In a recent release, UNESCO stated that while education is a basic human right essential for the exercise of all other rights, there are still 774 million illiterates in the world and many more adult women and men who are not consistently learning what they need to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives
This it says is because of a combination of several factors making timely quality education a distant dream.
I reflected on these words and safely concluded that one of the factors that we can surely not avoid that has sufficiently served to distract the education system is strike. A product of both sides of the divide myself including Nigerian universities, I recall a time we practically lost a whole session to strikes and many in between that saw us graduate two-three years after our more fortunate peers whose privileged parents transferredoverseas. I’m still not sure the victims will forget those years so soon.
Sadly, the situation has not been too different in recent times. To many at this moment, there appears a systematic design to unconsciously destroy what is left of the near crippled education system by the duo of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government. The lasttime I checked, most university calendars, for those who had, have become permanently distorted. This has increased the state of vulnerability of the institutions and called for a quick declaration of a state of emergency in the sector and save what is left of the nervous wreck of agroup called students!
So, below are highlights of my thoughts on the impact of this menace;
1. Public enemy….employers’ dilemma
That there is a demand for qualified employees is not in doubt, what is classically doubtful is if the employers will have the privilege of getting such employees. This is also considering the current situation where over 70 per cent of eventual graduates are alleged to be “half baked” with 10 per cent barely knowing why they went to school and the 20 per cent who think they have what it takes, worry as they may realize early that skills and connections for eventual employment are a world apart!
2.While the real reason for embarking on the strikes become blurred by the day, what is as clear as crystal is that the youths are disillusioned with many taking on intriguing tasks to survive or for sustenance while they await resumption.
3. Reasonable demands or presumptuous requests?
Thus far, ASUU claims its demands are valid and strategic, from the reviewof retirement age of professors to progressive increase of budgetary allocations to the education sector by 26 per cent among other demands. One reasons that these demands perhaps should be the statutory responsibilities of the Federal Government towards the universities. So, after reneging on a host of agreements in the past, won’t many simply conclude that the government is becoming insincere in its dealings with ASUU? This was captured clearly in the words of the Minister for Labour and Productivity, Chukwuemeka Wogu, who declared that, “the agreements reached will be impossible to implement.” This no doubt is a strategic feedback that broke the camel’s back and put a seal to continued strike. Now, each party is seemingly adamant, unyielding and hardly appears concerned about the consequences of its stance, an impasse that has done more harm than good.
4. Increasing mediocrity, loss of productive force>
Surely with continued destruction of the education system, one can conclude that we would be left with mediocrity and supposed students cut off from quality knowledge that would have supported national development.
5. Increase brain drain and foreign expert influx
Considering that nature abhors any vacuum. increased possible brain drain will only add to the influx of foreigners who would be more than willing to exploit the gaps and proceed with the once dreaded imperialistic norms and colonialist tendencies
6. Unequal yoke between the past and the future
The past challenge as posed by the non-implementation of the “agreement” is denying the future of many students the privilege of stableeducation. Dreams are being destroyed by the day as most ladies would simply get into the family way while some men simply get unduly distractedand hardly are able to return to school, hopes then become dashed.
7. Loss of fundamental expectations
Due to most universities without functional libraries that would have aided the promotion of healthy and highly recommended reading habit, home reading becomes a painful activity so the books, during any strike, simply gather dust. Even in session, most schools have laboratories that have become museums, libraries that are comparable to archives, lecture notes that are simply drab historic texts, outdated curriculum fiercely turning graduates to job seekers since the reward for innovation is rare. Theses and dissertations are no more issue-based and therefore not guided to address priority development issues. The educational giant of Africa, sadly,lays asleep.
8. The gap in workforce
A student not properly equipped would surely not suffice when the need for solid workforce arises tomorrow. Making it naturally appears that the education system is simply certificate-driven as against expertise-driven, so graduates churned out could possess the tendency to derail society tomorrow except the inherent value system in them comes to bear. In a world that is need-driven, it is most likely he who the cap fits in this regardto address these needs will rule the day.
9. Grave deficiencies…. little successes.
The issues around entry into universities including the now infamous post-UTME are already a challenge to many, worse is then when you enterand get thrown back home in the name of strike making a horrible situationhellish. The retrogression that follows the total neglect of objectivity and excellence by those who should guide a system is appalling.
10. ASUU strikes, intellectual deficit and the transition to private, more expensive universities become the case as parents struggle to find alternative education for their kids. The private universities, irrespective ofcapacity, get richer at the expense of the public ones on strike.
So, you will therefore imagine that even when I could not initially comprehend his statement, I reasoned that his views may have some validpoints within them and with that I refer to Patrick Obahiagbon, who said, “This ASUU strike is a miasma of a depreciable apotheosis of an hemorrhaging plutocracy, cascadingly oozing into a malodorous excrescence of mobocracy. With all termagant ossifying proclivities of a kakistocracy, our knowledgia centura is enveloped in a paraplegic crinkum crankum. Therefore, ASUU, cest in déjà, déjà peret ologomabia.”
Well, need I say more, Obahiagbon’s words are as intriguing as ASUU strike itself and so to decipher the meaning, one needs to sit down, dissect it, eliminate the mundane and pick out the strategic terms and action to address the root causes of a problem that could define a lasting solution. Don’t we all agree that these same steps should be what ASUU and the Federal Government should urgently take? I rest my case.
– Ms. Ogbanga, an educationist, is director, Centre for Development Support Initiatives, Port Harcourt.
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