During the weekdays preceeding Monday 23rd March 2020, a memo from the Nigerian University Commission was relayed to all university students in their respective institutions. The memo required that all students were to return to their homes for a period of one month, a move the commission said became necessary to contain a novel coronavirus.
Usual of students studying in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, we rejoiced over the break in our supposed education, packed our belongings and bolted for home.
It was double fun for us, given that we were in the verge of begining our first semester examinations. This meant we were free from our timely strolls to school campuses, stale gaze at the ‘never-ageing’ professors, and majorly, the tedious task of consistent reading coupled with keeping up with night classes.
The one month notice of halt of studies appeared to students like killing multiple birds with one single stone. Here the stone in the hand of the NUC was the caveat on a halt of academic activities, while the multiple birds are the unaccounted miseries Nigerian university students passes through daily in school.
Problems of accomodation, dismal quality of workshops and laboratories, exorbitant cost and plethora of fees (some unwarranted), ‘system-induced stresses’ are some of the prominent inconveniences faced by undergraduates. The effect of these noticeable in the resort of students to drugs, malpractices, extortion and gangsterism.
Depressing it is also to know that due to these challenges, an upward surge in cases of robbery, rape/sexual abuse, have been instanced on students in and out of our campuses. Despite the breather from these hot potatoes for a short while, as these breaks don’t normally come often, student were to be served an unexpected surprise.
A week preceding April 23, which would have been the date student were to return to lectures, a new memo was tacitly served universities authorities: student were to remain at home indefinitely. The reason was simple. A coronavirus foremostly brought in by an italian National on 27 February has escalated and was spreading swiftly through the states of the federated republic aswell as the highly decorated federal capital.
As students whose objection wouldn’t have gone a yard, we reasoned with the government and continued in our induced vacation. Despite the ills befallen our fellows in the facade of rape and sexual abuses, we continued in our solemnity, obeying all lockdown rules put up by our different governments, when restrictions of such were finally layered on citizens.
The imposed lockdown demanded citizens bore several sacrifices, as such parents and students, including the younger citizens deprived themselves of their usual exuberance in order to contain the virus. However when palliatives came, the country’s university students weren’t paid attention to.
And although despite the inconveniences of lockdown restrictions, the federal government asserted that it has spent about N679 million on feeding school children, no suggestions were again made about students in the higher echelon of education.
A post COVID-19 economic sustainability plan emerged afterwards, and as usual of our government, tertiary institutions and the education sector in general was distanced from any fund allocations. The government promised a stimulus spending package of N2.3 trillion, with no consideration whatsoever on students, forcing them into informal activities to keep a survival.
Read also: Guidelines for total reopening of school
It is worth noting that a similar package by the united states government had reasonable regards for students of tertiary institutions and schools as funds were provided for them aswell as to their parents. Other countries like Bahrain and Australia offered their students relishing reliefs aswell, while the UK, Canada, and several other countries had unique consideration for students in their Covid-19 succors.
Staying at home with little to no access to reasonable electricity heightened the frustrations of the branded ‘leaders of tomorrow’. It should interest the government to know that proper attention to the education sector would have prevented the ridicule it is today. A situation inwhich no single federal and state tertiary institution could implement an online learning framework should be of shame to any modern government. A situation by which the Academic Staff Union of Universities has to launch periodic strikes to prevent an undermine and further deterioration of the system.
It should interest our government yet again to know that with a proper projection of our universities, the economy would correspondingly be awakened. It is for the record that the breakthroughs on combination therapies for HIV, self-driving cars, and cloud computing were all products of researches that took place at universities. However, Nigerian universities hardly go into reseaches, much due to the tacit negligence by the government.
Governments that prioritises wage slips of government appointees (more than 42% of the unrevised 2020 budget were meant to be spent of recurrent expenditures), than on capital infrastructure and intelligent nation building.
How could the government slide back on track? The government could win back the trust of our university-going youths by initiating a tuition fee waiver for university students and others in different tertiary institutions for the remainder of the academic session and the next. This would enable students to redirect their contemplations from the adverse effect the coronavirus pandemic would have on them towards discreet academic and vocational trainings.
The greater beneficiaries of such well-advised move would have been parents, guardians and benefactors. They would have had time to recover on the losses from the pandemic, as despite the low quality of education in the country, parent still had to pay more to enable their ward’s name appears on degree-awarding certificates.
Aside pointing out the shortcomings of government on education development, the reasonable strides of the central and states government is encouraging but not satisfactory. The University tuition waiver if implemented by government of all levels in federal and state institutions, aswell as a sustainable and befitting developments of our institutions to meet standards, would be revolutionary and would signify a new hopeful trajectory for the country at large.
Education is said to be the passport to the future; for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today, they say. However our future as students in this clime is no more certain than the present we see ourselves. We demand for leadership of tomorrow from today!
Author: Daniel Daniel…
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