The reoccurring strikes in our nation’s tertiary educational institutions is a big problem that will continue to threaten the future of our nation. Our students of t oday will not be well prepared for the challenges of tomorrow and we are likely to remain behind again and again.
The present indefinite strike announced by ASUU is like an obituary announcement for the death of education, and a friend has wished education the usual prayers of Rest In Peace. While thanking the announcers and those who have offered prayers of eternal rest in peace, I think that we need to explore options of resurrecting university education, especially teaching and learning beyond the sole control and influence of ASUU and even the Federal Government.
It is unfortunate that ASUU members had a signed agreement with the Federal Government on issues related to their welfare and conditions of service which is not being obeyed. On the other hand, ASUU has a responsibility to and contract with the university students to ensure that they are educated to become useful citizens. Unfortunately, the declaration of indefinite strike due to relationship failures with the Federal Government by ASUU, has been such that ASUU’s responsibilities to the students is being compromised. If the FGN decides to respond to ASUU demands in December 2013, for instance, and pay all outstanding debts, how will ASUU be able to bring the passed days that students have missed lectures and offer them the lessons too? I think that this is a transferred aggression from the lecturers to the students, since the students have not failed in their contract terms with the lecturers.
This is why I submit that we need to resurrect university education beyond the sole control of ASUU in ways that students learning will not be deterred by ASUU strikes. In the age we live, they are several sources of knowledge beyond a teacher in the classroom that our children can use to grow in life. We need to look into the issue of freedom of university education, beginning with the creation of the tertiary education curriculum, the establishment of tertiary education graduation examination board. This will provide rooms for all universities to become institutions that prepare students for the graduation examination and are therefore preparatory centers. In this way, others can begin to invest in providing access to university level education by creating preparatory centers around the country beyond the control of ASUU.
Each university will begin to search for students and not students searching for universities as it is now. Universities that cannot offer quality services and programs to meet the expectations of students will decline and performing universities and lecturers will attract thousands of students. Competition among universities for quality services will become the new university order. When such a moment arrives, whether ASUU is on strike or not, students will have an option of what to learn and where to learn what they need to learn. At the moment, teachers are imposed on students and whether the teachers are good or not to the students, the universities do not bother. The age where the autocracy of educators reign supreme is over. We should no longer encourage educational dictators. This is the age where the voices of students must be heard clearly. In the days ahead, students should be able to vote in or out, teachers that are assigned to teach them based on the teachers’ attitude, knowledge and skills. A situation where unproductive teachers, who are unable to distribute their knowledge to the students but want to freely consume public resources need to be reviewed.
Therefore, the resurrection and ascension of tertiary education in Nigeria will begin when the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission wake up to the reality of creating a nationwide tertiary education curriculum, in addition to establishing a tertiary education graduation examination board that should conduct exams for all tertiary level students and with the NUC serving as the degree awarding commission. This is the way for freedom of university education, whereby irresponsible educators and institutions will disappear through the healthy competition that will begin for quality education. As long as ASUU remains the sole proprietors of students learning, there may be no competition and they will not feel the pains of one day strike and the attendant effect on the students and the nation. Also, this will free the government from its unneeded role in tertiary education delivery in Nigeria today.
Let us not allow ASUU and the FGN to kill and bury tertiary education in Nigeria. Even when they have killed and proudly announced the burial, we must resurrect tertiary education and ensure that it ascends to the glorious position of recreating this nation. Even if I say nothing again to this nation, take these words to your heart and put them into practice.
Raphael Ogar Oko
Global Educators for All Initiative (GEFAI)