Once again the academic staff union of universities (ASUU) is on strike. And like most of the strikes in recent times, it has paralysed activities in university campuses all over the country. This is an oft repeated pattern in our national life, with the attendant disastrous consequences for education.

The issues at stake according to ASUU relate to an agreement signed in 2009 with the Nigerian government, which among other things include university autonomy, conditions of service, funding and development of infrastructure. It seems the government is reneging on its part and ASUU has resolved to strike indefinitely until the agreement is implemented to the fullest.

Education is the bedrock of a nation’s development, as it trains necessary manpower, improves knowledge, capacity and skill, fosters equality among citizens, increases technological capability and promotes innovations and inventions. These can be easily seen from the educational attainments of the developed nations like Japan, Germany, United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

It is therefore rather bewildering that Nigerian leaders have chosen to continually treat education with disdain, while pretending to be promoting national development. This trend has not always been the case, as the independence leaders such as Obafemi Awolowo made giant strides in educating Nigerians. In fact, many of the current crop of ‘rulers’ benefitted from the free education policy of Awo and his contemporaries. Alas, what we see today are incorrigible rulers who not only pay lip service to education, but to virtually all aspects of our national life.

A way of tackling this problem, which I have come to believe is a deliberate ploy to keep Nigerians in the shackles of illiteracy, poverty and backwardness (so that rulers can continue to feed fat on our commonwealth), is to make it mandatory for the children of Nigeria’s elites to attend public schools in this country. We must make sure that the children of political office holders and top public servants attend public schools, even if it has to be made a constitutional issue.

Their nonchalance stems from the fact that their children and wards are in the best schools abroad, so what does it matter if we close our schools down for a year? Their children will still be better educated and equipped to grab the best opportunities back home, coupled with their influence and connections. In effect, the children of the poor stand little chance and the vicious cycle of poverty is perpetuated. Education no longer becomes the great equalizer that societies have come to experience and societal growth is stymied.

A second solution is to implement the twenty-six per cent of budget recommended by UNESCO to fund education. This will help address the problem of infrastructure and man power for the education will also enable education authorities to adequately plan and develop the nation’s human capacity. Increased funding has been empirically linked to better standards, increased capacity and higher productivity.

Apart from funding, education must be seen as a sine qua non for development. The world today is being driven by knowledge and the frontiers of knowledge keeps expanding rapidly. To keep up, we must have an educated and knowledgeable manpower that can drive our development agenda. It is the only way to stay relevant in a world where innovations on average last no longer than a year.

ASUU on its part must ensure that present and future resources are not only judiciously utilized but applied towards specified programs and projects. They must also ensure that the bad eggs amongst them are sanctioned and learning, based on merit and hard work is made to thrive.

Finally, Nigerian leaders must realize that overall prosperity lies in harnessing the best that society has to offer and using same to promote the progress and welfare of its members.  Any society that takes care of only the rich and progress is restricted to a few, no matter how docile is bound to experience an upheaval sooner or later. So they must be made to learn and understand that the nation belongs to us all, before they plunge us all into a boiling cauldron.

Piece written by Oke Okpomo  Follow him on twitter@kpomskerio

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