A country crumbling under its own weight should be doing everything within its power make light its load. However, it appears the Giant of Africa is content with making its load even heavier.
For many Nigerian students, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to dim every day. In a country where education has slowly but steadily made a humiliating procession to the backseat, it takes blood, sweat and tears to be a student. For the Nigerian pupil or secondary school student who is lucky enough not to be one of the eighteen million out-of-school children in Nigeria, ten million of which are girls, this experience is an early one. In many public primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, the broken infrastructure is a fitting metaphor for a broken education system and a broken country.
Each time the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) sneezes, Nigerian undergraduates catch cold. This has been the case since February as a strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) continues to linger over differences that could easily be resolved were there no problems deeply embedded in the system. But there are and as it is unavoidable for the grass to suffer when two elephants fight,it is Nigerian undergraduate students that have been caught up in a tussle between a government easily given to distraction and a union easily given to delusion.
On Tuesday, May 16 2022, men of the Nigerian soldiers broke up a protest in Ondo State by frustrated Nigerian undergraduate students who had poured out into the streets to protest the ongoing strike by ASUU. This was coming on the heels of a similar action by Nigerian soldiers on Friday May 13, 2022 who broke up a protest by undergraduate students protesting against the same strike action in Ibadan Oyo State.
It is certainly salt in the wounds of Nigerian undergraduate students that at a time when they have remained stuck at home for close to three months because of a disagreement over money, many of those who should bear responsibility for their predicament have absolutely no compunction whatsoever in splurging cash towards securing their political future ahead of the general elections next year.
It has become all too obvious in recent years that the fidelity paid to education in the country begins and ends only at the doors of the lips of government officials. This goes a long way in explaining many of our problems as a country.
As the Giant of Africa continues to battle gripping poverty, and crippling systemic rot in the society, there has long been a need for a change in mentality, a change in how issues are viewed and approached – a change in mindset. Experience has shown that perhaps, more than anything else, it is education that can reset mindsets and allow light to penetrate the darkest recesses of the mind and battle the forces within.
However, in keeping with our tendency to cast pearls before swine, trivialize treasures while elevating the arcane and the mundane, we toy with something as precious as education in Nigeria.
At a time when insecurity is coursing through Nigeria, sinking its teeth into everything the Giant of Africa holds dear as a nation, it is unfortunate that those who should, cannot just see that quality education can combat all the causes of insecurity at the deepest level, which is the level of the mind.
With so many young Nigerians who should be putting their prodigious faculties to good use in school stuck at home, there is no gainsaying that the times are indeed unhappy.
As for Nigerian soldiers, one would have thought that they would be hard-pressed securing Nigerians at a time when ruthless terrorists are gleefully cutting many to ribbons all over the country. However, and improbably, they allow themselves to be distracted by the protests of students who should be encouraged to protest by all those who have the interest of Nigeria at heart.
The undergraduate students who were out on the streets protesting against the strike represent the surest hopes of the Giant of Africa. As long as they remain stuck at home by factors they have no hand in, they should be allowed to air their grievances.