It is paradoxical that while the nation’s educational institutions are deliberately allowed to decay and degenerate to such a level that the products of the schools cannot compete with their counterparts from even the neighbouring countries, those charged with the responsibilities of fixing these anomalies are excused to send their children to private institutions or send them to schools abroad.
This is not a matter of whether it is a constitutional right or not that such political appointees are free to seek the best of education for their children in whichever country that catches their fancy. There is also a moral angle to it. It is a truism that since those who feel it knows it, there is no way a minister whose children are schooling abroad or are in private institutions in Nigeria can lose sleep if all the public schools in the country are shut down for years.
For over three weeks, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)’s four-week warning strike embarked upon on February 14 has ensured that our boisterous population of Nigerian students has been left to their own devices at home, to further worsen the tale of a streaming population of idle hands arising from the debilitating effect of poverty and unemployment across the land.
By whatever stretch of the imagination, it remains illogical and nonsensical to me for a minister of education of a nation whose public tertiary institutions are permanently on strike to send his children to a private institution or abroad for education, whether he can afford it or not, whether it is his constitutional right or not, it remains immaterial to me. It will make sense to me if the public schools are paid adequate attention and are functional; then whoever likes can take their wards to wherever they desire.
Does it speak well of our nation that President Muhammadu Buhari, whose children were educated in schools abroad, has a minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, whose children are not in public schools in the country? What it means is that whereas Adamu’s children can conclude their education in three or four years with the best of facilities at their disposal, it would take the unfortunate children of the masses five years or more to conclude a frequently interrupted, poorly structured, facility/curriculum-deficient educational programme. Yet, these same students on graduation are expected to seek employment competing with those from Ivy League Schools. Is it not in this same country that foreign students once flocked to for education, what has changed? Will it require reinventing the wheel to achieve this or is it rocket science?
I refuse to be dragged into the nitty-gritty of the lingering face-off of ASUU and the FG. I refuse to be interested in the debate over a payment scheme or anything. All I know is that what we see is a case of a nation that has simply toyed with education and is today faced with the immediate consequences. All I see is a nation where the politicians and political office holders are given premium attention at the expense of the education of our teeming youths. Whereas governments over the years have continued to under-fund education they have kept faith with the tradition of increasing the cost of governance. There is so much profligacy around government and government institutions.
Nigerians are grappling with prolonged fuel scarcity, erratic power supply, hunger in the land, idle youth population of students, out of school children with its concomitant adverse effects on the society i.e. the hydra-headed monster called insecurity that has bogged down the nation for ages.
Since these graduates are no longer employable because of the deficiency of the educational sector, majority among the youths now see education as a scam as they indulge in nefarious activities like kidnappings, banditry and terrorism.
A government that does not have depth of vision about education would find it difficult to create a salubrious environment for development. It is a national embarrassment and shame that elected and appointed politicians continue to send their wards abroad to school, while products from our tertiary institutions are regarded as half-baked, due to lecturers’ strikes occasioned by negligence and inadequate funding by the government.
Last Monday, the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) met with Malam Adamu, in his office in Abuja over the continued face-off between the government and members of ASUU, who have paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities. The students had taken their protest to the minister’s office, clutching placards demanding a quick resolution of the crisis.
The minister had expressed dissatisfaction with the way and manner he was spoken to by the NANS president, Sunday Asefon, who had reportedly accused the minister of feeling unconcerned about the plight of Nigerian students, then walked-out on the students, describing their conduct as being rude.
Asefon had told the minister that: “The key issue ASUU has continued to hammer on is the revitalisation of our institutions, which is important for every student to key into. But you cannot be discussing the revitalisation of our institution without Nigerian students being in that negotiation committee.”
“Honourable Minister, we saw it on social media, you celebrated your son who graduated from a university outside this country. Our parents do not have that money to send us outside the country. But let us enjoy what we are paying for. We want adequate funding for education in this country.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, a bill seeking to regulate the overseas education of public officials’ children suffered a setback at the House of Representatives. The bill failed to pass second reading during the plenary session.
Leading the debate, Sergius Ogun, an Edo lawmaker and sponsor of the bill, said the proposed legislation would strengthen indigenous institutions and provide efficient educational services.
Ogun said the bill seeks to stop public officials from utilising public funds to sponsor the education of their children or wards abroad.
Toby Okechukwu, deputy minority leader, while expressing reservations on the provisions of the bill, said “My challenge essentially is within the realm that makes it look like all public officers that have their children overseas are corrupt and are doing so by assessing public funds.”
It is disheartening how politicians elected by the people would consistently seek to put their interests far above the collective interest. True, preventing public officials from sending their children abroad or to private institutions may be at variance with the provisions of the laws, but how is that these legislators would expect improvement in the standard of education in the country when it is the same politicians who have neglected public education that own the private schools or are deliberately killing public institution to promote their interests in private schools. We have seen politicians kill public institutions just to benefit their private enterprises or those from which they benefit.
It must be mentioned also that some ASUU officials are also guilty of this as their children are also either schooling abroad or are in private institutions while the children of the poor and lesser beings are left to bear the brunt of these protracted face-offs. These are some of the issues we have to interrogate our aspiring leaders with come 2023. No sentiments, no emotions, just basic issues on their plans and what solutions they have for the nation.
Adamu’s infantile reaction says a lot about why the impasse has remained for this long. It proved to a very large extent why ASUU insists that the nation has not been sincere in dealing with them. The same Adamu it was who had said he was surprised that ASUU was on strike. His continued stay as education minister will do the nation no good. His children and that of the president are not affected so they cannot be bothered. Buhari’s predilection for engaging unfit and inappropriate politicians is legendary and remains the greatest undoing of his government because merit and the ability to deliver on their jobs are the least considerations of the president.