Nigeria Public Varsity: My Dream versus Reality

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Nigeria Public Varsity: The whole journey began on the 5th Of January, 2020. I was at the park with my family, taking farewell selfies, shedding tears of Joy and my Mum and Dad were happy I was going to University.

To say you are not going to encounter a pothole if you are to ride a horse in my belly on the 20th Of January, 2020 is an understatement. That was my first day of sitting in a lecture hall.

Nigeria Public Varsity

The joy I felt that day was inexplicable. Is it the joy I feel when I silence my phone because I’m in a class? Or the joy of taking my first classroom selfie? Maybe I should also talk about the joy of missing my parent’s calls and calling back to say I was actually in the lecture hall when they called.

Again, With joy in my heart, I took the matriculation oath on the 28th of February, 2020. My matriculation gown fits perfectly so much that I thought it was meant for me explicitly. So, I can’t help but take hundreds of pictures. That day, I received lots of congratulatory messages from family and friends.

The joy I felt seeing my matriculation pictures on their social media timeline is unexplainable. Anyway, only those who have had similar experiences can imagine my kind of joy.

Indeed, the night of my Matriculation day was such a memorable one. I was on my bed scrolling through the pictures I took with my fellow Jambites and I could tell from those pictures that I laughed and smiled throughout.

I can still remember how a 19-year-old made me soliloquize that; I should be a graduate at 22, Pursue a master’s at 23, PhD at 25, begin my career, get married, and start a family at 26. All I dreamt of that night was to become a woman of substance before 27.

Meanwhile, reality hit on the 9th Of March, 2020(9 days after my Matriculation) as ASUU embarked on a two-week warning strike. A warning strike that turned total, comprehensive, and indefinite on the 23rd of March 2020. A strike that lasted for 276 days.

A whopping 276 days were wasted due to the federal government’s inability to implement an argument it’s freely reached with the Union (ASUU) since the 20th of June 2001. That agreement was reached when I was just 4 months old.

Eventually, ASUU conditionally suspended its strike after 9 months which is equivalent to the 23rd of December, 2022. Without delay, Academic activities began in January 2021 and since I didn’t spend up to two months before experiencing a strike, the journey seems fresh again.

I can still remember I had to cry while going back to school. At the same time, I was happy I would be seeing friends and coursemates again. However, not all of us resumed as some had left for private Universities and some lost their lives as a result of covid-19.

Ruefully, the surprise Valentine’s gift ASUU gave students on the 14th of February 2022, was to pronounce a 4 weeks warning strike as the war between the union and the Federal government began.

That day I came to realise that what I was once told before I entered University wasn’t deception. “If you are gonna study a 4-year course in Nigeria public University, then prepare your mind for 5 or 6 years”. Someone said, once upon a time.

The strike eventually lasted for 8 months (the second-longest strike in the history of Nigeria’s public University).

At last, ASUU on the 14th of October 2022, suspended its 8-month strike based on court order. As usual, Schools resumed again and the financially buoyant ones have crossed to private universities. Another set of students opted for fresh admission into Colleges of Education and Polytechnics.

Sadly, some lost interest in education and dived into entrepreneurship. In my case, lectures didn’t commence in my institution until the 3rd of January 2023. Funnily enough, I got lots of questions from relatives and neighbors, asking why I was still at home after a long strike.

I remembered how I had to explain to them that academic activities began in my school on 24th October 2022 but lectures will commence in January.

Fast forward to 2023, when I thought education was beginning to move swiftly. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed into law the student loan bill on the 12th of June, 2023. A loan whose accessibility conditions are critical and complex. A loan that will end up encumbering the children of the poor with debt after graduation.

Many of my fellow students do not know that the student loan scheme is just like the removal of subsidies in public Universities as some universities have even increased their fees by over 200% and equally increased accommodation fees by 100%.

Schools like the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the University of Uyo, the University of Maiduguri, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, and Federal University, Dutse have all increased their school fees. The question is, is any amount too much for the Federal Government to spend on Education?

Well, as reality hits, what next?

If at all I would be among the lucky ones that will successfully scale through this phase of my stay in Public varsity. Then, my unborn children and the coming generation will not waste their time like I did. Never! But then, how can a poor girl like me make such a big dream a reality? Oh yes! I found an answer which is, to pray, work harder, I smarter, and make a positive impact.

Fatima Zakariyya, a 200-level student of Mass Communication, writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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