A recent media report revealed that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), after a soul-searching session in Bauchi state, is making plans to check the craze on the part of well- to- do Nigerians to expose their children to foreign education. In their opinion, the mad rush for overseas’ education by wards of the elite is responsible for the prevailing poor standard of education in the country.
Even worse, the eggheads claimed, the abandonment of the education system is majorly responsible for the security challenges confronting the sector, a situation that has resulted in kidnapping of school children for ransom, abduction and killing many of those school children by terrorists.
In the aftermath of this development, some state governments have shut down, out rightly, their schools just as parents are withdrawing their kids from school in a country with the largest out of school children in Africa estimated to be in excess of 10 million.
Ironically, in the opinion of this newspaper, the invasion of the nation’s school system by terrorists has a positive side to it. It has exposed the decay in the system, the dilapidation of infrastructure and the squalid condition under which the children pretend to be receiving education. The pervasive neglect is largely responsible for the ease of access to these schools by criminals who take advantage of the lack of security and other facilities to carry out their evil intentions.
In the midst of this scandalous negligence, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), recently, as part of its argument against the call for the devaluation of the Naira, disclosed that Nigerian parents now spend over $10 billion annually to educate their children in all parts of world and at all grades of education from primary, secondary and university levels. The apex bank also raised the alarm that even middle-class families and entry level civil servants no longer believe in the Nigerian educational system or its quality. Foreign and local private education has become, for this segment of the population, unfortunately, a class symbol.
According to the bank, the implication of this is that a huge pressure is put on the nation’s foreign reserve and, by extension, the value of the local currency. The CBN further argued that if this madness could be cured and the process reversed, this annual drain would not only strengthen the Naira but also release the resources needed in other sectors of the economy.
As a way out, the CBN posited that Nigerians could begin by requiring that the children of all government officials at all levels (whether elected or appointed) be educated in Nigeria. If we add the more than $7 billion the country wastes on medical tourism, particularly by this same elite group, then the picture will begin to be clearer as to why the nation’s human development index, when compared to other countries of the world, is so low and the Naira so weak.
It is important to also point out that the private sector investment in the education sector which ordinarily ought to have been a positive development has contributed immensely in the conscious drive to cripple the public education sector. It is so because most of these private schools are owned by those who held public offices or are still holding those offices – the policymakers and the custodians of the nation’s treasury.
From all indications, ASUU has a point in their drive to rehabilitate the education sector. However, in our opinion, whatever plans they have must necessarily start with their members who are also culpable in the rot the education sector is experiencing. Apart from participating in the system they are condemning, which is the elite sending their wards overseas, ASUU members have played a key role in making university education in the country a charade. We call to mind the practice in most universities where ASUU members demand sex for marks, ask students to pay for marks, sarcastically referred to as sorting. We are also aware that ASUU members compile their half-baked lecture notes into books which they self-publish and insist that the students buy them or fail their courses no matter what they write in the examination halls.
ASUU cannot deny that their incessant, almost irresponsible resort to strikes on every issue is also not helping the education sector. Most ASUU members are consultants and businessmen who pay more attention to those side attractions at the expense of their main job of raising the bar of the quality of education at the tertiary level.
In holding ASUU to task, we are not by any means downplaying the issue they have raised. On the contrary, what this newspaper is stating in bold terms is that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and should begin, in earnest, our individual mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa (through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault). There ought to be no room for finger- pointing.