I have two friends undergoing undergraduate and graduate degree programmes in two Nigerian federal universities. Both are in their 40s and are on a full-time basis.
The friend undergoing an undergraduate degree programme graduated almost 20 years. She is a school owner who decided to go on a full-time programme in specialised education.
The other is a chartered accountant, with two graduate degrees, who for reasons best known to him, decided to go for another graduate degree.
Two months ago, my friend who is a full-time undergraduate called me to register her grave concerns about the lackadaisical attitude of lecturers to teaching in her university.
She told me she registered for nine courses but throughout the semester, it was only one of the lecturers who could attain an above average class attendance.
Four of the lecturers came sparingly while she never saw the remaining four lecturers throughout the semester. She never met them.
For all the nine courses, handouts were sold, tests were set and exams done on even the four courses she never sat in a class for.
As for my friend running an MSc programme, it is the same tale of lecturer absenteeism. The lecturers don’t come to class. They sell handouts and disappear from the students.
The students had to resort to self-help of attending external tutorial classes to make up for the dearth of lectures.
Where are these lecturers, you may ask? Many of them are moonlighting in private universities. While the Federal Government pays their salaries, allowances and grants, many of the lecturers don’t render the services they are paid for to their students. The final products are the unbaked and half-baked graduates that dot the national space.
The lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities are on strike again for the same reason they’ve been going on strike in over 30 years and more. What I find clownish about their reason for going on strike this time round is their predicating their demand on the increase of the price of crude oil.
While I expect them to be knowledgeable in the simple fact that increase in price per barrel of crude oil may not necessarily translate to increase in revenue because not all our daily production of 2.2 million barrels may be picked up in the market because of increasing prices, the reason they gave shows the ignorance of the people given the task to produce the next generations of thinkers for Nigeria.
Many of them still lecture with templates of over 30 years. They are still analogue in the age of digital.
While I am in favour of the Federal Government acceding to their requests, efforts should be made to put proper monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure that lecturers attend classes and teach. A situation where billions of naira flow into the university system with little to show for it speaks to the debilitating malaise that an average Nigerian is afflicted. We want to be paid for doing nothing.
The university calendar has been so distorted that candidates who passed the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination are still roaming about the streets because all the universities are still on the second semester. With this strike, it is very likely that a new session may not start in January 2019.
The strike will further put parents at the mercy of private universities who are taking no prisoners when it comes to fees.
The Federal Government needs to carry out a surgical operation on our tertiary education system. There are men and women who have outlived their usefulness whom we still put our leaders of tomorrow at their mercy.