At a protest last July at the University of Ibadan in south-western Nigeria, a student brandished a placard that complained, “Education is dead in Nigeria.”
The demonstrators were from Nigeria’s oldest university, founded in 1948. They had taken to the streets to demand an end to a lecturers’ strike that had grounded academic activities in all but two of Nigeria’s 78 public universities. The strike was in its third week when the protest took place. The message on the placard was both a plea for the lecturers to return to work, and an attempt to draw attention to the state of education in Nigeria.
The lecturers’ strike, the third in four years, pitted the academics against the owners of Nigeria’s public universities – the country’s central and state governments. The trade dispute centered on a wide-ranging agreement between the two parties, concluded in 2009 at the end of a four-month lecturers’ strike.
The agreement provides for greater funding of public universities, better wages for lecturers and a declaration of a state of emergency in the tertiary education sector. The lecturers’ union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), now accuses the government of reneging on the terms of the 2009 agreement.
“Strike has always been an option of last resort for the union,” explained Nasir Fagge, ASUU chairman, during an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, Daily Trust.
“We have had almost close to 50 meetings with government at several levels” between 2010 and 2013, he added. “We have been lobbying to ensure that we avert this crisis, but it became clear to us that the dialogue was between the deaf and the dumb, and under such a circumstance we did not have an option than to withdraw our services.”
The strike took place at a time when the government was under attack for establishing new universities while existing ones atrophy from inadequate funding. In the last three years the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, a former university lecturer, has established nine new universities.
Source: Education News