By Chukwudumebi Norbert ATTA PhD
Shamefully, the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which is the umbrella body of academics in principally public Nigerian universities, entered its seventh month this week (12/09/2022). It means that educational existence seized in the public universities in Nigeria for full seven good months. What is even more worrisome is that there seems to be no end in sight, as the parties in the industrial action – the government and the striking university teachers. In fact, rather than working for an amicable solution to the logjam, the FG has now dragged ASUU to court to contest the right of the academic body to engage in strike action (this is seven good months after the commencement of the industrial action). Elsewhere in Enugu State, the State’s primary school teachers have been on strike for more than two months now, and the State government is either unable or uninterested in resolving the agitation with the primary school teachers, thereby forcing primary school pupils’ home, and worse, indefinitely.
The present situation in Nigeria’s education sector, is not just affecting the nation today, but destroying the future of the country too. The perduring situation is thus not just about the current government and teachers. Rather, it touches on the tomorrow of Nigeria and Nigerians. This piece attempts to unravel the how or danger of the attitude to education in Nigeria today rubs off on its future, and the possibilities of (for) arresting the present descent in the education sector.
EDUCATION AND A PEOPLE’S FUTURE
The role of education to the development of any state or country. As a crucial player in the overall development of a country, education plays major role in the individual lives of the populace, contribute the building and operating of infrastructures in a state, and contributes immensely to the overall ability or ability, and the capacity of a state to compete with other countries in areas of knowledge, manpower and sciento-technological development.
We thus note that about the impact of formal education on the development of the individual members of the society or state, we observe that it aids the intellectual development of an individual member or members of a society, and by extension of the society at large. This is not far from the fact that education helps to harness and direct the latent curiosities in humans, and channel them to positive use for the betterment of the larger society. In other words, by properly awakening and also aiding the constructive development of the intellect and skills of the individual, education is contributing greatly to the advancement of the country or state, and its people.
Again, formal education helps to increase the educated and knowledgeable in-the-different-fields members of a society. With steady formal education, more and more individual members of a group or society, acquire knowledge necessary to advance individuals and group. Hence, the number of the intelligentsia and experts increases with via formal education. This is quite positive and worth encouraging, and if extended further, it would translate to the fact that for any country to compete favourably among the committee of nation. There is no denying that it is a society or country’s educated populace that count as the source of ideas and skills that they are the drivers of a society’s development.
Furthermore, the contributions an educated population makes to the structural and infrastructural development of a society or country cannot be gainsaid. Education no doubt remains a vehicle for the requisite knowledge needed to carry on the progress of humanity, from its initial beginning or other ages to the current jet or even internet age, with all the achievements that have been (and continue to be) recorded by humans. In other words, the undoubtabledevelopments in the different fields of human learning and endeavour owes much to education.
In the light of foregoing reasons, and more, it would be inaccurate to downplay the enormous impact of education on humans and the human society. It would indeed be ridiculous to think otherwise on the necessity of education to the human society, as such extremist group like Boko Haram espouses, and tries forcefully to advance in Nigeria. Those who are watching or doing little, while the ongoing strike action by teachers go on, even when they can do more to positively improve the ugly situation, are obliquely toeing the disturbing line of those who are espousing or subscribing to the tenets of the Boko Haram terrorists.
HOW NIGERIA’S PRESENT ATTITUDE HAMPERS THE FUTURE
The lingering strike action has present and future impact ion the wellbeing and development of Nigeria and Nigerians. The students, their parents and teachers continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing industrial action, as is the country on whose present and future, the outcome of the strike weighs on. With the now seven months strike action in the public university of Nigeria’s education sector, and the face-off between primary school teachers and the Enugu State government, so much has been lost (and is being lost) by the country, and by Nigerians. Besides the times for studies and training of Nigerian students (and pupils) that is frittered away in the strike action, the training of the country’s manpower (for the near future), the country’s overall development is being negatively affected by the ugly development.
The immortal words of John Adams, the fourth president of the US, that knowledge is power and that a people who wish to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives, holds true. Yet, one would posit that the neglect and lacklustre attitude to education by the current government (and some past ones!) do not attest to the commitment that Adams espouses to raise state builders and leaders, via education. In fact, the continuing strike-action by the nation’s public universities is depriving the country oof the skill and expertise of its teachers, and the training of the country’s future leaders. Nothing short of a rethinking, couple with concrete and concerted actions, geared towards addressing the ugly situation in the education sector, is beneficial to Nigerians and Nigeria.
Given that major discoveries and development in the world are thanks to education (and studies), one would bemoan the irreparable implication of the protracted industrial action on the scientific and technological advance in Nigeria, and of Nigeria. What the already seven months strike action translates to would include seven months of lost teaching and learning time, seven months of neglect of the latent genius in the young Nigeria students, seven months of failure to advance the Nigeria students and the country through the denial of the teaching-learning experience that opens the mind and help in the development of persons and the society at large, among others. The industrial action in Nigerian’s public university system thus hampers the development – in knowledge, the science, arts, and technology, of Nigerian students and Nigeria. The current, and past, industrial actions in Nigeria’s educational sector, thus halts, or at least incumbers the country’s march to development or to greatness.
Furthermore, the productivity of a people is greatly consequent on the nature and quality of the education available to the people in question. To this end, it is lamentable that rather than continuing input towards the expanding of education, including in quality and access, the Nigerian educational situation is rather moving backward (than forward), with the seemingly unending strike-actions. The future of the country and its citizens unfortunately being sacrificed in the ongoing or current (and other), industrial actions that involve the country’s education sector.
The outcome of the lingering national strike in the education sector is highly lamentable, and its impact on the future of the Nigerian child and the country, irreversible. Hence, the urgency of addressing the issue cannot be overemphasized, if Nigeria’s future is not to be hurt further, or even killed. This calls for strong collaboration between the stakeholders in the education project in the country, namely, the government, the teachers, and the parents. The solution to the raging situation would neither be in the rioting or demonstrations that the frustrated and angry Nigerian students have now been forced to engage in, as it might degenerate to destructions and deaths, if not managed well; nor by the court cases that the FG has just instituted against the striking public university teachers, with its potential to prolong further the already long strike-action, nor by the seeming apparent unconcern or nonchalance of the Enugu State in the face of its primary schools teachers industrial actions. The need for ongoing dialogue, characterized by give and take between the interested parties in the education-related crisis, remains vital to arresting the disturbing situation occasioned by the now-many-months teachers strike action. Any step towards stemming the dangerous descent and its concomitant effects that the prolonged strike-action entail for the country, is welcome, as it would save Nigeria from killing its future, via its neglect to arm its teeming youthful, school-age population; its future, with the education that would arm her to advance and develop all of its potential.