Among many other comments in the recent past, I heard some say that across the globe, funding education now comes with a crushing weight that the government alone can no longer bear.
To this group, it calls for private public-private partnership and support from good spirited individuals to the rescue. Within this span, I have equally read an argument that our educational system is faulty just like every educational system is faulty.
The United States educational system they added is faulty, if there is no fault in any system, then, there is no improvement. They concluded that what we call fault is a challenge and that is the basics of development.
To the rest, our educational system is not faulty as it remains one of the systems that is still very sound and applauded across the world.
Regardless of what you hear or read on the pages of the newspaper, this piece believes that it has not been an easy road for the Nigerian education sector. Even the practice of democracy in the country, contrary to earlier beliefs, has not helped to stop the pangs of challenges experienced by Nigerians in the sector.
Anyway, it would not be characterised as hasty to say that the ongoing one-month warning strike, embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities to ensure the Federal Government stops reneging on agreements signed with the union, has it more than clear that the nation’s public universities (principally the Federal Government-owned universities) are in trouble.
Aside from the fact that this is the second industrial action in less than two years, the fact that the system continue to frustrate the ambitions and aspirations of our youths—those that will provide the future leadership needs of the country— is indeed, one of the reasons that characterises the current happenings as a troubling reality.
Looking above, it is evident that If the time-honoured aphorism which considers education as the bedrock of development is anything to go by and if the agelong belief that with sound educational institutions, a country is as good as made (as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects) remains a valid argument, then we all have reasons not only to feel worried but collectively work hard to deliver the nation’s public universities from the valleys of the shadow of death.
Specifically, these challenge comes in two forms; the first lays out the dilemma posed by the government’s underfunding of the public universities, which, as a consequence, impedes lecturers from carrying out scholarly research, truncates the academic calendar with strike actions, lace Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector.
The second challenge stems from the first but centres more particularly on thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts proposed by the school authorities, a development that is financially squeezing life out of the innocent students and their parents.
The dilemma and menace posed by this practice indicates a considerably higher risk. And except the government commits its resources in getting to the root of the challenge, the potential consequence could be higher than that of other challenges currently ravaging the education sector.
By not taking the education sector seriously, the Federal Government failed to remember that when human beings, through sound education, develop a higher order of thinking, society gains an advantage in being able to anticipate emerging threats, they gain the ability to conceptualise instead of just perceiving. But when they fail to acquire—or are denied—sound education, they will also gain the ability to conceptualise an imaginary threat and when a group of people are persuaded to conceptualise this imaginary threat, they can activate a fear response as powerfully as the real threat.
This fact partially explains the current fears and insecurity that have recently enveloped the country. It is equally a sign of a government that has not yet come to terms with the fact that the traditional progressive solution to problems that involve a lack of participation by citizens in the civic and democratic process is to redouble emphasis on education as an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of the societal ills including insecurity.
To further avert all these, governments at all levels must unlearn this attitude of progressive non-recognition of the right to education as a human right despite their membership of a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected.
Above all, the Buhari-led Federal Government must urgently commit to mind that globally ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict. It is a natural conflict built into the system. Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look at strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families. Strikes are called as last resort. And any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and such society, will sooner than later, find itself degenerate into chaos.