For many Nigerian students and parents, the recent announcement by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that its month-long strike action was set to be extended for a further two months was a dagger to the heart. Many who had followed the negotiations with the hope that the impasse would be resolved saw their jaws slack with disappointment and dismay at the pronouncement.
The pronouncement cruelly means that for the next two months, Nigerian undergraduates in public universities will remain stuck at home with equally anxious parents, mulling over what is next for them in an education system that seems to worsen with each passing year.
Many of such parents who attended public universities long before the rot seeped in must now nurse nostalgia at just how south things have gone since the passage of the good old days.
It now clearly appears that it has become an annual ritual for ASUU to embark on an indefinite shutdown of Nigerian universities over unpaid wages, unkept promises, or some other disagreement with the Federal Government.
Over the course of many years, and as Nigeria has transitioned from brutal military dictatorships to a burgeoning democracy, the premier union of academic staff of Nigerian universities which proved such a bulwark against even the most bloodthirsty of military regimes in the 90s has grown ever more irritable, irked by the degeneration of education in Nigeria.
ASUU`s chief grouse is always about either the pitiful welfare of its members or the sorry state of infrastructure in Nigerian universities. In any case, any of these nightmares or both of them for good measure allow for a noxious degree of toxicity to becloud university education in Nigeria which is by virtue of hierarchy at the top of the education food chain in Nigeria.
In a country where fish easily begins to rot from the head, it takes no clairvoyance to predict the fate of schools at the lower rungs of education in given what has befallen its ivory towers. In some parts of the Federal Capital Territory for example, pupils in public primary schools have been stuck at home for months now with their disgruntled teachers having downed tools.
Against the backdrop of the recent threats by personnel of the Nigerian Police Force to embark on an unprecedented nationwide strike, one does not need to look too closely to see how mightily Nigerian public institutions struggle under the weight of their own institutional failures, precipitated of course by government dereliction.
It is noteworthy that the intractable challenges which today besiege Nigeria have especially gained traction since education began a downward spiral in the country. It is easy, even effortless, to arrive at this conclusion given how they have been marching in lockstep.
Most of what the government pays to education in Nigeria is nothing but lip service. This lip service with the consequent leprosy it engenders is seen in the poor welfare of teachers, and the sorry state of infrastructure in many schools in Nigeria, from the level of primary schools up to the university. Every year, when the Nigerian budget is laid before the National Assembly, the place of education in the list of national priorities is clear for all to see.
But if Nigeria is to get back on the right path, education, quality education at that, will play a stirring role. Because education is such an efficacious equalizer, for inequality to be reduced, even children born into stifling poverty must receive the invaluable gift that quality education is.
Quality education can engender the sizeable mentality shift that is needed to change things in Nigeria from a foundational level, preserve those changes, and make them sustainable. Those changes can be greatly hastened by quality education.
However, this simply cannot happen in a disruptive atmosphere supported by successive governments that gleefully speak from both sides of the mouth, or academic unions whose leaderships are as flippant as they come.
While they routinely tangle with each other from time to time, it is education in Nigeria, and Nigerian students, that take the hammer blows which deal deep wounds to a future fractured by dereliction, deceit, delinquency and disingenuity.