ASUU strike and the Abiku phenomenon

For many Nigerian parents, the lingering Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) crisis has reached a point where it can be likened to the Abiku-child phenomenon. The back and forth in the crisis have put the education sector in bad shape. The strike is having major depressing effects on the society and in families. This is not about the hike in school fees, which has become an infectious symptom among schools in the country whether private or public from nursery to primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is not even an issue of the rising prices of foodstuffs that have made three square meals for many families a hard task to accomplish. Neither is it the issue of out-of-school children in the country as the strike is deliberately pulling pupils out of school. Well, you do not need to link it with unemployment or underemployment, which has rendered the economy in a difficult position.
However, both the government and ASUU in their show of ego have departed from service to humanity though believing that they are on the right path. But, in their continued power show, they could make or mar education in the country. The more one listens to either party, the more you are tempted to believe that the other is playing the devil’s advocate. In any case, despite interventions from stakeholders, religious organisations, well meaning Nigerians and several protests staged by the affected students both the government and ASUU refused to yield to the yearning of the people.

As always, either in the case of the Abiku child or the ASUU strike, the parents are to always bear the brunt as they feel the pain of the children’s inability to be in school.
It is indeed baffling that in this age and time, lecturers have to embark on strike before government would do the needful about the education sector. There have been so many talks about the promises of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Aside other promises, since President Buhari pledged to adequately fund education at a London conference in 2021, the supposedly ray of hope has refused to shine on the education sector.

More often than not, government and its officials chose to drag its feet and refuse to act positively on matters of education.  When it does, it is either too little or too late. Government’s continued nonchalant attitude to education makes it too obvious that it is not in the character of the current administration to make the people have the best of education. Yet, government and its officials continue to assure Nigerians that education is the soul of a nation and the key to its secured future. What future do the Nigerian youths have with the routine ASUU strikes? It is disappointing that government’s best efforts at improved education could only be seen in the drop in standard of education. Nigerians have been subjected to all sorts of promises to strengthen the education sector.
While running as president under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari in 2010 presented a blueprint, titled: ‘Education stakeholders in free fair and credible elections: My programme for the rescue of education’. Among other things, he promised stakeholders that “a minimum of 26 per cent of national budget in consonance with UNESCO’s well grounded recommendation. This percentage I intend to graduate upwards with time and results”. If one may ask, did President Buhari abandon his CPC dream to make education shine, now that he flies the APC flag? It is, therefore, not only surprising but shameful to note that the Buhari administration have recorded the highest number of ASUU strikes even as the administration’s 2021 budgetary allocation to education is the worst in the last decade.

Nigerians are greatly mystified by the manner in which the ruling party chooses to neglect education with reckless abandonment. Over the years, the government pretends to be the beautiful ostrich yet, it kicks up sandstorm over education with cheap excuses. It has now resulted to spurious claims, while ASUU demands appear plausible and compelling, the seemingly rigid stance of the federal government has centered its argument mainly on the increase of their salaries and allowances. Hence, the government came to the negotiating table without an agenda for the way forward. 
The government should be aware that education was one of the major legacies the colonial masters bequeathed us as a nation. Hence, our founding fathers were able to push for our independence without bloodshed. But today, it is disheartening that the inability of the government to give its teaming youths education has created a monster called insecurity. At the moment, majority among the youths see education as a scam as they indulge in nefarious activities like kidnappings, banditry and terrorism. It is important to note that a government that does not have depth of vision about education would find it difficult to create a salubrious environment for development. It is a national embarrassment of intense proportions that Nigerians, who can afford it, continue to send their wards abroad to school. While products from our tertiary institutions are regarded as half-baked, due to lecturers’ strikes occasioned by negligence and inadequate funding by government. Indeed, the above is a sad testimony for a country that is supposed to be the giant of and a model for Africa.  In whatever case, it is the parents and the larger society that suffers. The government should do everything possible to end the strike because the continued to stay at home of students would be of greater consequence for the nation.


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