HOWEVER the strikes of university, and polytechnic teachers are resolved, they would fail to address the damages from imbalance in the attention the authorities give different sides of higher education.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, are demanding more funding for teaching facilities and research, better welfare for teachers and improvements in the administrative structures of their institutions.
There may be extract additional promises on these issues, yet the authorities are neglecting dangerous shifts in our education.
Discrimination that governments and other employers exhibit in their treatment of graduates of universities and polytechnics is central to the issue. They promote the discrimination.
It took almost two months of the ASUP nationwide strike before the authorities negotiated with ASUP. Days into the ASUU strike, all efforts were mustered to return the teachers to the classrooms.
Obviously, the children of the high and mighty attend universities – the ASUU strike affected them.
Only the children of the poor, those who do not have the contacts that pull in admission, after the jigsaw with cut off marks and post-JAMB screening, attend polytechnics.
The ASUP strike benefitted from the attention ASUU received; the major reason the authorities remembered ASUP. Official discriminatory practices in education are dangerous for development.
Nigeria is already paying dearly for the indifference to polytechnic education. Fewer candidates are applying to polytechnics and colleges of education.
We would be producing fewer graduates with the practical background that polytechnic education provides and less teachers at the critical levels graduates of colleges of education fill.
Statistics from the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination indicated that in 2013, 1,670,833 candidates applied to universities, 28,977 candidates to polytechnics, and 28,445 to colleges of education.
They are jostling for 520,000 places in over 128 federal, state and private universities; 76 federal, state and private polytechnics; and the over 63 colleges of education.
It is instructive that the 52,608 students that applied to the University of Ibadan, which is the 10th in candidates’ choice, is slightly less than the 57,422 students that applied to all the polytechnics and colleges of education. Applications to these institutions are 3.4 per cent of applications to universities.
Nigeria should worry about this development. The appropriate response would be to pay adequate attention to education and halt the discrimination.
Of the 520,000 places that are available for students in 2013/2014, many of them are in polytechnics and colleges of education – they will not be filled.
Students are making their choices based on the premium Nigeria places on university education. It is time the education authorities realised the damage they are doing, more damage than ASUU and ASUP strikes.