The Education Writers’ Association of Nigeria (EWAN) on Monday mobilised other stakeholders in the country’s education sector to demand “immediate reopening of Nigerian universities.”
Other participants in the protest included a rights activist and former national secretary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Jiti Ogunye; convener of Concerned the Parents and Educators (CPE) Network, Yinka Ogunde, and representatives of the National Parent-Teachers’ Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), among others.
The association, a body of journalists across print, broadcast and online media organisations who report education in the country, said the intervention came necessary “following the nonchalant attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to the continued shutdown of universities for almost three months.”
During its season careful walk to the office of Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, EWAN presented a list of demands contained in a letter addressed to Mr Buhari through the governor.
The letter was received on behalf of the governor by the special adviser on education, Tokunbo Wahab, while a lawmaker representing Ikeja 2 constituency, Ademola Kasumu, received another copy on behalf of the speaker of the state’s house of assembly, Mudasiru Obasa.
Speaking on behalf of the group, its chairman, Mojeed Alabi, said EWAN is worried by the “large-scale rot in the nation’s education sector.”
He said both the government and the striking universities’ workers have contributed significantly to the rot.
Members of the association in their tens carried placards with inscriptions that included “No to incessant strikes;” “Save education from total collapse;” “No to corruption on campuses,” “Fund education adequately,” “No to sexual harassment,” among others.
Mr Alabi said universities in Nigeria, like other academic institutions, have been abandoned to suffer infrastructural decay, dearth of facilities, poor teacher-student ratios, poor funding, and moral and academic corruption.
The chairman, who is also the head of development desk at PREMIUM TIMES, said the crisis in the country’s education sector has been linked largely to the politicisation of the sector.
In the association’s letter to Mr Buhari, EWAN wrote: “More worrisome is the almost the ree-month prolonged strike by both Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) over unresolved disagreement, and the dangerous silence of the government under your watch.
“After 11-month prolonged industrial action by the universities’ workers’ unions of 2020, and the coronavirus-induced shutdown of 2021, no nation an desirous of a brighter future should allow her ivory towers to be thrown into another round of avoidable crisis as we currently have.”
EWAN said Nigeria does not need a soothsayer to know that the consequences of the government’s “deliberate neglect of education over the years are already here.”
“With the cacophony of bomb blasts far and near, abductions of innocent people, brigandage and armed robberies, ritual killings and indecent conducts among adults and children, it will not be out of place to conclude that this beloved country is fast degenerating to the Hobbesian state of nature,” the letter added.
Ogunye, Ogunde speak
Mr Ogunye said Nigeria has reached conduct where things have gone very bad, and that “Nigerians lost hope and are behaving like a conquered people.”
“But we cannot be silenced by the enormity of our problems. And that is why we must commend EWAN for this bold step. Others must emulate this by making use of the civic space to demand good governance at all levels of education,” Mr Ogunye said.
He added that the problem in public universities took a dangerous dimension “when the political class started to share university licences among themselves and their cronies.”
He said, in the past, Nigerian graduates were accepted abroad just by presenting their certificates, but “today they are made to take examinations when they travel abroad because the certificates can no longer guarantee productivity.”
He said: “This is because our graduates are half-baked today. We must continue to fight. It can be a generational battle. So you are not going to be dismayed if you don’t achieve the objective or achieve it in trinkles. We know that things are getting worse but we must keep pushing.
“What you are doing is very important, efforts like yours should be appreciated and saluted and supported because of the crisis in our educational system.”
On her part, Mrs Ogunde said CPE is disturbed by the turn of events in Nigeria’s education sector. She said from basic to tertiary level the system has been bastardised and pledged the commitment of her group to building networks of stakeholders to ensure that the desired reform is achieved.
“I represent a network of parents with more than 241,000 members nationwide who are passionate about reforming the education sector as the basic step towards addressing the multifaceted challenges facing the country,” Mrs Ogunde said.
Governor’s aide receives letter
Speaking on behalf of Governor Sanwo-Olu, Mr Wahab, said the strike by the workers’ unions is not the way out of the crisis in the sector.
He said the tertiary institutions owned by the Lagos State Government have not shut down in the last five years or more, and commended the successive administrations in the state for prioritising education.
“The governor of Lagos state doesn’t believe in strike actions, and that is why our old and new universities have continued to function even as universities in other states are on strike. We will pass your message to the governor and ensure that the letter gets to President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
He commended the journalists for their peaceful conduct and the civility of the approach. He said whatever good efforts that would make the schools to be reopened, the Lagos State government would be a proud contributor.
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