Fighting for the soul of public universities

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By Oludayo Tade

SIR: How did we get here and do Nigerians care where and how their children are taught?

After the Goodluck Jonathan administration conducted the 2012 Needs Assessment which showed the rot in Nigeria’s public universities, the federal government resolved to provide funds for the revitalization of the university system for six years totaling N1.3trillion. The amount is for revamping the universities and it is managed by the university administration, not ASUU as the government has been misinforming the public to believe.

It was designed to be paid for six years: 2013 (200billion), 2014 (220billion), 2015 (220billion), 2016 (220billion), 2017 (220billion), and 2018 (220billion). After the strike, the Jonathan administration released the first tranche of N200billion in 2013. Politics consumed 2014 and the universities got no revitalization funds. Since PMB came in 2015, the administration has only released N50billion out of N220billion meant for 2014!

PMB government claimed it cannot release N220billion once, and agreed with the union that it should pay N55billion quarterly and end it in a year but this government failed again! The N50 billion that was paid was not even released once and it took strike threats for them to pay. The same government is now saying the balance of N170billion will be included in 2023 budget and implemented around May 2023.

We complain that South African universities are doing better and want our universities to compete with them but we ‘support’ our politicians to fund their children’s education abroad with collective resources but blame ASUU who is fighting for the children of the masses to have access to publicly funded quality education.

I think Nigerians are happy that lecturers in polytechnic and colleges of education earn more than public university lecturers. Despite being poorly remunerated, public university lecturers teach more because not less than 80 percent of those writing JAMB yearly prefer university education. Universities (and not polytechnic and colleges of education) are rated and ranked globally.

Nigerians who think ASUU is fighting a wrong cause should no longer complain that Nigerian universities rank poorly globally. They should not blame the quality of graduates being churned out because they do not think there is need for revitalization of public universities. They are only interested in their wards passing through universities without the universe in the university passing through them. They should not think students trained in zoo-like conditions will behave like normal humans when they graduate. In fact, when such becomes political office holders, they will see no reason to invest in public education and the consequences will be further erosion of the universe in our universities using the words of renowned poet, Professor Niyi Osundare. Our best will leave as they have been doing and we will infest the ivory towers will politicians!

The government salvaged the aviation industry with millions of dollars without saying it will be put in 2023 budget. Education is our future. We cannot afford further decay beyond what it is. We cannot joke with the welfare of our lecturers. We won’t advance if we keep electing ‘Londoners’ who don’t believe in the country but poised to milk it.

In 2013 (Daily Post, August 21, 2013), while reacting to ASUU strike, Lai Mohammed had said: “What we are saying is that if the federal government would reduce its profligacy and cut waste, there will be enough money to pay teachers in public universities, as well as fund research and upgrade infrastructure in such institutions. Hungry teachers can neither teach well nor carry out research. And poorly-taught students can neither excel nor propel their nation to great heights.”

Now in government, has this government reduced waste and cut profligacy? Has this government upgraded infrastructure and funded cutting edge researches? Is the government not asking lecturers to receive poverty wage and return to teach? Can poorly taught students excel and propel Nigeria development as being championed by this government?

Dr Oludayo Tade,

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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