University Education in Nigeria
This present system of subsidized University education has outlived its usefulness, purpose, and capability... it is safe to conclude that this system is now dead.
Dr. Olatokunbo Otitoju
University education is a privilege even in developed parts of the world. Basic education is a fundamental human right - the right to free and compulsory primary education, and the right to available and accessible secondary education. The right to available and accessible secondary education, including technical and vocational education and training, was made progressively free.
In Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), a union formed to cater to the interests of Academic staff of Federal and State Universities, should realize that in the scheme of play, they are on the lowest rung of the ladder, the least of our worries. The reason why we have mass illiteracy, mass under-development, and unemployment in Nigeria is simply due to the skewed focus on ASUU and the Universities as against the basics. The FG has been subsidizing a privilege while neglecting the basic rights of its citizenry.
I said earlier in one of my posts on X.com, formerly Twitter, that the Nigerian Federal Government subsidized my medical degree and numerous other graduates of federal tertiary institutions at the detriment of millions of out-of-school children who are constantly being denied their basic right to education. The Federal Government is the highest employer of academic labour (Federal Schools’ ASUU) in Nigeria with a huge and unrealistic recurrent expenditure covering salaries and allowances. ASUU is not our problem in Nigeria! Unfortunately, the Federal Government came to an agreement with the union to continuously spend huge amounts of money on these institutions for salaries, allowances and other costs, or running these institutions. This was done at a time when Nigeria boasted of better oil revenue than today.
Dwindling revenue in sharp contrast with rapid population growth has now made it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to continue to subsidize tertiary education and fund ASUU. The decay in the educational sector is an obvious result of this fact. It's time to let go of the past and build new leads for the future; time to choose quality sustainable education over cheap systems yielding half-baked graduates. Let the Federal Government set up an educational loan system and a scholarship system. The FG cannot afford a “tuition-free” system for every Adeolu, Chidera, or Abubakar especially the lazy and unserious students who are on campus to constitute a nuisance.
To birth lasting and needed development, the Federal Government of Nigeria must shift its focus and revamp the tertiary education system. For example, China has 99% attendance in primary schools but only 9.5% of Chinese citizens have bachelor's degrees. My phone was probably made by a Chinese with basic education and no tertiary education. Chinese kids are exposed to skills such as coding as early as in preschool, making them ready to excel in areas where tertiary education is not needed.
A viable scholarship scheme to the rescue?
"The Nigerian government should hand off the tertiary education system and channel our scarce resources to other tiers or forms of education.
We need artisans and people with technical skills We want to assemble cars and phones, we need the textile industry to boom, we need steel fabricators, we need IT programmers, and we need skilled, mechanized farmers."
The Federal Government should grant the universities autonomy and let them charge their fees as recommended by the University boards and/or their Senate. A target of 30% student enrollment on scholarship should be considered where each qualifying University student gets at least 1M naira per annum in scholarship. This may be targeted at the best brains selected from the results of an examination or annual performance in school. Students' performance figures may be crunched from JAMB statistics and post-UMTE tests or a post-UMTE scholarship qualifying test, and the resultant financial implications are to be factored into our budget.
Students who do not qualify for scholarships and cannot afford school fees may be offered educational loans to cover fees and living expenses needed per session for 4 years and 5 years respectively or for the length of their courses of study. The students can pay back their study loans once they become gainfully employed, and the National Universities Commission (NUC) as a regulator would ensure that Universities don't charge arbitrary fees or exploit students.
I was lucky to get a good and quality education as a beneficiary of the tuition-free/subsidized system of tertiary education in Nigeria. However, we must tell ourselves the harsh truth that it is no longer feasible to fund this system. Somebody has to pay for quality education, and it will be the government or we the citizens. Sadly, at this material time, the Federal Government of Nigeria is just unable to sustain such payments.
ASUU will keep on holding every successive Nigerian government by the jugular with strikes with this current system till infinity if nothing changes. Trending hashtags and sentiments on this issue without valuable discourse on the way forward shows a general lack of intellectual acuity. This present system has outlived its usefulness, purpose, and capability. My father enjoyed free education at the University of Ibadan, where he had a room to himself, meal tickets, sponsored exchange programs, free tuition, a free shuttle to school, and much more. I enjoyed a similar system but with a slight decline in quality, With the current decline, it is safe to conclude that this system is now dead. The Nigerian government should hand off the tertiary education system and channel our scarce resources to other tiers or forms of education.
"The Federal Government of Nigeria like many other governments around the world, can no longer fund quality tertiary education for everyone."
We need people with technical skills and artisans. We want to assemble cars and phones, we need the textile industry to boom, we need people to fabricate steel, we need IT programmers, and we need skilled/mechanized farmers. We need businessmen (the Ladipo type especially), who can turn 1m Naira to 10m Naira in a few weeks through hard work and diligence. We need e-commerce skills desperately. We need people to make shoes, garments and more. We need to quickly grow as a nation across sectors. We need people to operate cranes, forklifts, and excavators. The list of the skills gap in Nigeria is just endless.
ASUU should realize that the method of funding University education solely by the government and holding their sponsors to ransom via strike actions is outdated. No sentiments, the Federal Government of Nigeria like many other governments around the world, can no longer fund quality tertiary education for everyone.
In truth, the government should stop taking away funds that should be for basic education to be funding tertiary education in a classic abnormality. Where basic education fails, there is just no foundation on which to build any advancements. This is the possible explanation for the looming increase in mob action, low reasoning, lower individual/national productivity, and snail speed development (where any exists). It’s time we get back to basics!
Let ASUU continue to work, resume productive thinking, and continue to channel a path to sustainable financing. remembered.