ASUU: FG’s Criminal Negligence Of Education

It is generally believed that education is the key that unlocks all the forces of economic growth and development. The availability of a body of research stressing the importance of education, coupled with the experiences from developed nations which shows that as an economy grows more larger and complex, so does the desire for high level manpower which education makes possible, confirms this belief. It is surprising, therefore, that Nigeria, which prides itself as the giant of Africa, only pays lip-service to its education sector.

The latest episode of the ASUU strike, the 16th since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, continues to cast a dark cloud on the suitability and sustainability of our tertiary education. At the centre of the recurrent strike actions is the failure of successive governments to formulate sound policies for the nation’s tertiary education system. The government is usually lackadaisical towards crucial problems, particularly funding the sector, and this attitude indicates a lack of willingness and commitment to better the sector.

An interlocutor might retort that our education sector is in a mess not because government is not committing enough resources to the sector but because of mismanagement, on the part of the academic union, of the available resources. It is very easy to jump on the bandwagon and regurgitate this common narrative that conveniently overlooks the federal government’s meagre budgetary allocation – that is far below UNESCO’s recommended 15-26% – to the sector.

Anyone following the development between the federal government and ASUU over the years will readily agree that the manner in which FG foot-drags in disbursing funds that will not only make a difference in the lives of millions of Nigerians, but also guarantee a better future for all, goes beyond lack of funds, like they are always quick to say; it is simply a case of lack of interest in the education sector.

Lack of interest explains why the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu angrily walked out on the executives of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, during an emergency meeting where the students demanded a quick resolution of the ongoing ASUU strike that have paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities.

Lack of interest also explains why the government, oftentimes, has to be pressured to review long-standing policies and agreements regarding the finances of the sector. Even upon review, there has often been a lack of commitment on the part of the government to implement these policies, which shows that it is unbothered by the long-standing policies and agreements to revive the sector.

Since 2009 when the federal government and ASUU re-negotiated a 2001 agreement, both parties have been at loggerheads over the failure of the former to fulfill some of the agreements reached. It is common knowledge that the only language the Nigerian government understands is strike, which is considered as the last resort when all other efforts have proved futile. Hence, ASUU has embarked on strike time and again, yet the government has not ‘satisfactorily’ met the terms and conditions of the agreement.

With over five strike actions since that agreement and with the FG consistently reneging on it, it has become obvious that successive governments lack interest in improving the ailing education sector. Sadly, this negligence, particularly as regards to funding, on the part of the government continues to degenerate the quality of tertiary education in the country.

This is even more so considering the fact that educational services and opportunities have become tremendously expanded, sophisticated, complex and highly politicized, yet the funding task has become consistently negative, deteriorating and unstable.

Given that no nation can develop above its educational attainment, just as no educational system can be stronger than its funding level, the federal government must, of necessity, develop as much interest in the education sector as it does to the oil and agricultural sector by increasing budgetary allocations to the sector and honour agreements that have been signed with the academic union.


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