Sir: Education alone has the power to enlighten the human mind, that endless resource, which otherwise would remain in darkness out of which the worst forms of chaos can arise. Generations of former Nigerian students remember ASUU with trepidation. They remember the association`s penchant for strikes in their fight for better wages, better educational infrastructure and in essence better education for Nigerians.
Many educational dreams were aborted during those days. Successive governments also differed and dithered in their response. Some were open and responsive to ASUU`s demands while others were openly hostile and defiant, so Nigeria’s tertiary education suffered months of cessation. The consequences were huge not just on university education but on education as a whole. Recently, ASUU has appeared more subdued. Its detractors suspect that compensation packages have passed. Whatever be the cause, the body has toned down its feistiness in recent times. However, that appears about to change. Some members of the body have recently branded the Federal Government a serial defaulter, calling it out for agreements reached with ASUU. Members have been put on alert for an impending strike action.
This of course is profoundly disturbing to the ordinary Nigerian student. The quality of education in Nigeria already leaves much to be desired. Public schools which open their doors to the poorest Nigerian children are mostly a shambles. This leaves the education acquired from them to be grossly inadequate and unable to meet current demands. This state of disrepair has prevailed for long and has birthed generations of severely under-educated Nigerians. It has also has a chilling effect on the mentality young Nigerians bring to their education. Apathy towards education continues to rise with no little help from the entertainment industry which in a bid to expose the failings of education in Nigeria do more damage than good. Teachers are underpaid.
The result is that they take out their frustrations on students. The facilities that engender good education mostly are mostly in ruins, a situation exacerbated by the terrible maintenance culture in place in Nigeria.
Poverty has also not helped the cause to get Nigerians educated. Some poor and uneducated parents thumb their noses at education and instead prefer to send their school-age children hawk in the streets than have them confined within the four walls of any classroom. Insecurity has also been a writhing thrashing serpent determined to beat the life out of education in Nigeria. Millions of lives have been severely altered by conflicts raging in parts of the country. Schools have been targeted and razed and the education of children criminally halted. With Nigeria battling a murderous, criminal sect that professes its eternal hatred for western education, education in the country is in grave peril. The governments at the federal and state levels have also been complicit in the challenges education is facing in the country.
Although there are school feeding programmes and free education programmes all aimed at boosting public education in place, the budgets of the federal and state governments for most years instantly betray the backseat given education. While ASUU considers its options, the parties involved must remember that more than anything, what is at stake is not a mere power tussle or show of defiance but the very future of millions of Nigerians who are undoubtedly the future.
Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.
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