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The Unending Valentine Gift

By Ohore Emmanuel

Since the inception of the Nigerian democracy in 1999, the educational sector has gone on strike more than 16 times.

The back and forth between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the umbrella body of the teaching staff of Nigerian public universities and the Nigerian government has been an unsettled fight but at the end of the day, it is the Nigerian students that suffer for it.

Could we say that the same political actors that enjoyed free education are now the ones deliberately punishing the Nigerian student?

Is it safe to admit that it is because most of these politicians’ children do not attend our own public institutions hence, the reason they are not keen on solving this long-time issue?

Every government since 1999 comes in and blames the previous government for its irresponsibility. Our educational system is ranked one of the least in Africa and it is also worthy to note that most of our certificates are not accepted abroad, not to talk about us infiltrating our own problem with the dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and BSc.

The first ASUU strike was during the regime of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1988 and ever since then, ASUU goes on strike like a yearly festival.

During the 2020 pandemic period, a two-week ASUU ‘warning’ strike (March 9 – 23, 2020) was embarked on due to the underdeveloped educational system. Most higher institutions in Nigeria were unable to adopt e-learning and for the 10 months students were at home, but immediately after schools resumed in early February 2021, most schools had to compress their academic calendar to enable them to meet up.

Since Feb 14, 2022, the Nigerian students have been at home. ASUU has continually accused the federal government of not implementing the 2009 agreement on conditions of service and funding of the universities. “Revitalization” through massive funding and ASUU has continued to stress the importance of “genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.”

For a decade now, the 2021 budget for education is the lowest. It is a sign that this government places no value on our educational system.

As time goes by, the youths are gradually losing faith in this system.

The argument between these two elephants has lasted for over 5 months. The Presidency seems to have accused the Minister of Labour of being unable to solve the problem while the Minister has accused the striking lecturers of sabotaging the system.

Over the weekend, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, was appealing to the Nigerian parents to plead with ASUU because the government can no longer solve this problem.

The failure of this government has made so many students divert their passion for studying to survival. Many have gone on to learn skills and trade.

According to UNESCO, there are currently more than 70,000 Nigerian students studying outside the country, with the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada the leading destinations.

While 2023 elections are at the corner, the current government that could not solve this problem for seven years is now promising to solve it in less than 6 months to the end of its tenure in office.

This unending Valentine gift served by this administration will not only destroy the lives of our teeming youth but propel us as a nation with no vision.

Ohore Emmanuel is the lead team at Forthman Educational Foundation, Abuja. He is also a PGDE student at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)

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