(By Oluwagbohunmi Joseph Aduralere)
“This same government that can afford to send an astrologist into the space at a cost more than has thrown our pillars of light (education) into darkness, cannot afford N92 billion to ensure that over five million students get the education that is available at the shortest time possible! Why is it so convenient for our leaders to spend so much on white elephant projects and find it difficult to spend our resources on the actual sector that determines the overall development of other sectors?”
IT is no longer news that development of any nation is a function of quality of education available and accessible to the citizenry, what is news is government’s consistent inconsistency in tackling the infrastructural decay in our public universities. The government’s ineptitude toward meeting the needs of public universities appears to be an orchestrated plan to perpetually keep the Nigerian youths in the ‘iron cage’ of vacuities so that they will be intellectually disempowered and unfit to fight for their rights. This takes us to the question of leadership, the caliber of men and women who are directing the affairs of our nation. While the whole of public universities are locked up from age-long neglect of infrastructural development, the Minister of Education-(state) was busy fighting his political enemy in Rivers State, officially abdicating his duty. The issue of commitment has always been the bane of development in the country. Our leaders are fond of paying lips service to the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.
Funding of education is so important that the United Nations actually prescribed 26 per cent of the national budget to be expended on this sector. The best we ever had in Nigeria was half of the stipulated percentage. It is only in Nigeria that universities were created for political reasons. What is the significance of establishing a university that will not be adequately funded? Is it the number of universities that we have that matters or the quality of their products? Can’t we develop University of Ibadan, for instance, up to a stage it can admit 15,000 students like the University of Cairo in Egypt? This same government that established nine universities less than two years ago is now saying the bills are outrageous. Were they not aware of the cost of running the existing universities before embarking on the setting up of new ones? Was Goodluck Jonathan not part of the government that signed the 2009 agreement with ASUU? Were they not aware of the content of the deal before it was signed? Is a five-year-old agreement not due for implementation? Even if the Federal Government is to reduce the monthly expenditure, must they do that from the grossly inadequate funds allocated to universities? Why can’t we reduce the number of ministers, personal assistants, special advisers and other wasteful political appointments that have no direct bearing on our national development? Of what importance is the minister of state when a director in each of the ministries can perform his duties?
As government representatives and ASUU were trying to resolve their differences and find a way out of the sea of confusion in our educational institutions, ‘the prime minister’ – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced the government’s position that it could not meet ASUU demands and that N92 billion ASUU allowances would drain national resources. I think, we should equally ask her the number of extra years we must spend in the university before we can get the poor quality education that our ‘best’ institutions are turning out! While at Harvard, students spend two and a half years to obtain the first degree, nine months for a master’s degree and less than three years for PhD, here in Nigeria, our undergraduate students spend on the average five to six years for their first degrees, a minimum of two years for the masters, and three years plus for PhD. Even then what we have at the end of the day are half baked, unproductive and unemployable graduates, neither useful to themselves nor to the society.
This same government that can afford to send an astrologist into the space at a cost more than has thrown our pillars of light (education) into darkness, cannot afford N92 billion to ensure that over five million students get the education that is available at the shortest time possible! Why is it so convenient for our leaders to spend so much on white elephant projects and find it difficult to spend our resources on the actual sector that determines the overall development of other sectors?
What we need is a state of emergency in the education sector. If we keep mute and remain silent, then our future is not secure. As Elie Wiesel reminds us: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest it.” The time to act is now.
Oluwagbohunmi Joseph Aduralere.
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