Being a text of the press conference of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D (South West).
It is on record that as an association, we have been calling on government at all level to see to the need to properly fund the educational sector and to also equip our hospitals. It is evident that the failure of the government to do this amongst others stare us in the face today because, at a time when the laboratories in our science departments should be booming with activities and researches in order to contribute to the global search for a solution to the virus, University lecturers are on strike, Polytechnic and Colleges lecturers are complaining of poor remuneration. Also, graduates that should take the lead during this time are idle as an overwhelming majority of them have been forced into things not part of their field due to unemployment with many of them not even having any laboratory experience while they were in school. The way-forward remains for our government to invest massively in our educational system and restructure our science departments from theories to research-oriented departments.
As an association, we are disturbed that the Federal Government is not ready to stop putting the brunt of their failure and incompetence on the people which is evident in the guidelines that was issued in line with school reopening. Considering the guidelines and the reality that is on ground today in Nigeria, one cannot but feel embarrassed with the conduct of a government that has been feeding on deceit since inception and this is not unconnected from the fact that there is no educational institution in the country today that can meet the guidelines. The reason cannot be far-fetched; governmental failure to invest in education.
No doubt, Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of the oil market which is the mainstay of Nigerian economy with serious economic crisis staring us in the face. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria sold oil for 60years yet incapable of providing adequate education for its citizens with or without the presence of a pandemic. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s problem is not about the availability of money to fund qualitative education and all that is required to allow commencement of academic activities during this period, Nigeria’s problem is that education and needs of the entire citizenry is not in the priority of the government.
Students across the country must know that the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is justifiable and we need a proper integration to foster a successful outcome. As an association, we wish to establish our position as following with close marking, the demands of ASUU as the Union is one part of our academic world and, an injury to one, they say, is an injury to all. Hence, standing on the principle of solidarity, we state categorically that our thoughts are aligned with the demands of ASUU.
It need be stated that a government that allocates ridiculous percentage of the annual budget into the educational sector owes the Nigerian masses an explanation as to why the sector has been left in shambles while the government is consistently spending massively on irrelevancies.
With proper analysis as to what has brought about the ASUU strike that might seem ceaseless in years past, we are not unfamiliar with several disgraceful learning environment and learning facilities across our institutions. It is on record that over 80 percent of our higher institutions does not have Public Address Systems, Interactive Boards, etc. while many are battling with epileptic or non-existing Internet Services, library of no or less automation, outdated library resources have been the active facilities that our tertiary institutions pride themselves of. How will such institutions take step into holding online classes which the Federal Government has ingloriously directed management of higher institutions of learning across the country to commence?
Advanced countries of the world are drafting students in the medical laboratory and pharmaceutical related fields in research efforts at finding the cause of this deadly virus and the vaccine for its treatment and cure. The reason such is not being done here in Nigeria cannot be far-fetched because, we are a country with depleted libraries, outdated laboratories, over-crowded insanitary hostels with plummeting academic standards that has reduced our tertiary institutions to inglorious secondary schools churning out medical graduates with little or no laboratory experience.
Although, we acknowledge that the debate on reopening of schools at a time like this is prone to mixed reactions, albeit, we are not oblivious of the fact that the disagreement cannot be disconnected from lack of political will linked to years of unseriousness and recklessness on the part of our political office holders. However, it must be made known that at the receiving end of this indecisiveness are students that are left idle at home with nothing worthwhile being done to ensure that students resume to classes.
We are concerned that students should not just be made to sit at home doing nothing. And, we must state categorically that the conditions we are here to table to government at all level are not beyond what the government can meet considering the resources at our disposal as a country. The fact that the government is not talking about these things is just a clear case of irresponsibility and unpreparedness on the part of our ruling class which we frown at.
Without mincing words, education is the bedrock of any civilization, it is therefore disheartening that our governments is showing a lack of resolve to make our schools resume. It is on record that the World Health Organisation (WHO) while commenting on the impact of the pandemic after countries ended their lockdowns noted that it is time for World leaders and policy makers to see Covid-19 as our new reality which requires creative ideas to ensure that activities go back to normal while reducing the risk of the citizens contracting the pandemic. Considering this, we need no soothsayer to know that the indecisiveness of the government on schools resumption is a product of the cluelessness of those at the helm of affairs. Covid-19 is not going away and we cannot afford to keep students at home for a very long time.
With the absence of facilities and infrastructures necessary for online learning, it is simply expected for our policymakers to draw out plans for safe resumption of our schools. Luckily, these plans are not an alien invention that we need to visit Mars for, the guidelines are available which unfortunately, the political class has shown zero will-power to effect.
Furthermore, it is important to call the attention of the Nigerian government to the fact that most countries of the world have tactically resolved the issue of learning during the pandemic by putting certain measures in place. The Nigerian government must also emulate their counterparts and with immediate effect, make necessary provisions to ensure the resumption of academic activities in our educational institutions.
Without engaging in unnecessary rhetorics, we hereby demand that;
- Government at all level should pay serious attention to the education sector by properly funding it.
- Academic activities whether virtually or physically should commence in our educational institutions with immediate effect.
- As a pre-condition to commencement of classes, government should liaise with ASUU, ASUP, COEASU and NANS as regards what must be put in place for the commencement of classes.
- Government must liaise with National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and all relevant academic bodies to make sure the session/semester is streamlined in order make up for the lost time due to the lockdown.
- Government must provide waiver for all Nigerian students (tertiary, secondary and primary) in form of scholarship for a session or slash the fees payable by 60/70% . This would help cushion the effects of the lockdown on parents that lost their jobs and means of livelihood and businesses. It would also serve as palliative for students whose parents/guardians means of livelihood have been cut-short as a result of the lockdown.
- TETFUND should consider funding of selected students across all tertiary institutions in the country with innovative ideas just the way lecturers are being sponsored for conferences/symposia.
- The Federal Government must yield to the Demands of ASUU.
Conclusively, we give the Federal Government 7 working days ultimatum to meet our demands. Anything in the contrary, we shall not hesitate to mobilise our rank and file for a massive action throughout the South West States at a venue to be communicated later as our educational and futuristic existence is being threatened.
Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta!!
OPAKUNLE OLUWAFUNMIBI MAYOWA
Chairman, NANS/JCC Oyo Axis.
Comrade Busari AbdulQowiyy Adelaja
Chairman, NANS/JCC Lagos Axis.
Comrade Agbogunleri Seun Michael
Chairman, NANS/JCC Osun Axis.
Comr. RAJI Sobur K.
Vice-Chairman, NANS/JCC Ekiti Axis.
Bamgbose Tomiwa Peter
Chairman, NANS/JCC Ogun Axis.
Akinteye Babatunde Azeez
Chairman, NANS/JCC Ondo Axis.
Kazeem Olalekan Israel
PRO, NANS Zone D.
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