In December, Nigerian newspapers reported some terrible news that was largely ignored by a nation already bent double with bad news: the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom had confirmed that fresh graduates from nine medical schools in Nigeria – including the Universities of Jos, Benin, and Port Harcourt – are no longer qualified to apply to get certification to practice medicine on Britons, following information received from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (Although this number has been reduced to seven as the University of Nigeria and Nnamdi Azikiwe University have now been removed from that list).
You cannot overstate the significance of this tragic down-grade.
Thus, a question: should we be in any way glad now that the medical students of these seven universities – as well all other Nigerian university students – have been called back to the classrooms upon the suspension of the umpteenth strike called by university lecturers?
Is there really anything joyous about the fact that these students will be returning to their schools the same way they left them – in disrepair, dysfunction, and with disgraceful standards of learning?
It’s an open secret – Nigeria’s university system is a sham. While we are at it, we need to mention that the entire government run education system from the elementary levels upwards is a sham, but we will count our losses one at a time today.
Still you find parents, students, and an assortment of Nigerian “stakeholders” calling on Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to fold up its strike and go back to the classrooms. So is this what it is? We now have a country where it is okay for students to actually learn nothing – just as long as they graduate?
Let’s list the ills again – our teaching equipment across schools are uniformly antiquated, teaching methods thoroughly outmoded, no avenues for government aided research that are meaningful and timely, and the student accommodations are not fitting for human living. Everyone knows that our scientists-to-be work from labs that students at our well-funded private secondary schools will not touch, the joke (which is nonetheless true) is popular that Computer Science students do not have access to computers, classrooms are almost always inadequate to contain the number of students admitted, libraries – where they exist – are shells ultimately unqualified to provide students with knowledge.
Added to that, our best brains will not lecture in Nigerian universities as long as they and their personal gods can avoid it so we have as lecturers those who cannot find outside opportunities, who hate their jobs as anyone can hate anything, who have no avenues for meaningful self improvement that can elicit commitment to the university system or who are, by some stroke of luck, self-sacrificial human beings only committed to their calling to be university teachers – and of those there are surely only a handful left.
So why exactly is ASUU back at work? Why have we forced them – by sheer dint of public opinion including media commentary – to resume in class when all they will do is churn out graduates who, more often than not, are unable to compete effectively with their counterparts from other parts of the world.
What is there to be happy about?
Has anything fundamentally changed from this latest strike and its outcomes? Last we checked, the federal government has yet to implement the 2009 agreement that it willingly provided and committed to and, amongst everything else, funding for education is still abysmally short of the agreed percentages.
It will take another while for these issues to be resolved, and since it is essentially the same administration in charge of our education over the past four years, there is little or no reason to believe that the circumstances that have led to non-compliance over the past three years will suddenly give way.
But sadly, in our usual Nigerian way, we have succeeded in getting students and lecturers back in their private hells to continue to “manage” what they have. It’s the same way we manage our funeral homes (we call them clinics); the same way we choose to manage every sector of our national life.
Our universities are a microcosm of a larger Nigerian malaise – but because this is the primary centre where we “manufacture” the primary human capital for a developing nation, the least we can do is try to create with them, an oasis of sanity.
Instead, we are rejoicing because we have shut out the smoke. Meanwhile, the fire is still raging. And soon, it will bring down the house.