There is a reason why Nigerians would rather go to university abroad. Although our obsession with the foreign plays a role here, the truth is that higher education in Nigeria has fallen far short of its potential. Some argue that Nigerian academia has declined due to the constant strike action by academic staff. However, if one takes a look at the motivations for these strikes, a different failure is revealed.
Nigerian trade unions such as the infamous Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU usually engage in strikes for improvements in welfare, teaching and research facilities as well as university autonomy. Indeed, strikes are caused by structural issues embedded deeply in the Nigerian higher education system.
These motivations were strikingly similar to those behind the nationwide non-academic strike which started in December and was called off this March, 2018. According to the acting chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the federal government’s refusal to implement a 2009 agreement incited the strike. Failure to pay outstanding allowance, absorb workers into the university and end the usurpation of duties by teaching staff has motivated the total strike.
All of these show that there is dire need for improvements to the inner workings of higher education. The problem is not with drafting policies, but with enacting them. Indeed, the policy-practice gap that plagues Nigerian politics impacts the higher education sector. This is the argument held forth by Cyprian O. Eneh and Ngozi J. Owo from the University of Nigeria, who link the rots in the Nigerian university system with priorities misplaced in the hands of the ruling class and the economy.
If we want to see Nigeria’s foreign dependency cut short, we need to stop exporting our money to Western academics who are no more capable than we are. If we want to see an improvement in job prospects for graduates, we need to increase the quality of education here at home. And if we want to see more of our locally-educated graduates excel both domestically and internationally, we must close the gap between word and action in order to improve our education standards from within. May God bless our country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokubo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.