#BounceRewind2018: The Vicious Cycle Of A Dying Education System
Truth be told, basic education is still not a priority in Nigeria but paying fuel subsidy is.
Parents, students and teachers may have been quite expectant of a better education system in 2018.
But the budget delays, the misery sum allotted to the sector showed that it would be business as usual with very little to show @58.
Our schools have become mere routines with very little impact on the lives of our children.
Graduates are not confident enough to identify the right opportunities they out to target. Those with entrepreneurial abilities are not connected enough to win the race of poverty's web.
The School Feeding Programme
2018 had started with great hope, even though nothing on education was mentioned during the New Year Speech given by President Muhammadu Buhari.
2017 had ended on a high, after certain agreements were reached between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and they were meant to infuse a reversal in the education standard decline, but where we are now shows nothing of such ever happened.
By the way ASUU for the umpteenth time is on strike.
Formal education of a child begins from the foundation - Primary and Secondary schools - and the government had introduced the School Feeding Programme for primary school pupils as one way of increasing school enrolment to reducing the out of school deficit.
At least 49 billion Naira have been spent and implemented in at least 24 states, but some communities in some states that truly need this feeding programme have not seen a pot on fire.
Kogi State is a case in point and when Bounce News visited Ugbedomagwu in Igalamela-Odolu East Local Government Area, nothing like school feeding of pupils existed there.
Children go to farms more than they go to school.
At least 1,800 caretakers were recruited to carry out the school feeding programme in Kogi State.
Beyond feeding of the pupils, food does not give a child skills or knowledge and that is one thing that is lacking in the mix.
Slide In Budgetary Allocation
The programme has ended up becoming an act that is like luring an animal to a trap, with the poor funding of the education sector.
Education has continued to get declining budgetary allocation and this has resulted in lack of infrastructure, poor training of teachers, poor remuneration, lack of job satisfaction and motivation for teachers.
If the foundation is weak, what can the righteous do? This is a question that has left the universities no option than to consistently attempt to set the records straight.
Bounce News spoke with the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, and he highlighted the burden that Nigeria has continued to differ in its 'interest' in reviving the education sector.
A nation is as developed as its education sector, it has been said, and the union's leader further emphasised this in his statements.
Agreements were reached in 2009 and 2017 to raise funding of tertiary institutions to ensure Nigerian graduates were at par with others from different nations with high education standards.
But on November 4, the keg of gun-power caught fire, resulting in an industrial action by the union; their aim is to make the government implement the agreements.
Giving his opinion on how much attention the education sector received in 2018, Professor Ogunyemi said: "The ruling class in Nigeria consistently has not given education a fair share in terms of the attention they give and in making education a priority.
"It is not just about who is in power or whether there is party A or party B in power.
"We have not seen any difference and this is because over the years education has always been given a back seat and we are saying that it is not good enough for a country that is aspiring to develop.
"We have seen a steady decline in budgetary allocation. From 2014 downwards, it has continued to witness a slide and we think that if Nigeria is aspiring to join the league of developed countries, education should be taken up to at least two digits. But for now we have 7% consistently for about two three years running.
"That is not good enough for a country".
The President of ASUU highlighted that other nations in Africa which Nigeria loves to compare itself with including; Ghana, South Africa and Egypt, are doing two digits.
UNESCO has suggested that nations should allocate 26% of its budget to education, but Nigeria's leaders continue to look away from their obvious reality.
"In Ghana, in the last 5 years, education has never been allocated less than 20%.
"Young people in Nigeria are patronising education in those countries and this is because their government gives enough budgetary allocation to the education sector and we think that is the way Nigeria should go," he explained.
Discipline Of Academic Staff
It was a step in the right direction that will bring discipline in the education sector for both lecturers and students.
Kudos to Monica Osagie for recording and reporting the issue, to ASUU for allowing justice to take its course, to OAU for dismissing the Professor and to Osun court for serving justice.
But was justice truly served or just seen to have been served?
It is not enough to throw money at the problem. It's best to invest over a period of time while welfare of the teachers and students become a national priority.
The issue of autonomy for tertiary public institutions has continued to pop up at different times and it is part of what ASUU is looking forward to.
For Professor Ogunyemi, autonomy has many dimensions - Academic and Financial.
"Allowing the institutions to run according to their laws, in this case there will be no meddlesomeness.
"Government will not dictate what the Vice Chancellors should do, or impose candidates on them. It should not interfere in the issue of discipline and due process and that is what we define as academic autonomy.
"On financial autonomy, as a father, before you set your child loose to go and live on his or her own, you must empower that child, otherwise the child will turn round and embarrass you. That is what we are witnessing in Nigeria.
"Nigerian universities have never been empowered, they have never been given enough capital - human, finance and infrastructural".
Is there no remedy for Nigeria's education system that is on a vicious cycle? you will ask.
The ASUU President has a solution and even the government knows about it.
So many times, the will-power of doing the right thing has been identified as the reason Nigeria's system has continued to match backwards.
"We need to fix our infrastructure and facility, get the calibre and quality of staff - teaching and non-teaching - that will run the system and then give the universities enough capital base.
"For instance, after recruiting the calibre of staff the institutions need, fixing the infrastructure and facilities, the government could give them, say, 6 billion Naira each and say let us see what you will do with this for the next five years.
"I can assure you that many of them will invest in cutting-edge research activities that will announce Nigeria as a country.
"In fact Nigerians will aspire to win Nobel Laureate.
"We do not have cutting-edge facilities for cutting-edge research and until we get that, Nigerian universities cannot be competitive.
"We need to establish the basic.
"There was a report in 2012 that actually presented an embarrassing picture on the state of affairs on our campuses.
"The level of rot and decay is really scandalous. You can imagine a first generation university where they are using kerosene stove as Bunsen burner and buckets to fetch water.
"What kind of research can come out from that kind of institution.
"We have missed it somewhere along the line and we need to go back to the drawing board," he added.
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