In these days of an excess of national woes, to be educated in Nigeria is often an excruciating experience. For most Nigerians who get to make it to school at all, the staggering odds stacked in the way of education pile up from their first day in school and never really let up.
In what is often an ardous journey, for most kids, the first day in school is often the beginning of a marathon of misery especially in rural areas. Crumbling buildings with roofs caving in, and windows ripped apart by the elements are often passed for school buildings, while poorly remunerated and disgruntled teachers do their best just to get by until the pittance that passes for salary is next paid.
This grim introduction does not grow sunny even as one climbs up the ladder of education in the country. Of course, many fall by the wayside,forced to try their hands on other things. Many of those who brace the odds, knowing the value of education or being importuned by those who know its value eventually scale through. But many times, even after passing through the crucible, they are left to lurch about in that no man`s land where ignorance and semi-illiteracy inhabit half spaces.
In February, the premier union of academic staff in Nigerians universities downed their tools in what has become an annual ritual in the country. The union had warned the government, but having received only the kind of obdurate deafness that has become a trademark of the current administration, it embarked on the strike during which the government was dragged all over the place as having failed to show enough commitment to education in Nigeria, Nigerian students, and those who are custodians of education in Nigeria.
It took eight months, several deadlocked meetings, and series of judicial interventions before the union called off the strike.
The aftermath of the suspension of the strike has been full of drama. Some returning students were kidnapped and millions of naira requested as ransom from their hapless parents.
Some government officials have rolled out different measures to reward or further punish those lecturers who dug in their heels while the strike lasted.
Of all these measures, none has been more grating than the decision to pay some of the returning lecturers only half of their monthly salaries for the month of October.
The move has recalled a cyclone that many thought was finally going away and even as government officials have scurried and scrambled to appeal for calm as well as provide justification for what the lecturers have rightly interpreted as an insult, it is clear that the government which wailed in all directions while the strike lasted is still short of the commitment and political will needed to revamp the education sector in Nigeria.
It is no accident that Nigeria`s decline as a country has coincided with the decline of education. Quality education remains a cure to so many of the ills Nigeria suffers from.
As surely as good news can revive the spirit, it appears there is no better news for education in Nigeria and all its stakeholders than the fact the current administration is counting less than six months to leave office.
When it does, the education sector will sure heave a sigh of relief.