ASUU-FG Feud: a Pointer to Ailing Educational System, a Blinking Tomorrow

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CEM INSIGHT, EDUCATION | The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), declared a one-month strike on February 14, 2022. The one-month strike has extended to the seventh month accompanied by series of failed negotiations and infuriating blame-trading between government representative and ASUU on one side and within the government officials themselves.

Some of the lecturer’s demands include the revitalization of public universities, earned allowance, improved funding of state universities, and promotion arrears. These issues were contained in a previous agreement reached in 2009.

The turn of events leading to the current coercion of lecturers back to the classroom through legal injunctions and government directives to Vice Chancellors, fully demonstrated the adamancy of government in particular in place of the true sensitivity of issues surrounding our education.

ASUU President
Prof. Oshodeke, ASUU President

There is a division in perspectives each time this fight over university funding between ASUU and government happens even from the military era. While some feel ASUU always demand too much each time strike is declared by the academic union, majority have continued to affirm that the existing gap between what is provided and what is adequate is too wide.

The bottom line is that Nigerian universities and indeed education in general is under-funded by Nigerian Government when we compared ourselves to other countries especially in Africa.

We need to understand that this country is suffering today from the misdeeds and mistakes of yesterday by those who didn’t foresee what the outcome of their misdeeds and mistakes would result to, just the same way the actors of today’s misdeeds have refused to consider the tomorrow’s outcome

A lot of life prospects have been delayed while many are completely shattered by strikes that have become synonymous with Nigerian higher educational system. Psychological pains are inflicted on young Nigerians, leading many to become disgruntled about this country fuelling a more devastating unpatriotism that is brewing to a height among young Nigerians.

[READ ALSO] ASUU to Appeal Court Order, Students Reject Judgement

There is a frightening future we are all heading, we are killing knowledge today needed to manage our social and economic affairs of tomorrow. Nigeria is already facing knowledge deficit in critical areas caused by the circumstances surrounding our educational system as evident by the huge amount spent by organizations to train their manpower

UNICEF said in one of their social media posts; “Transforming Education is about being ready for the future. Ready to tackle the challenges related to climate change. Ready to build societies based on gender equality. Ready to bring education to everyone, everywhere. Are we serious about the future? Then, let’s invest in education!”

Is Nigeria really ready for the future? Going by the current way the Nigerian government is treating education in terms of funding, our future shaking.

Nigerian is the only top African country with the lowest budgetary allocation to education when compared to South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia. This is despite several calls by international organizations to increase funding for education.

South Africa in overall, spends more than 20 per cent of its resources on basic and higher education and its combined education spending is more than 6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It sometimes fluctuate between 18% and 21%.  In 2021spending on education was 18.42%, a 1.11% decline from 2020.

The government of Egypt plans to spend 26.8% of its 2022/2023 budget on Education amounting to nearly EGP 2.1 tn, with some EGP 555.6 mn earmarked for investments and expenditure in education, higher education, and academic research — up nearly 22.8% from the current fiscal year. (see more)

According to available information on Tunisia education spending, 25.26% of its total spending in 2009 went into education.  The amount came down to 22.7% in 2015 due to budgetary constrained. The threshold has been held since then in support of the North African country’s education.

Nigeria Government’s 2022 budgetary allocation to education is 5.39 percent, which is N923.79 billion out of the total budget of N17.13 trillion. This 0.29 percent increase from the 2021 budget in which 5.68 percent was allocated to education.

While other countries tries to keep their education budgetary allocation optimum despite economic headwinds, Nigerian spending on education has dwindled over the last 7 years. 2022 spending of 5.39 percent is a 50 percent reduction from the 10.79 percent allocated to education in 2015.

John Aviomoh while reacting to opinion poll on the federal government – ASUU rift said;  “The Nigerian political system operated by successive governments in time past including the current one, have created that avenue that has made it possible for our educational system to get the kind of lackluster poor attention it is currently receiving at the moment.

“If we go by international best practices, the governments of the western countries have been able to position their educational system in such a way that Lecturers in those jurisdictions are well remunerated and their conditions of services well taken care of, same does not apply here in Nigeria.

“Why do we have a political system that rewards political services to the detriment of hard working scholars in our educational system? Research into the salary structure of political office holders VS those in the academics presents a big disparity”

Remuneration of Lecturers and provision of adequate learning facilities remain at the core of the challenges that poor funding present to the Nigerian higher educational system. Non-payment of allowances has been a recurring cause of strike.

Grace from Ife spoke specifically regarding the condition of learning in our Universities, she said; “Our universities are overcrowded, the standard is a lecturer to 15 students but in Nigeria we have a lecturer to 50-100 students, it is pathetic. The lecturers teach theories because the equipment are obsolete and the laboratory are not functioning”

Within this period of strike, a large number of lecturers have capitalized on the opportunity presented by the immigration drive by UK and Canada governments to move out of the country to work under better conditions

Nigerian government of today have not realized the damage being done to the Nigeria of tomorrow just the way the government of yesterday did not realize the damage did to the Nigeria of today.

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