The Nigerian Government Has Failed To Salvage the Education Sector

It’s a discombobulating incident to Nigerians that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike has been persistent for decades. And this is deteriorating the education sector of the country. It firstly started in the ’70s. During Obasanjo’s regime, ASUU went on firmly with its struggles and opted for strikes as a significant weapon.

The Nigerian Government Has Failed To Salvage the Education Sector

Hitherto strikes have been reoccurring like celebrated festivals; it’s hard to end an academic session without ASUU embarking on a single strike. If we could con the history of the ASUU strike, it will elaborate that it was a lax element since the military regime. Thus one may not be unjust to say, that the government did not take requisites actions even in the past. Had they, we wouldn’t have been experiencing it now.

Today, under Buhari’s administration, which even a layman thought he would enjoy as far as it comes into power; students have been tholing about the repercussions of the conflicts between the FG and ASUU.

On Monday 14th February 2022, the union declared its first one-month warning strike for the year. After which they added two months. Then they extended the strike by three months. If I may ask an unanswerable question, I would say, even in Africa, if not in Nigeria, where can universities be shut down for almost 6 months and the government seems not to care? But if an answer is to be given, it might be that no serious administration will “take no notice of” its country’s education sector. However, thanks to the ‘I don’t care ‘ attitude of the government.

The Demands of ASUU to Improve the Education Sector

The main demands of ASUU as declared by the union are: ensuring the acceptance of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) and also fulfilling the ASUU/FG’s signed agreement of 2009, which can all be implemented if the FG’s effort is genuine in getting rid of “cog in the wheel” of the future of the Nigerian Youths. Therefore, the FG’s refusal to implement the aforesaid ASUU’s demands is simply “adding salt to the wound” of the education sector.

On the other hand, the demanded money by ASUU for revitalizing the sector can be disbursed as far as the FG treats the issue seriously considering what it spent on some sectors. And if compared to the education sector can be called irrelevant or misplacement of priorities.

Government’s Misplaced Prioirites

For instance; on 24th November 2021, Punch disclosed that “the minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba said FG spent more than N2.3 trillion as a stimulus for covid19. If the FG can spend more than N2trillion on covid-19’s stimulus, why can’t it at least spend N1trillion on the education sector? For ensuring its activation, and putting an end to the frequent ASUU strike that has been in existence for almost more than twenty years? The same union strike on which the current president and his minister of education were criticizing the last administration for?

In addition, Vanguard News reported on May 15, 2022, that the “Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) sues president Buhari for spending N1.48 trillion on maintaining refineries with no crude oil”. If more than N1trillion can be unfruitfully spent on reviving defunct refineries why can’t 500 billion be disbursed to ASUU for revitalizing the education sector?

Additionally, Punch reported on 22 February 2022 that: “FG to spend 3.53 trillion on infrastructure and human capital development in 2022”. This was amidst the ASUU strike, which is yet to be called off. If 3.53 trillion will be spent on infrastructure, why can’t N1 trillion be allocated to the education sector for its rescuing? Or is there any infrastructure that can be enjoyed without qualitative education?

Quality Education or puppet Infrastructures?

I believe commoners would rather have an education than any other infrastructure, and also that providing sound knowledge is the best way of developing not only human or his capital but also his country.

Based on a Daily Post analysis on October 15, 2021, “about 12trillion has been allocated to the security sector in the past 7 budget under President Buhari”. Based on this analysis the increment of the spending for the sector in the administration is a whopping 15% of the country’s budget. If this can be done in an attempt to tackle the insecurity we yet suffer from, despite the relevance of security in any country, why can’t the same attempt be done for the education sector even once?

These are a few examples. One may argue that all the aforementioned spending was already budgeted and also the
education sector has its own budget, yeah! But is he aware that the sector’s budget is paltry?

Premium Times Nigeria on October 27, 2021, stated that “since taking office, President Buhari’s highest allocation to the education sector is 7.9% of the total budget”. Meanwhile, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommended 15-20%t of any developing country’s budget for the education sector.

The FG should be alerted that this persistent strike is affecting not only students, their parents, and lectures but also the economy of the country. As many small-scale and medium enterprises depend on the campuses, howbeit, it’s indeed condemnable that ASUU’s demands have not been attended to.

Moreover, It will shock any Nigerian of goodwill to hear the claim that the president was unaware of the ASUU strike till when he was notified during his Sallah break in his hometown. Haha!

Kudos to Nigeria, my father’s land, where universities could be shut down and academic staffs’ salaries stopped for months and yet unawareness can be claimed by the president. Strike for months with putting a stop to the workers’ salaries, but the president was unaware. Only this can prove the FG’s failure in salvaging the education sector.

In addition to the points, Nigeria, with 10.5 million out-of-school children topped the list in the world as declared by the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), Daily Trust on Monday, 24th January reported. Furthermore, the FG’s budget allocation to the sector is yet to reach the UNESCO’s recommendation, while looting allegations against government officials are not unknowable, similarly, ASUU’s demands are neglected.

In conclusion, I urge the government to move with rapid efforts in overcoming the hindrances in the
education sector. May God uphold our Glory.

Yusuf Salisu Muhammad

Yusuf Salisu Muhammad writes from Katsina state, his works have been published by local and foreign media such as; World Voices Magazine, Susa Africa, Street Reporters, Synchchaos Magazine, Opinion Nigeria and elsewhere. He is currently studying at Umaru Musa Yar'adua University, Katsina state of Nigeria.