In the fifties and sixties, there were very few universities in the country, including the University of Ibadan, Yaba College, and Zaria College, which became Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). It was less expensive for Nigerians to study abroad mainly because of the many opportunities such that foreign students in the United Kingdom, for instance, and Europe could attend college during the day and work in the evening and over the weekend, thereby having enough money for welfare and sometimes tuition. The opportunity was also there for the acquisition of scholarships, so most students from less privileged members of the society saved only for their airfare to study in very good universities all over Europe and the UK.
The Nigerian pound then was a lot stronger than the dollar, so most students who stayed for six to seven years came back to Nigeria with first or second degrees from sound universities. In the same vein, some foreigners from Europe, Asia, and some East and West African countries came to study at our few universities, particularly the University of Ibadan (UI) and Ahmadu Bello University because those universities offered some of the best education and living conditions. There was nothing like security problems or the kidnapping of students.
During my student days in London in the early sixties, the company where I worked on a part-time basis had a doctor of medicine that trained at the University of Ibadan. The first day I met him, a white Englishman, he was like a brother to me because of his fun memories of Ibadan and Nigeria as a whole. I was only in his clinic for examination. Because I worked and lived abroad in the seventies and eighties and because of the standard at that time, I insisted on having my children have their basic education up to the university in Nigeria. But at the time three of them got into the undergraduate stage, one of them was to read Engineering at Nsukka, one of my girls was to read Economics at the University of Jos and the third was to read Law at the University of Lagos.
When I visited Nigeria from my foreign engagement, I found that they were all home for a couple of weeks as a result of some strike and that was how I pulled all of them not only out of the universities but to now studying in foreign universities. At the time, they graduated with a second degree and returned to Nigeria, some of their mates were still in university. Also, later in my work in some African countries, I encountered medical doctors, directors of work, and other professionals who studied in some Nigerian universities, they also talked about their wonderful memories but not just as a whole but also Nigerian education factor that offered the best education you can find anywhere in the world. Today, Nigerians in thousands are in the universities in Cameroun, Republic of Benin. Universities in Accra, and far away in the northern part of Ghana in Kumasi. Some are there because of the better living conditions, some are there because it is less expensive and some are there because they can estimate when they will graduate, unlike the Nigerian universities where the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) can kickstart an indefinite strike at any given time.
The current ASUU strike started since February 14, 2022, and has been on for 168 days without the parties involved coming to a resolution. The education system in Nigeria has taken a bad and shameless shape as the Federal Government is not adhering to what ASUU demands and the association is advising the students to stay at least two years at home to enable them to resolve whatever talks they are having with the government.
A system where the education of its citizens is not of any concern to the ruling government is a failed system. A system where those in government have their children and wards in a functional educational system outside the country while the undergraduates in its country are sitting and idling at home is a shameless nation.
A system where striking and rioting is the only language understood by the government is a shameless system and idles away in backwardness.
ASUU held a meeting on August 1 to ascertain the stop or continuation of the strike and they have extended the strike by another four weeks, which would bring the days of the strike to 196 days of the undergraduates idling at home without certainty of continuing with their studies.
As it was in Nigeria and also with our neighbouring countries and everywhere in the world, parents look forward and labour so much to send their children to universities. Sometimes only able to send one in a family while the rest of the family members will wait to get their turn after the graduation of the first who will then help in funding the rest. It is still a common practice in many nations I know and have visited, even in China. Sadly, families that plan that way here in Nigeria have been completely disorganized and confused, running out of money and not having anywhere to turn to especially when 95% of university undergraduates in Nigeria cannot afford to travel out of the country for a continuation of university education. Pathetically, the continuation of the devaluation of the naira has made such an attempt impossible.
Businesses that depend on the patronage of students to thrive are packing up due to low turnout and having no sales, leaving the owners in debt and loss. Students, parents and businesses are generally affected by a single act of striking in the educational system and negligence of the governing bodies.
How much backwards can we go before something is done to bring back some CHANGE and to bring back the way it was that worked very well for Nigeria and for Nigerians?