by Olusola Daniel
Does being a graduate of a Nigerian university guarantee you a good job these days? The answer is no! In a country like ours where our youths are daily faced with the herculean task of successfully completing a bachelors’ degree under the severest of conditions, this is what we have come to expect.
Our graduates, when they finally complete their academic sojourn, enter the labour market with varied degrees; some with a BSc, and others a B.A and what have you…degrees that should make them proud. But, this sense of pride in themselves soon diminish when prospective employers disregard their degrees and tag them ‘unemployable’.
What else could possibly crush the dreams of a fresh graduate with more ferocity? Unemployable? After spending more than the requisite number of years only to come out of school and be thus labelled. It can be disheartening.
This issue of ‘half-baked’ graduates churned out by our tertiary institutions is highly demoralising on several counts. Education at the tertiary level is swarmed with a host of problems and challenges of which poor funding seems to have stolen the spotlight. However, other issues such as outdated curricular, poor staffing, and even management’s incompetence have been swept under the carpet. ASUU has stated emphatically that they consider it unfair to continue to take the blame for the poor quality of graduates, and this should rather be blamed on lack of facilities, expertise, and the inability of our academic institutions to retain bright minds; hence the need to take a definite stand and fight for an upgrade in the academic standard by way of a strike action.
If that was all there is to the prolonged strike action, one might applaud their efforts, and even call them noble. However, in the wake of recent developments, there is cause for us to ask whom they are really fighting for. The fact that funding is not as it should be does not in any way justify the outdated curricular and obsolete courses brandished by many government owned universities. There are cases of lecturers resenting students who dare to question the status quo and question the old knowledge harangued by their lecturers with modern ones.
You see lecturers who have not bothered to find out the current trends in their respective fields of study still dishing out outdated facts as if it were the government’s responsibility to improve their own minds.
Today, even in the wake of federal government’s agreement to disburse funds to the universities, we must ask ourselves, how much will really go into infrastructure and academic learning? Must this union of academics that has shamelessly resolved to cling to the breast of our motherland milk her dry? The Minister of Finance, herself a daughter of professors, has become a victim of their verbal assaults. These learned people have forgotten so quickly that the allocation recently approved for them is from a fixed pool. It is ludicrous to even think, suggest or imply that a woman who has herself boosted the economic productivity and opportunity for our youth to thrive would want them either to sit back at home or to be taught under the worst possible conditions. These name-calling and placard-holding people, who should be an embodiment of learning, however seem to think so. How have they helped the economy when they themselves have held to ransom the very thing that they claim they want to fix?
What they deem to be a selfless act to protect the citadel of learning will be no more than a show of their lack of sensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian youths – after all, who is the most affected so far by this shutdown? Certainly not the lecturers who will still be paid salaries for every single month they sit in their homes and leave the youths to languish.
ASUU must remember the saying of our fathers that when you point one finger at someone, the other four fingers point back at you. What are they teaching our youth? To wait for the government to do everything for them? Shouldn’t these people set an example for us, challenging us to be self-reliant, to think outside the box? I find it disheartening that till date they have not mapped out creative and innovative ways to generate funds. No thanks to our dear lecturers, half-baked graduates flood the labour market and the value of a Nigerian-based education diminishes by the hour.
While we bemoan the fate of the education sector, the poor infrastructure and learning aids, let us remember that the main object of our concern should be the students themselves. I wish I had confidence in ASUU that the funds, once disbursed, would be used for the very things they claimed they are fighting for.
Are they nobler than the politicians and public office holders whom they say should be burned at the stake for their lack of competence and compassion? Only time will tell.
Olusola Daniel is a political observer and advocate for community development. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.