Education and health as economic imperatives (1)
Sometimes, when I look at the government’s reactions to issues relating to public education and health, particularly with regard to the meager public spending on this social sector in the budgets and the strike activities of the trade unions, I feel the need to walk up to the president to ask for his resignation letter for playing ludo with the most important sub-sectors of the Nigerian economy. Unfortunately, I don’t have such power since he got there through an election. Can I go to court to file a complaint for his dismissal for negligence? I am not trained as a lawyer. I am not an educated person and I don’t have money to hire a lawyer to help me or even seek advice from a lawyer. Often, I remember that the president and his team know the importance of health and education. They just think that we, their subjects, don’t matter. Who are we to live or to educate ourselves or to live healthily to have the strength to fight them? But we demand education and health for the good of our dear country.
To demonstrate that our leaders know the importance of these sectors, it is necessary to check how many times the president, as a team leader, has traveled to the United Kingdom for medical visits. The other time, her child had an accident, was he treated here? How many times have our leaders visited hospitals in Nigeria, even with some exotic hospitals springing up in Lagos and Abuja lately? I saw a video of a multipurpose hospital that some joint venture people were trying to build in Nigeria a few years ago. I understand that the company was unable to obtain approval from the field. It may be because such a structure will prevent our leaders from traveling abroad for their health problems. There would be no justification for traveling with our money when substitutes are available here. Of course, some officials or officials would miss the opportunity of a estacode to go attend to their constituents. Such a project must therefore be frustrated from the start.
Regarding education, how many of our leaders have you seen posing with their children at graduation ceremonies in Nigerian public universities? Their children must study abroad for a quality education, and they must show us the photos to affirm their class. They know and care less that our institutions, from primary to higher, are not of good quality and cannot provide quality education to the population. Why should their children go to such schools when they can afford to send them abroad? They are proud to say that “my children are abroad”. It’s a status symbol.
In academia, when we were growing up, our professors had to schedule classes at odd hours because of invitations from advanced countries to participate in world affairs. Teachers should announce it with pride. That they were internationally recognized. It was such that Nigerian scholars were expected to contribute to intellectual discussions across the world in all aspects of the academic enterprise. Some of us were drawn to academics because of such opportunities and we were lucky enough to be among the “lucky ones” when we finally joined academia.
By the time we joined the academics, some of the decay was already becoming visible. A colleague was invited to a conference on scientific innovation in the medical field but was unable to present his paper because he found that the methodology he was using had been supplanted by a more rigorous and efficient methodology some time ago. five years. This was in the mid 1980s when internet facilities were foreign to this part of the world so the ability to follow the global trend was not available.
I remembered when a computer was donated to a department of our faculty by an individual in about 1989. I suspect it was our university’s first computer. I had learned typing and shorthand between high school and college and thought I could demonstrate my skills on the new computer since the keyboard layout was the same. The department refused to let me touch the computer to avoid damaging it, and no one in the department could use it either. Some of them were just in training.
Two years later, in 1992, I was in the United States on a scholarship without any computer knowledge. However, I was shocked to learn that the computer we were protecting in our faculty was the first set of desktop computers that left the US market more than a decade before I arrived! This tells us how long our governments have been underfunding education at all levels and especially at the tertiary level. Within six weeks, I became a household name in the computer lab in the basement of our hostel with 70 color-screen computers. This is where education matters. They provide their citizens and those of other countries with the highest quality of education.
I was fortunate enough to be among the last group of those who received an undergraduate university education in Nigeria. I was considering getting a Higher National Diploma in Agriculture when a group I belong to had a program at the University of Lagos. We were served three pieces of meat with every meal in the cafeteria. I asked if this was the practice and was told it was. I then swore that I had to go to university. No more polytechnic for me.
Fast forward, I was admitted (not UNILAG) with direct entry and found that apart from cheap accommodation and no tuition, we were normally given two bedspreads on Fridays. Initially the launderers would lay the bed with one sheet and lay the other on the bed before changing to “lay it yourself”. Other than that, with fruit or ice cream, sumptuous pieces of chicken must be eaten on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons or risk student unrest if no plausible reason is given. Also, morning tea was free. If you don’t have money, you can eat dry bread in the inn and fill it with free tea in the cafeteria.
By the time we graduated, Second Republic politicians were already telling lies that there were no hostels and subsidized food in advanced economies. By the time I came back for my masters program two years later, the cafeteria system had been canceled but they couldn’t bring down the hostels. More than ten years later in the United States, by choice and to check the truth, I lived in a university hostel, a public university for that matter and our food was heavily subsidized because we paid half of what foreigners were paying for the same buffet menu. You eat and drink whatever you want and I drank coke for a whole week until I was diagnosed with constipation due to lack of water in my meals. I am told that the system is rooted and has not changed until today.
I would have liked to identify adult readers who sent their children to public primary and secondary schools. Some public high schools might be lucky if they have virile alumni associations, but the primary ones are worse because they’re totally neglected. Every time I pass my primary school on Lagos Island, I always have one excuse or another for not stopping. From the outside, I was just looking at the class where I had level six with Mr. Coker’s white cane. The good old days when teachers were dedicated and earned peanuts called salary. The teachers’ reward, they were told, was in heaven. If they were judged by devotion, most of them would go to heaven and win the reward. This is not the case today where Nigeria’s environment prepares people for hell, no thanks to poor governance. Most public high schools in virtually every state, with the exception of newly built schools, labs, and libraries, are in disrepair. The elites abandoned these schools for the children of the poor. Our children are in private secondary schools for better quality.
Since 2009, ASUU has moved away from staff welfare issues and focused on funding public universities to provide quality research and teaching. The ranking in Webometric is not based on the physical structures of the universities but on the results of the research which they believe can be improved by the first, the physical structure. Even in Africa, Nigerian universities are not ranked in the top 100, but if you go to South Africa, which dominates the rankings, you will see the staff structure dominated by Nigerians expelled due to poor academic environment. Let’s continue from here next week.
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