoc being wreaked in the north have been traced to highly placed Northern elders and leaders must not be overlooked. Rather the Federal government should properly investigate the allegation.
Boko Haram members are not spirit but human beings propped up by the so-called cabal in Northern region to cause mayhem and make the country ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Added to this security challenge is that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on indefinite strike for over a month now. The security challenge posed by Boko Haram has distracted the government from concentrating on how to resolve the issues that resulted in the varsity teachers going on strike.
The decaying education sector is immensely contributing negatively to ASUU’s regular strike despite the 2009 agreement reached with the Deacon Gamaliel Onosode panel on the need to review lecturers’ salaries, funding of the Universities and maintenance of the existing universities and other issues which the government has failed tyo implement over the years. The proposed UNESCO 26 percent to fund our universities is yet to be considered while the high rate of brain-drain among university lecturers and students is at geometrical progression. Our students and lecturers are now patronising neighboring countries for quality education. The 2012 budget for education being proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan indicate the meagre amount allocated to that sector which invariably tells Nigerians that Nigeria is not ready to improve the quality of education. Most of our leaders benefited from free education introduced by past leaders yet the fortunes of the sector is dwindling. The minister of education, Prof Ruqayyatu Rufai has not made any tangible progress to bring back the lecturers and students to school rather she has advised heads of these higher institutions not to give honorary awards to undeserving Nigerians who want to get their certificates from the back door. Our universities, polytechnics, colleges and schools are underfunded despite the fact that President Jonathan was once a lecturer who knows the rot in the education system.
It is sad that our existing universities cannot compete with international universities while Nigerian students are academically doing well in these foreign universities. No Nigerian university is rated as the best 20 in Africa. Even expatriate lecturers no longer want to come and teach in Nigerian universities anymore because of the virtual collapse of the sectort and regular strikes and corruption. The multiple bombings by Boko Haram is not helping the education sector. No country develops fast if her education sector is not fixed. Scholarship awards are gradually disappearing from our schools. Only a few are given the opportunity to study abroad.The government has failed to tackle the hike in fees by various state universities which many students cannot afford. LASU is a case study. School fees for both full and part-time students are no longer affordable in all ramifications. Even our private institutions are not left out.The ASUU President, Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie, is yet to dance to the political gimmicks of the government. If African countries like Ghana, Libya, Togo and others can uplift their educational sector, why can’t Nigeria do same? Most children of prominent Nigerians attend foreign universities which makes them not to pay attention the education sector.
There is also the challenge of unemployment in the country. There are so many graduates roaming the streets in search of jobs that are not available. The schools are only producing graduates without creative mindsets. The education sector needs total overhauling comparable to international universities. Jonathan must take education seriously because no sector works without fixing her education sector.It is time for Nigerian lecturers to consider the plight of students and avert frequent strikes. They should devise other means to negotiate with the government on their demands.
•Odidi is a Public Affairs Commentator, Lagos.