If Nigeria’s education system is in rubbles, then the higher education subsector forms the largest pile of stones. Many graduates of Nigerian universities are reportedly unemployable and the Polytechnics lack infrastructure. Lecturers at these institutions alongside their colleagues in the Colleges of Education have embarked on incessant strikes in recent times.
The solutions to many of these challenges, stakeholders say, can be found in written agreements with previous administrations that were not implemented. With a new administration in Aso Rock, stakeholders in higher education who spoke to Saturday School Life, SSL, shared their hopeful expectations for the implementation of old agreements, as well as the introduction of new policies for the betterment of the sector.
For the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the demands are almost identical to what they have been clamouring for since 2009; the implementation of the 2009 agreement the Federal Government made with the Union. ASUU’s National Treasurer, Dr. Demola Aremu said the Union is particularly interested in Government’s fulfillment of its promise to pump N1.3trn in six years to fund public universities.
This was well enunciated the previous administration’s 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with the Union, another agreement whose implementation has not seen the light of day. Aremu said: “As a Union, we had an agreement with the Federal Government in 2009 that still has not been implemented.
Funding University education formed the crux of that agreement, as well as the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding between both parties. In the MoU, the Federal Government had promised to to pump N1.3 trn in six years to fund public education. There is also the issue of earned allowances which are being owed to University Lecturers. These are the things that the new administration must focus on.
Education is currently in a very terrible state, and government needs to pay attention to it. Many education policies are now outdated. The government needs to go back to the drawing board and update these outdated policies.” Reiterating Aremu’s point is Prof. Godwin Idoro, the Head, Department of Building, University of Lagos. His words: “We really have to look at the major problems in the sector, one of which is lack of infrastructural facilities.
There are no facilities in Nigerian schools. The workshops are full of obsolete equipment, practicals cannot be held in many cases, particularly for technical courses. The lecture rooms are not conducive. Generally, the facilities are bad. So what one would expect from the new government, is to first improve the facilities. One does not want establishment of new universities or polytechnics or Colleges of Education, but to really improve the existing ones, so that they can render qualitative education.
Vice President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Mr. Oluwatosin Ogunkuade, also called on the new administration led by President Mohammadu Buhari to ensure free education for Nigerian students at the secondary and tertiary levels. Ogunkuade, in a statement made available to SSL said:
“Nigerian students demand for free and affordable education from secondary to tertiary institution, reduction in exorbitant school fees; lasting solutions to HND/Bsc dichotomy as well as subverting seasonal industrial strikes in the subsector.” The BSc/HND disparity was also a sore spot for the Senate President of the National Association of Polytechnic Students, NAPS, Mr. Adeyemi Lukman who called on the new administration to “revisit pending issues in the sector.
Some of these issues include full implementation of the 2009 agreement, bringing an end to the dichotomy between BSC/HND. There is also the recent upgrading of some Colleges of Education to degree awarding status, but the exclusion of polytechnics altogether in that development.”
Lukman added that there is no sense in graduating from school if there are no jobs. ‘’There must be development of the textile, iron and steel industries. Youths are the major constituency and must not be neglected.” NANS on its part demanded for an interactive session with the new President to air their views.
For the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, it is the new President’s own words he should seek to implement. National Coordinator of the ERC, Mr. Hassan Soweto told SSL: “In line with his campaign promises, the ERC expects President Buhari to immediately, and within his first 100 days, cause a supplementary bill to be sent to the National Assembly to increase the allocation to education to at least 26% as recommended by UNESCO.
There should be no excuse or arm-wringing about this. The President himself has said at different fora that his experiences while touring the country for his campaign were that he realized a large number of youths are without formal education and jobs.
Only by increasing funding to public education, cancelling tuition fees and embarking on a massive public works to improve facilities at all levels of education would offer millions of Nigerian youths the opportunity of a second chance to get good education and learn useful skills without which they cannot get good jobs even if jobs are available.”
The wind of change seems to be blowing all over Nigeria and in many ways education stakeholders are all too ready to embrace it. But when it comes to the old agreements the Jonathan Administration made with education unions, ‘implementation’ would be more readily accepted than ‘change.’