ASUU model expired: Why Nigeria needs to revamp public primary, secondary education

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According to reports on 2018 International Literacy Day Celebration,Nigeria has about 65 million illiterate youths and adults, while a total of 13.2 million children were out of school.

“Over the last few years, Nigeria has been besieged by Boko Haram and lots of children have been put out of school”.

Currently Nigeria possesses the largest population of out of school learning youths in the world with current 2018 budget for education at 216.2 billion pounds.

This explains why the need to look at Nigeria’s educational system is very important, from the on-set Nigeria’s educational system has been setup to run on 6-3-3-4, in which the recipient would spend six years in primary and three years in junior and three years in secondary school and four years in a tertiary institution.
But the system has been marred with the history of failed government policies and corruption.

As a results of past failed government policies which has resulted to rise in unemployment rates especially among the youths and also the surge in insurgency.

The ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is as a result of the non-implementation of the 2009 agreement to address the decay in universities as signed in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) of 2017.

According to Prof. Lawan Abubakar, the Bauchi Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, at a news conference before the commencement of the current strike expressed surprise that the federal government has yet to implement the various agreements aimed at revitalising public universities, as agreed in 2017.

“ASUU and the federal government signed an agreement on the revitalisation of the universities and the payment of arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA). We also agreed that the EAA be captured in 2018 universities budgets.

A look at the demands of the Academic Staff Unions of University,(ASUU} reveals the neglect of the challenges faced by the Primary and Secondary school educations which is the foundation of every students in Tertiary Institution in Nigeria.

The problem

:: Subsidizing few thousands in universities help deny millions opportunities to attend primary schools. while some states still think that paying a primary school teacher $50 per month is excessively affordable while professors earn above $1,500 monthly.

The failure of our primary and secondary educational systems is one of the main reasons why Nigeria remains underdeveloped with skyrocketing unemployment where mass illiteracy is common. The fundamental rights of many kids across Nigeria, according to United Nations – the right to basic education – have been trampled. While we want great universities, we cannot forget where the priorities should be.

There is need for ASUU to include primary and secondary education in its advocacy. Interestingly, primary and secondary school teachers do not strike easily despite the extremely challenging working conditions they operate. ASUU is not Nigeria’s problem. Our major problem today is that we do not have functioning primary and secondary educational systems, Ndubuisi Ekekwe, CEO Fasmicro Group stated.

China has 99% primary education enrollment with less than 10% university attainment. They put all the good money in primary education. America does the same where primary and secondary are largely free. But in Nigeria, we flip it, taking care of few to the detriment of many. Why should a professor be paid $2,000 per month when a primary school teacher cannot even get $50 monthly? The most important education is primary education. Yet, from state to federal levels, Nigeria continues to pump more money into universities, leaving primary and secondary severely underfunded.

Nigeria need a comprehensive funding strategy. And government needs to engage with our professors with respect. You cannot sign a document and then run away from it. No matter how you look at it, this is a problem government has created. Our professors have the rights to pursue avenues to get more funding, as they would like to compete academically with others across the globe. But at the end, it is the government that should balance these issues: ASUU should come below primary education.

Plotting the Future of Education in Nigeria

Primary education should be free and compulsory in Nigeria, and must be high quality. Even as we inject more funding to improve it, we should make secondary education nearly free, making it accessible to our citizens. University education which remains the center of all agitations should be funded but must not be the main priority: we need to take care of the millions before we focus on the privileged few. Yes, tertiary education should come last in the funding priorities in Nigeria.

As federal government scales access to tertiary education even as budget dwindles, strikes will become the new normal. Simply, tertiary education will not improve in Nigeria over the next two decades unless our economic system changes. Yes, the same government that does not have funding is the same that launched and added more than 20 new tertiary institutions in the last decade. As that happens, do not expect quality to improve. Interestingly, unlike before when government used to have money, today, it has none. So, even strikes will not change much, permanently.

I have suggested some options for the government to consider:

Revamp the tax system to make it more attractive for private sector to support universities.

The Nigerian tax system is not designed to support philanthropy. That is why we do not have a vibrant one. It does not mean that a nation must be rich first before its tax system can be engineered to stimulate philanthropy. ASUU can lead on that, through Tax Reform, and make it possible for individuals and companies to put money in the schools and get tax benefits. Sure, ASUU members may be busy, but that should not stop them from helping the government to revamp our tax codes to drive innovation

Establish Education Loan Scheme that is linked to BVN (bank verification number) where people that receive government funding must be asked to pay back. The private sector should manage it in partnership with the government. In this scheme, provide academic scholarships to the most academically qualified in the nation. There are people that do not need to be in universities but attend anyway because its nearly free.

Give universities FULL autonomy. Yes, let them pay themselves whatever they want to pay themselves but they have to source the money by themselves. With competitions, they would come at parity on quality, pricing and value.

Way Forward

ASUU funding model is outdated and it is time they realize that no strike can change that. It costs about $55,000 to attend Harvard in a year. If you think you can strike to get that quality, you have not started. And if you think students can pay $500 and get that quality, you are not real. Nigeria needs a working model – the one advocated by ASUU is an expired one.

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Samson Gbenga Salau [Editorial Board Adviser] Gbenga Samuel Salau is a professional journalist with over 17 years experience in journalism, he is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. On completion of his youth service, he joined The Guardian as a freelance journalist and was later absorbed as a staff. While in the University, he was a campus journalist reporting for the Independence Hall and Faculty of Arts Press Clubs. As a campus journalist, he won the following awards; Independence Hall Press Best News writer; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best News Reporter/Writer; First Runner-up, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism; Association of Faculty of Arts Students’ Press Best Reporter; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Political Writer; Winner, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism, and University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Interviewer. He served the Association of Communication and Language Arts Students, as the Public Relation Officer, the same year he was appointed the News Editor of the Association of Faculty of Arts Students Press. The following session, he was made the General Editor, and a member of the 13-man University of Ibadan Students’ Union Transition Committee. As a reporter in The Guardian, in 2014, he won the Promasidor Quill Award Best Report on Nutrition and DAME Business Reporting category. In the 2015 edition of the Promasidor Quill Award, he won the best Report on Nutrition and Brand Advocate Categories, while in 2016, he won the NMMA Print Journalist of the Year, first runner-up Golden Pen Reporter of the Year and SERAs CSR Awards. Gbenga Salau loves traveling, reading, and listening to songs with good lyrics no matter the genre.

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