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Education Sector Crises, FG/ASUU Deadlock and the need to knit the nick

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Education Sector Crises, FG/ASUU Deadlock and the need to knit the nick

I decided to network, use every letter I wrote, every conversation I had and every hope I have to express my fundamental beliefs and dreams about compounding crises in the education sector and FG/ASUU impasse in particular with a view to enlightening those that do not know and to inspire those that know and have integrity to wake up and act well and in time. No matter what your views are or which side you are, give the world the best you have and the world can be a better place. Remember that education is fundamental human right!.

Obviously, education is witnessing a colossal mess of all times in the last 5 years. In nearly three years, relationship between FG/ASUU is suffering from ‘locked-in syndrome’ over simple issues. Presently, it looks like there is going to be a storm!. So, we have to write anyway with a view to reducing the velocity of the storm. In BUK, it stormed throughout the night (unpleasant story of the exit of Dr. Dukawa et al.). In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Ultimately, we have just one moral duty, which is to resolve conflicts without violence and work together to improve the quality of lives. After all, “we aren’t passengers on Spaceship Earth. We’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet. We’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility” (Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart).

Briefly, crisis in Nigeria’s education sector is not a new thing. However, many pictures are self-evident that the sector has received tin-pot treatment since last 5 years. One prominent issue is funding. Over some years, the country’s funding for education continued to rotate between five and seven per cent of the national budget. Worryingly, however, it dwindled since 2016, when Nigeria allocates 4.0% (2016), 7.40% (2017), 7.04% (2018), 7.05% (2019) and 6.7% (2020) of its budget to Ministry of Education. The sums are meant to cater for the 28 agencies in the Ministry, 43 Federal Universities, 28 Federal Polytechnics, 22 Federal Colleges of Education and 104 Unity Schools. The government proposed a paltry sum of N311.2 billion to federal universities in 2019 while a total of ₦285 billion is allocated in 2020. This excluding the Federal owned Universities of Agriculture which are classified under the Ministry of Agriculture and not under the Ministry of Education. This is well below the benchmark of 26 per cent of the national budget and 6 per cent of the gross domestic products (GDP) recommended by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Compared to public spending of the following countries: Afghanistan, 16.21% (2016), 15.66% (2017); Bangladesh 18.39 (2017), 14.65 (2018); Chad 16.36 (2017), 17.21 (2018); Burkina Faso, 21.44 (2017), 22.66 (2018) and Ghana 20.10 (2017), 18.60 (2018), Nigeria reneges the UNESCO’s ‘Education for All, EFA, 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges’ report which she party to. Despite shortcomings in India, a policy as highlighted by Worldwide Education for future Index helped the country jumps five ranks to 35th in 2019 for making particular strides in policy environment, with new national education policy. India had promised allocation of ₹99,300 Crore to education and ₹3,000 for skills.

The result of poor funding is backwardness as the country’s ranks on the Education Index continue to fall. Since 2013, the UNESCO’s Education Index report has shown that Nigeria has descended to 152 well below Malaysia (62), South Africa (118), India (135), Ghana (138), Myanmar (150), Rwanda (151) and two places above Yemen (154) on quality of education among 190 countries.

Isn’t this a problem in the education sector?. Aren’t we settling for shoddy education?. Why is the FG busy focusing on what is wrong with the university system, when it should recognize what is right and focus energy on the many positives instead of harping on negatives?. We understand you well, the motive is to hijack universities autonomy, hawk them and persecute lecturers through ‘hunger war’ to finance imperialist driven polices. Remember that “the higher the monkey climbs, the more he shows his tail (John Wycliffe)”. Take responsibility and act right, after all “the very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet” (Theodore M. Hesburgh).

The Place of Nigeria in World University Rankings (The Center for World University Ranking, 2020-2021)

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) publishes the only global university ranking that measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions. The CWUR together with Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as Shanghai Ranking are world’s most widely recognized ranking outlets. CWUR is used here; hence I call on readers to consult QS or ARWU (2020) rankings to compare.

CWUR uses seven objectives and robust indicators to rank the world’s universities:

1) Quality of Education, measured by the number of a university’s alumni who have won major academic distinctions relative to the university’s size (25%)

2) Alumni Employment, measured by the number of a university’s alumni who have held top executive positions at the world’s largest companies relative to the university’s size (25%)

3) Quality of Faculty, measured by the number of faculty members who have won major academic distinctions (10%)

4) Research Performance:i) Research Output, measured by the total number of research papers (10%)

ii) High-Quality Publications, measured by the number of research papers appearing in top-tier journals (10%)

iii) Influence, measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals (10%)

iv) Citations, measured by the number of highly-cited research papers (10%)

Look at this extract please:

1 Harvard University USA

4 University of Cambridge, UK

14 University of Tokyo, Japan (and first outside USA and Europe)

31 Seoul National University, South Korea (and second outside USA and Europe)

61 Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel (and third outside USA and Europe)

62 Peking University, China (and fouth outside USA and Europe)

103 University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

268 University of Cape Town, South Africa (1st in Africa and Southern Africa)

275 University of Witwatersrand, South Africa (2nd in Africa)

306 King Abdulaziz University, KSA

415 Indian Institute of Management Ahmedbad, India

429 Stellenbosch University, South Africa

462 Indian Institute of Science, India

558 Cairo University, Egypt (1st in North Africa)

628 Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil

629 Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran

636 Hacettepe University, Turkey

644 Istanbul University, Turkey

645 Boğaziçi University, Turkey

707 Isfahan University of Technology, Iran

713 American University of Beirut, Lebanon

742 University of Cyprus, Cyprus

753 Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan

754 University of Science, Malaysia

763 University of Split, Croatia

774 Yerevan Physics Institute, Armenia

794 Ain Shams University, Egypt

802 Putra University, Malaysia

817 Makerere University, Uganda (1st in East Africa)

871 COMSATS University Islamabad, Pakistan

987 Khalifa University, United Arab Emirates

1000 Louisiana Tech University, USA (last 1000)

1040 Addis Ababa University Ethiopia (2nd in East Africa)

1055 University of Ibadan Nigeria (First in West Africa and Nigeria)

1242 Hassan II University of Casablanca, Morocco

1244 University of Nairobi, Kenya (2nd in East Africa)

1340 University of Zambia, Zambia (1st in Central Africa)

1560 University of Carthage, Tunisia

1766 Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal (2nd in West Africa)

1786 Jimma University, Ethiopia

1787 Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria (3rd in West Africa and 2nd in Nigeria)

1870 Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia

1886 University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (2nd in Central Africa)

1896 Birzeit University, Palestine

1934 Ferhat Abbas Sétif University 1, Algeria

1944 University of Lagos, Nigeria (3rd in Nigeria)

2000 Government College University Faisalabad Pakistan (last of 2000)

Source: CWUR Website (10th June, 2020)

Check Brazil, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Armenia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria etc. Those aren’t niggers right?. Then check Nigeria (the giant of Africa with its 3 top universities at the bottom of world’s 2000) and compare with South Africa (the second giant with more than 7 universities in first 1000), Zambia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal. What’s the rank of your alma mater? – you with Nigerian degrees and boasting with big offices!!.

Drivers of FG/ASUU Deadlock

Drivers of FG/ASUU impasse and the crises in university sub-sector are by and large autonomy, funding, and decayed facilities and staff welfare. Those simple issues are handled elsewhere in harmony. Thus, before you blame ASUU read widely (and with independent mind), judge for yourself and/or drop from the bandwagon. According to Steve Biko (1971) “the most potent weapon in the hands of oppressors is the mind of the oppressed”. The following explanations may also help:

  1. Autonomy
    University autonomy is non-negotiable if and only if the quality education outweighs any other goal. The best Universities in the world, according to the recent rankings are very autonomous. Universities are accorded high degree of autonomy and academic freedom. However, these are of particular concern in Nigeria due to growing tendencies of interference. This is worrisome as autonomy and academic freedom are essential pillars of future sustainability of Universities. Importantly, they determine the research policy of our institutions for the benefit of society at large. It today’s tense Nigeria, promoting university autonomy is not only needed, it is a duty. So, usurping autonomy form universities will only lead to inevitable quagmire and meritocracy will replace nepotism, godfatherism and political lobbying. However, this is the realm of our elders at ASUU home so I stop here.
  2. Funding
    By funding with a bushel nothing will be achieved. Are we too demanding?. How many Nigerians travel abroad and spend hard earned currencies just to earn degrees. How much are we spending?. How much are we loosing annually to Malaysia, India, Europe, and African countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Egypt, Namibia, Uganda, even Republic of Benin just to earn degrees. Unlike rest of the world, the Nigerian Government has been spending paltry amounts in public universities and a lot on renovation of anointed office complex. About N37 billion has been earmarked for such wasteful spending this year. TETfund (ASUU’s fat child) is also denying its parents by busy stacking allegations, suspending conferences funding and scholarships. The Hausa people say “kifi na kallonka mai jar koma” (a child who say im mama no go sleep him ma no go sleep).
  3. Staff welfare (Emoluments in particular)
    Emolument is a lawful gain which arises from our hard work. So, take a look and judge for yourself. According to a recent survey by Statistics Canada, the median salary for full-time academic teaching staff in Canada is $98,400 per year. Full professors are the highest earners with median salaries of $124,325. Since French universities are public and state run, academics who hold permanent positions are civil servants. The government sets their salaries, which do not vary from institution and discipline. The salary levels are broken down by class and seniority. The salary for a tenured assistant/associate professor (maître de conférence) can range from €25,225 to €53,828 per year depending on the class and seniority of the academic. Tenured full Professors (professeur des universités) can expect to make between €36,560 and €73,343 a year according to their class and seniority. An average monthly pay for a Professor in Saudi Arabia is $4300. The average salary for a Professor is $194,072 per year in Australia ($16,172 monthly). In India, the national average salary for a Professor is ₹1,571,084 which is $272,069.64 per annum ($22,672.47 monthly). A Professor in Malaysia (USM) earns 24,000 – 27,000RM which is $66,666 – $75,000 per annum. A Professor in Pakistan (based on tenure track system) earn 0.3 million PKR. Using exchange rate of $1 to 160 PKR after the recent devaluation of Pakistani currency, a professor earns $1,875 aside some increments based on performance (e.g publication).

Those are not jungle bunnies right?. Then look at South Africa and Rwanda and compare with Nigeria. In South Africa a Professor earns 40,000 – 45,000 Rand equivalent of $2777 – $3125 aside research grants for training and development. In Ghana, Professors earn around GHC96,000 per annum which is ca. $16,624.63 ($1385.38 monthly). Professors with a Doctorate Degrees enjoy the highest salaries in Rwanda with a net pay of RWF22,000,000 or $26,324 per annum ($2193 monthly). Sadly, a Professor in Nigeria (with IPPIS) earns N345, 000 – N435, 000 which is equivalent of $958.33 – 1,208.33 monthly only close to the net pay of university dons in East African countries of $5000 annually.

Isn’t this an invitation for braindrain and bowing out of selfless academics?. Are we ready for that, relative to the cost of training one lecturer to become a Professor or earn a PhD, dwindling oil revenue and increasing loss of interest for the job amongst youth?. Could anyone but us participate in combating COVID 19 through research and innovations even with ‘empty stomach’ and paltry income?. Well, where there is badness, there are crusaders (ASUU members).

  1. State of Teaching and Learning Facilities in Nigeria’s Public Universities
    With due respect, which Nigerian university can compete with any of South Africa’s 26 public institutions in terms of facilities?. Most of them are tattered public universities still working with decayed facilities such as poor classrooms and laboratories. I salute ASUU struggling to deliver TETFUND and NEEDS ASSESSMENT otherwise some universities in Nigeria would be like glorified secondary schools. However, a Hausa proverb says “tsugunne bata kare ba” (the dilapidation is deepening). For example, a 2011 committee on Needs Assessment of Nigeria Public Universities examined the depth of decline in infrastructure and came up with worrisome reports and I extracted a nick: In almost all universities, laboratories doubled as lecture halls. A laboratory built for 60 students was crowded with 500 students in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. There were 22 uncompleted projects in UNN, 16 in UDUS and 15 in ABU respectively. Nine years since the report, ASUU still has to struggle for the implementation of NEEDS committee recommendations.

Knitting the nick
A stitch in time saves a rag. In the words of John F. Kennedy “Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met – obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.” Take responsibility and we will be ahead of South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, India and Malaysia. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain!!. The following might also help in settling the impasse:

  1. Look into our demands critically and with open minds. And let the public know that the monies you always say you give are not for ASUU or its members. If there is anything shoddy, you know where the smoke comes from. Enlighten the public about salaries and wages in Nigeria and let them compare and judge themselves. What did you pay staff of the anointed agencies e.g……………… without any prejudice.
  2. Replace your turbulent actions and scarecrow like threats with modest solutions. A gentle hand may lead even an elephant by a hair. FG should solve the differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane way. “The big lesson in life is that a baby is never scared of anyone or anything” (Frank Sinatra). ASUU is always ready, however unbowed, for modest negotiation!
  3. Take a critical look at members of FG negotiation panel. I believe that there are good people who are struggling to end this IPPIS and other oppressions without resorting to violence. They possess a futuristic vision that turns ideas into real-world success stories and not choosing to linger the dispute through stacking claims (including insinuations that lecturers worked on multiple campuses) and walloping. Some ‘mouth disease’ patients only know how to inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. The right individuals for negotiation are not the ones that claimed no knowledge of whether staffs under their care were paid owed salaries or not. They shouldn’t be enlightened ignorant that struggled to auction the ivory towers so that the masses can no longer earn degrees. James Baldwin said “that ignorance allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have”. So take note, the ‘low minded’ cannot negotiate.

Conclusion
Lastly, our amiable colleagues who join the ‘rodents’ based on prognostication should know that if your plan is for 1 year, plant rice; if your plan is for 10 years, plant trees; if your plan is for 100 years, educate children (Confucius). If your wish is just salary, follow the medieval cart wheel. If you want the future, stay with the congregation – ASUU!!.

Thank you FG for keeping me busy, not with Ludo or Draught of course!!

Nuraddeen Danjuma, PhD
Bayero University Kano
12/06/2020

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