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Strikes and University Education in Nigeria: Retrogression or Progression?

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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Court Orders ASUU

By Emmanuel Gandu

Nigerians have for so many years been distracted and disturbed by the alarming rate of incessant strikes embarked upon by both the academic and non-academic staff of universities in their quest for better working conditions, and the provision of facilities for improved teaching and learning.

Incidentally, these actions have invariably led to the disruption in the planned academic programs with the attendant consequences.

This discourse is an attempt to highlight the consequences and effects of the never-ending strikes with a view to making both government and university staff/lecturers realize the need to explore alternative avenues to solving this perennial problem for a better educational system from the present retrogressive/decline in quality of teaching, learning, research, and community service.

How did Nigeria arrive here?

(1) Strikes have since become a tool of negotiation for labor unions all over the world, but the trend crept up onto the Ivory Tower during the days of radical ideological teachings of marxism, liberation, and human rights movement with students as the vanguard of the struggle.

The South African Apartheid struggle of the 70’s ‘Aluta Continua’ wind of change blowing from Cape Town passing through Cape Coast to Alexandria left behind its dust on Ibadan, Nnsuka, and Zaria.

Before long, the likes of Michael Imoudu, Hassan Sonmonu, and much later Adams Oshiomhole’s brand of unionism radicalized the already ideological teachings of Dr. Bala Usman, Dr. Patrick Wilmot, Prof. Femi Odekunle, and later Zwakhu Bonat’s ‘Zaria School of thought’.

This brand later spread to the Southern universities of both the Students Union Government (SUG), Academic Staff Union, and the non-academic staff unions – each demanding better working conditions.

(2) By the early 1990s strikes were no longer a preserve for students, or Medical Doctors alone, but academics/lecturers began serious agitations with strikes for better working conditions.

In 2018, ASUU embarked upon a 90 days strike, and in 2020 they went on 9 months (270 days) which accounts for the longest since 1999.

In 2022 ASUU again went on an initial 4 weeks warning strike, proceeding immediately on an 8 months continuation making another total of 9 months (270 days) in 2022.

(3) In Nigeria of 2022, to have a legion of 20 million out-of-school children coupled with incessant university closure is not only counterproductive but unacceptable, especially where primary and secondary schools in most parts of Northern and Central Nigeria have remained closed due to terrorism and kidnapping.

(4) Regrettably, Nigeria’s yearly budgetary allocation for education falls far too short of UNESCO’s benchmark of 20% of a country’s annual budget.

For example, in 2015, the federal government allocated 10.79% of its budget to the education sector.

By 2016, this figure dropped drastically to 6.7%.

This downward trend continued up to 2021 when it further dived to 5.68%, and down to its lower ebb of 5.39% in 2022.

Consequential effects of ASUU strikes

(1) University Ranking – world and Africa:

(a) South Africa has more than 7 universities, Egypt has more than 3, Ghana is listed, and Morocco is also listed among the top 29 universities in Africa.

No Nigerian University is rated among the top 29 on the African continent.

The best Nigerian University is Ibadan and Covenant which are both ranked at no.30, while the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike is ranked at no.35.

(b) On the world stage ranking, Cape Town University of South Africa is listed as no. 183 while the University of Ibadan is listed among the 401 – 500 group.

The compilation is using 13 measuring indicators including teaching, research,  research impact, innovation, international outlook, etc to arrive at the ranking.

(2) Brain drain as the best of Nigerian academic staff leaves in droves for better offers abroad.

(3) Declining interest in education leading to eventual abandoning of educational pursuits by the frustrated youths who are the future of Nigeria.

(4) A rushed academic calendar and workload leading to poor quality teaching and research hence half-baked and poor quality graduates pushed into the labor market.

(5) Waste of financial resources, manpower, and time.

(6) Dwindling academic performance on the part of both students and lecturers.

(7) Criminality, prostitution, drug abuse, and such vices as a result of idleness.

(8) Mental health trauma, depression, and anxiety to students and parents.

(9) Low working morale on the part of the lecturers.

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