ASUU, VITAL TO VISION 20:2020 SUCCESS
Contrary to the Federal Government's earlier insinuations over the alleged politicisation of some government's policy decisions, the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which began on December 5, 2011, arguably, couldn't have been politicised, but rather carefully avoided, if the government had heeded the previous warning strike and been faithful to the former in the implementation of the FG/ASUU agreement, reportedly endorsed in 2009.
The union had forewarned the government of an indefinite industrial action should it fail to satisfy its specified, reasonable demands.
The lecturers' demands include improved funding of the system to produce world-class graduates that can drive today's knowledge-based economy, improved conditions of service, and extension of existing 65 years' retirement age of senior academics, especially the professors, to 70 years, among others.
Without mincing words, the continual disturbing trend in the all-important education sector of the economy, once more, has brought to the fore the indisputably unique place which quality education occupies in any human society that truly desires to transform all critical facets of its national life to accomplish certain development goals and hold its own in the Comity of Nations.
However, without adequate attention, particularly in terms of funding, to the human development engine room or think-tank -education- among all other areas of the economy, it is doubtful, as things stand in Nigeria now, if the country yet will be able to implement successfully any hypothetical Transformation Agenda, let alone becoming one of the 20 top world economies by the year 2020.
Interestingly, education as a fundamental instrument for socio-economic transformation in a society had been described as a process of acculturating the youths to understand the values and ideals of and become competent members who could make meaningful contributions to the development of their immediate vicinity.
Incidentally, among other multifarious reasons being adduced for the depressing performance of the education industry in Nigeria over time are lack of needed teaching, research and learning facilities, shortage of skilled teachers for the teaching subjects and courses of study, frequent strikes largely instigated by unpaid staff salaries and allowances, official corruption, negative social influences, collapsed value system, exam malpractices, and unsatisfactory conditions of service. Consequently, it's obvious across the country to behold the negative repercussions of the near neglect of all the levels of education and concomitant general poor state of affairs in the sector as of now.
With these observed constraints in the system, the capability of the industry to churn out well-grounded graduates with new aptitudes, innovative thinking, first-class communication, problem-solving skills, teamwork and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills to assist the country in occupying the front seat in the international system, had been hampered disastrously, due to poor attention by the concerned authorities.
It should be recalled that even in the proposed thematic areas for the National Technical Working Groups (NTWGs) of Vision 20: 2020 document earlier made public, education is clearly stated as one of the 28 key areas deserving priority attention by the government. Nevertheless, with the shabby treatment being meted out to the academics who are supposed to drive the think-tank in the education industry/economy, the possibility of this principal sector's making a marked contribution to these high-sounding development programmes may well remain a pipedream.
Thus, expecting a 'miracle' in connection with the attainment of the Transformation Agenda, MDGs and Vision 20: 2020 without a robust knowledge-based economy, basically engineered by a strong, functional education system as required in modern national economies the world over, is only tantamount to living in a fool's paradise. Nigerian education system requires and deserves the needed attention now.
Kayode writes from Lagos.