For decades, disruptions in the Nigerian university education system has remained perennial with no headway in sight. In the last 20 years, university lecturers have gone on nationwide strikes 16 times, covering a cumulative period of 51 months.
In February 2022, and after prolonged verbal warnings, ASUU yet again embarked on a one-month warning strike. When the Federal Government failed to respond to its demand, the union extended its warning strike for two additional months. In May, a meeting between both parties again ended in a deadlock, forcing the union to further extend the action by 12 more weeks.
However, as students lament the continued closure of institutions of learning and the inconveniences emanating from the strike action, the nation’s public office holders are taking to social media to celebrate their children’s graduation from universities abroad. Despite growing criticism on their decisions to allow their children study abroad while neglecting the country’s deteriorating educational system, the act remains a common feature among them.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, his vice, were among the political elites who recently celebrated their children’s graduation from UK universities. The list has continued to grow since the beginning of the year.
THE LIST IS ENDLESS
April 28, Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, was in London to attend the graduation ceremony of Ahmad, his son, who had just bagged a degree from a University in the UK.
On July 10, Seyi Makinde, Oyo State Governor and Okezie Ikpeazu, his Abia State counterpart, were in the UK to felicitate with Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, whose son had just bagged a law degree from the University of Exeter.
Four days later, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, Jigawa State Governor, travelled to the UK to celebrate the graduation of Mohammed, his son for graduating from Brunel University in London.
Last week, photos of Mayo Daniel, son of Gbenga Daniel, the former Governor of Ogun State, surfaced online after he graduated from the University of London.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, came under heavy criticism from Nigerians when he shared pictures of himself receiving lectures at Harvard University in the United States of America. He would later take to his verified Twitter account to apologise for his actions, deeming it as ‘not being sensitive to the plight of Nigerian students’.
CALLS FOR LAW AGAINST OVERSEAS EDUCATION
In 2020, the Ondo State chapter of the ASUU issued a press release advocating that public office holders be banned from sending their children/wards abroad to study in tertiary institutions.
“Members of the ruling class and their cohorts have their wards schooling abroad, so they have no commitment to end ASUU strike since political office has become occupational rather than publicservice,” it said.
“Until we domesticate two very important practices as laws in Nigeria, we may not get out of this doldrums – first, an act to compel all public office holders and government appointees to have their wards educated in Nigeria public schools from primary to tertiary level.
To further support the demand, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU National President, called on Nigerians not to vote for politicians whose children school abroad during an interview in May.
AND LAWMAKERS KICKED
The House of Representatives has twice rejected a bill to prohibit public officials from sending their children and wards to schools abroad without an appropriate approval.
The rejection in March was the second time the lawmakers would reject the bill in four years.
While leading the debate on the bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Regulate International Studies for Wards and Children of Nigerian Public Officers, to Strengthen Indigenous Institutions, Provide Efficient Educational Services for National Development; and for Related Matters”, Sergius Ogun, a house member representing Esan North East LGA, Edo State, noted that the bill would strengthen indigenous educational institutions to meet global standards, boost the economy by reducing cash flight and foreign exchange and reduce cash flight and foreign exchange.
Ogun also stated that if signed into law, the act would reduce brain drain and institute good welfare conditions for indigenous academics, experts and professionals based abroad to come back and develop their country with their skills and expertise.
In the end, several lawmakers criticised the bill. While some stated that the proposed restriction would infringe on the rights of the affected children, others argued that not all government officials sponsor their children’s education in foreign schools with public funds.
When the bill was eventually put to vote, members overwhelmingly rejected it.
LAWMAKERS SHOULD REPRESENT PEOPLES’ INTERESTS
Student activists have continued to react to the trend, by condemning the actions of the lawmakers.
Ayodele Aduwo, one of such activists from the University of Ibadan, noted that governments at all levels have continued to show contempt rather concern for the education sector. He said their disposition towards the sector clearly reflects in the way they flaunt pictures of their wards when they graduate from schools in foreign countries while academic activities in Nigerian universities remain shut down.
“The federal government and every typical political personality are orphaned by a poor conscience,” said Aduwo. “It shows an unreserved display of disregard as students remain at home. The conscience of the Government is paralytic and incompetent.”
Speaking on why Ogun’s bill was not passed at the National Assembly, Aduwo said it was because the lawmakers were not protecting the interests of the people.
“Nigerians must ensure to elect lawmakers, who have the interest of the people at heart, as we go into the polls to correct our past mistakes,” he said.
In support of Aduwo’s views, Festus Ogun, a human rights lawyer and social commentator, said the move to revitalise our education system would truly begin when lawmakers get their wards to study in the country.
“They seem to feel unconcerned because they are not directly affected, they are completely not committed to the resuscitation of our education sector,” the lawyer said.
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