It is highly regrettable that the educational system in Nigeria constantly suffers setbacks right in the midst of plenty. Speaking in a telephone interview with Premium Times, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) head, Mr. Biodun Ogunyemi bore his mind on issues surrounding school reopening especially as it concerns universities. He did not mince words in categorically stating that the nation’s Universities may not reopen any time soon even after the reopening of schools after COVID-19.
Clearing the air about reports that the union urged the government not to reopen schools until 2021, Prof. Ogunyemi said, “First, we did not say schools should not be reopened until 2021. We only advised that schools be reopened anytime it is considered safe for our children.”
It would be recalled that shortly after the order by the government that schools be closed, the union also proceeded on an indefinite strike which still subsists. The cause of the strike was as a result of the Federal Government’s recalcitrant stand to not pay the salaries of ASUU members who refused to enroll in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS).
It will be observed that nothing has been said about the reopening of the higher institutions of learning.
“They have brought out guidelines and conditions for school resumption, they must now supervise and ensure that those conditions are met. Beyond formulating policy, they must see to its implementation. So, we are saying it is not just a matter of putting things on papers but implementation from primary schools to tertiary institutions”, Ogunyemi said.
Bearing his mind on universities reopening, he said:
“Talking of universities, it should be noted that the crises are beyond COVID-19. There are fundamental crises that will make universities reopening longer and impossible for now. We had long told the government our position and until they meet necessary conditions, universities are not resuming even after COVID.
“There are outstanding issues and the government is not ready to fix our universities and provide enabling learning environment. For instance, we are talking about revitalisation… if our institutions are well equipped, there is no reason why coronavirus should stop academic activities.
“You cannot talk about social distancing in universities without talking about additional lecture rooms. So, we have two crises delaying resumption. The health crises and the refusal of the government to make our universities standard”.
Bearing his mind on the attention given to the education sector, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said:
“Government should not pay attention to the health sector and neglect the education sector. If they could raise taskforce to look into COVID-19, they should do so to address the challenges of the education sector which include revitalisation funds for universities so that our institutions can be up to standard.”
It is highly imperative that the Nigerian people begin to really speak out and pressurize the government to be more responsive and responsible for the overall welfare of the nation. Instead of focusing on a few sectors, a holistic approach is needed to bring about a robust society. It is rather unfortunate that Universities may not reopen anytime soon even after a very long Covid-19 break.
God help our children.
Photo Credit: Channels TV