BY IKENNA ASOMBA
AS 2012 came to a blissful end on Monday, it was imperative to take stock of issues and events that shaped various campuses of Nigeria’s higher institutions, while projecting on the way forward.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 unveiled budget 2012 before a joint session of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives). Put at N4.749 trillion, education seconded defence with an allocation of N400.15bn, 8.43 per cent of the total budget
On Wednesday, October 11, while addressing a joint session of the National Assembly, announced the N4.92 trillion budget for the 2013 fiscal year. Similar to the 2012 budget, N426.53 billion, 8.7 per cent, was earmarked for the education sector.
This attracted criticisms from stakeholders who opined that such amount is a far cry from the 26 per cent recommended by UNESCO for any country which intends to record rapid growth and development.
Spill over of ASUU 2011 strike
Poor budgetary allocation; delay of presidential assent to the bill increasing the retirement age of academic staff of universities from 65 to 70 years; call for more university autonomy, amongst other issues, led the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call its members across federal and state universities for a total and indefinite strike on midnight of Sunday, December 4, 2011.
According to the the ASUU President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, the Federal Government’s failure to honour the agreement it signed with ASUU in 2009 led to the 59-day strike, which was eventually called-off on Wednesday, February 1, 2012.
Coincidentally, as the ASUU strike held sway, the nation was thrown to pandemonium by the January 1, 2012, announcement by the Federal Government to totally remove oil subsidy, which led to increase in fuel pump price
the aftermath of the strike action was the steep rise in the prices of educational materials and services across primary, secondary and tertiary levels of learning.
Nine new Federal universities
Recall FG had September 2011, through the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I announced the commencement of operation of nine new federal universities. The new universities with a proposed National Universities Commission’s approved 500 admission quota each are: Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, and Federal University Lafia, Nasarawa State,
Others are Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State, Federal University, Ndufu-Alike-Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, and Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State.
Though some stakeholders lauded this move as it would increase access to university education for the teeming youth populace, others described it as waste of resources as the existing universities are not well funded which led to academic and infrastructural decadence.
But as year 2012 ended, how far these nine new universities have fared in terms of academic and infrastructural facelift leaves much to be desired.
UNILAG to MAULAG
A horrendous tsunami also hit the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, when President Jonathan, in his National Day Broadcast, announced the name change of the school to Moshood Abiola University (MAULAG) to immortalize Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (M.K.O), the assumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections by the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda’s administration.
This did not go down well with the students who protested while UNILAG’s Alumni association filed a court suit against the Federal Government. Sadly, the name change came when the school was mourning the death of its 10th VC, Prof. Adetokunbo Babatunde Sofoluwe on Saturday, May 12, 2012.
Waves of violent crises in the academia
Other worrisome issues that rocked the education sector in 2012 was the kidnapping of the VC of Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT) on August 15, 2012, at the university’s main gate, though he was released hale and hearty eight days later.
Worthy of mention is the massacre of over 46 students of Adamawa State University, the Federal Polytechnic and the School of Health Technology, all in Mubi, Adamawa State, by unknown gun men at midnight of Tuesday, October 2, 2012.
Three days after the Mubi massacre, four innocent and promising students of the University of Port-Harcourt (UNIPORT) were gruesomely murdered in cold blood by residents of Omuokiri-Aluu community, a nearby community to the university.
This led to a rampage by the students to protest the murder of their fellow students who were beaten and set ablaze by youths in Omuokiri-Aluu community.
RSUST-ASUU solidarity strike
When ASUU, on August 2012, called out its members on a solidarity strike, many students, parents and other concerned stakeholders were confused as to what the problem was.
The action saw no fewer than 56 chapters of the union embarked on a one-day solidarity strike with their Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) colleagues over alleged refusal of Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State to follow due process in the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the institution.
Amidst the hues and cries from the union, Gov Chibuike Amaechi was unmoved, which led to RSUST remaining under lock and key as at the time of filing this report.
from December 13th through 18th, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) held its 27th National Convention in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The convention also produced new leaders for the students.
At the end of the day, Comrade Yinka Gbadebo of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife was elected NANS President, while Comrade Jubril Ahmed (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria), Comrade Peculiar Asemota ( Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma) and Comrade Ubon Marcus (Unversity of Uyo, Akwa Ibom), were elected VP National Affairs, VP External Affairs, and VP Special Duties respectively.
Others are Comrade Olaogun Victor (Federal Poly, Offa), National P.R.O; Comrade Olusina Oyebisi (Federal University of Technology, Minna), Director Travels and Exchange; Comrade Kalib Abubakar (Kano State University), Director of Sports; Comrade Alaofin Blessing (Kogi State University), Ex-Officio1; Comrade Onukaogu Donald (Federal University Owerri), Senate President; Comrade Shima John (Benue State University, Makurdi) Deputy Senate President; and Com. Ali Abdullahi Mohammed (Kano State Polytechnic), the Assistant Secretary General.
Reviewing the nation’s education sector for year 2012, the major avoidable situations which stakeholders say have remained a clog in the wheel of success to the sector are poor budget and implementation, examination malpractices, poor performance recorded in national examinations, huge number of out of school children, and poor remuneration and welfare packages for teachers at all levels which is responsible for the numerous strike actions.
Others are poor quality of teachers, poor quality of graduates, non-conducive learning environment, complex and unnecessary school curricula, the quest and over-consciousness for certificate acquisition, instead of quest for knowledge, developmental skills and technical-know-how, amongst others.
As year 2013 takes-off, it behooves on government, parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders to consciously work towards ameliorating, if not totally curbing, the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation’s education sector.