If one saw the pictures posted recently on several websites (by Mr. Okenwa Nwosu?) one would understand and support the ASUU strike. As some one who had in the past supported firing all ASUU members if they undertake another strike (before this latest one), I am appalled at my about face on this subject. Anybody who has been to any academic institution: high, low or middle institution would know that no education goes on in what we call academic institutions in Nigeria. Not at least in the so called government institutions whether they are primary, secondary or university.
For education to happen in a classroom one must have all three of these things; motivated students, dedicated teachers, and reasonable infrastructure. It will help if one also has supportive parents. Except for supportive parents none of the three essentials can be said to exist in Nigeria’s schools. It is difficult to motivate a student who does not believe that there is something for him after school: jobs, further education or even security. It is had to find a dedicated teacher if the teacher is inadequately paid, does not even have the basic supplies for the work (classroom, chalk, desks, and peace and quiet in the classroom among other things). The infrastructure is such that it makes Nigerian education laughable.
The problem is easy to identify. Nigeria has gone for quantity when quality is what is needed. There are too many schools of every description: too many secondary schools, too many primary schools and too many universities. Nigerian has bitten off much more than it can chew.
It is also easy to see the solution. I recommend retrenchment, pulling back and going back to the basics. Here is how to do it. Close down half (as in 50%) of all universities. Turn the closed universities to technical schools and trade schools. One Federal university would be enough for each zone which works out at 6 Federal Universities. And. Each State should be allowed to have one state university. And the closed state universities would be turned into what Americans call Community Colleges or what we called Upper 6 schools (2 years of post secondary school) in the past. Close a quarter of secondary schools and turn them into primary schools.
Start by closing the nine universities recently opened or make them the campuses of the one Federal University in the zone because they most likely have useable facility. As each university/institution is closed the staff and equipment would be moved downwards accordingly, of course keeping the best and brightest scholars as professors in the open universities. The advantage here lies in the fact that the quality of staff, the infrastructure, and the motivation of students would all be more adequately aligned.
Move to revisit the salary structure. A university professor is a senior member of any society and should be so compensated and his/her salary should not be subject to the vagaries of the weather. It takes 20 years of formal education to obtain a PhD and additional 7 years of teaching to become a professor. Such a person should be making the same salary as at least a parliamentarian, a general in the services, a permanent secretary, or a minister. These are comparable level jobs.
When I was in Nigeria, almost 40 years ago I thought high school in Lagos and I was able to live well in my one bedroom flat; to save money for further education; to help my siblings with their own education; and send money home. And I was not a graduate teacher (just inter LLB).
Provide the tools the teachers need for their work which should be of first class standards. How can a biology professor not have a laboratory and all the equipment needed to teach biology at a university level and the number of students he can actually teach? How could 250 students work in 20’x20’ lab at once? Especially when there are only 100 desks and 100 dissection equipment and only one animal and claim to be studying biology? Why would such a professor not go on strike? Why would he/she be part of deceiving the students? How could he publish anything ever? Why would we expect a computer science teacher to teach with out computers? Or a drama teacher to teach without theaters?
A professor who goes along with such a charade is a 419er.
The next step is to make going into university competitive, I mean really competitive. It ought to be for the few who have what it takes to pursue a college level education, motivation, determination, ambition. It has to be for the few, the tough, the marines! By moving down closed institutions to lower level trade schools, technical schools, etc, there would be openings for the youth who have other skills and who would use their hands to do other things that make a society function well. We need good carpenters, masons, lab technicians, computer technicians, mechanics who actually understand how autos work, factory hands, agricultural extension officers. If they are well trained they could actually create jobs that would hire the college graduates.
They are called “small business men/women”.
If this strike ends with just more money for the teachers, all we would have done is to kick the cup down. There would be another strike in 6 months. We need to get to the roots. We know the problem. We have the solution. But do we have the guts to do the right thing?
We shall see.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
October 15, 2013