Every Tom, Dick and Harry keep emerging from various sources claiming to be the Messiah God has planned and prepared for this turbulent time in the executive, legislature and even the judiciary. 2019 is here when Nigerians have an audible voice to make in the political atmosphere. Politicians are running helter skelter to shine in the pre-election stage as usual, most of them if not all are putting it out in flowery and realistic ways that they are more than capable to solve the all-round riddles this beloved nation is in. It is now a cycle. Politicians get elected, maybe the wills to make such massive change die in them or there are no ways to implement those wills, their outputs have never been close to the great plans they professed during the pre-election period. These crises continue.
Speaking of the crises, the educational sector is not relieved of the chaotic flavour. No educational level is excluded from the struggle- from primary, secondary to the tertiary. Under-staffing, poor welfare for staffs, unequipped laboratories, unstocked libraries, unfavourable learning environment, overcrowded classes and a load of other problems are facing government-owned schools in Nigeria. The tertiaries are always being faced with incessant industrial strike especially by the staff Unions. Things are not improving. The polytechnic teachers under the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) began an indefinite strike on December 12, over non-implementation of several agreements by the federal government. The Union demanded the implementation of NEEDS assessment report, payment of CONTISS 15 arrears, implementation of the scheme of service and payment of salaries in state-owned institutions among others. Coming to the peculiar case that affects University of Ibadan as well, universities in Nigeria today are on lock since November 4 as a result of the strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The issues that prompted the strike according to ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, as reported by Vanguard include the payment of fractions and non-payment of salaries, earned academic allowances, non-release of operational license of NUPEMCO, non-implementation of the provisions of the 2014 Pension Reform Act with respect to retired professors and their salaries, and exclusion of university staff schools from funding by government. Other demands are funding for the revitalisation of public universities that entails implementation of Needs Assessment Report and addressing poor funding of state universities and proliferation of universities by their Visitors. The ongoing strikes have crippled the academic activities in Nigerian Polytechnics and Universities.
Alluding to the African proverb- “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. Students of the striking citadels can be seen as the “grass”, ASUU and the Federal Government being at logger heads are the “elephants”. However, Nigerian students have the option to suffer and not to suffer at the long run. There is a constant suffering all students will of course face, which is the elongation of their studentship duration. If it happened as planned at the beginning of the session in UI, the disrupted session should be gone now. At least, the last paper was officially fixed for 21st December.
Now that it has happened, it is not the time to only wail daily over the mess Nigeria has been immersed in. It is the time not to waste time. Remember, recently, Punch reported that ASUU described the Federal Government as unserious in the negotiations which further points to the fact that the strike is really indefinite, no one knows when it will be called off. If seven weeks have been wasted, the rest, if spent wisely can go a long way in not playing away time- which is the real “suffering”. There are many opportunities to embrace. Learn new skills. Develop that business. Nurture yourself by reading books. Undergo trainings. Apply for internship. It is not the time to abandon school books. Create new links. Do something other than wasting time and social media parade. By that, productive students might not really be the suffering “grass” because the time was not wasted but invested.
This is to appeal to the Federal Government to be serious and stop pulling down the system they were elected to build. The educational sector is sacrosanct and should be given adequate attention it needs. It is the sector that is pregnant of leaders. Government at various levels should be responsive to all schools they are in care of. Teachers and lecturers should not be neglected or uncatered for, adequate facilities should be provided, appropriate learning environment and a host of necessities should be priorities rather than wait till agitations are raised or strike actions are embarked on. The decisive year- 2019 is here. Nigerians should play their cards well. Hopefully, 2019 will mark the beginning of meaningful change. Till when meaningful change comes, let’s await the time Nigerian students will know their graduating dates upon entering the University.