The President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking on Monday in Daura, Katsina state, when he received some governors of the All Progressives Congress, APC, legislators, and other political leaders at his residence, said that in the past, colonial type education was geared towards producing workers in government. He said in no uncertain terms, or rather bluntly and unapologetically, that government jobs are no longer available and our young people should get education to prepare themselves for self-employment. “Now you get educated for the sake of education,” Buhari said.
His statement was preceded by his urging striking university lecturers to call off the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, telling them that enough is enough and they should sympathise with the people and the country.
Although there is a modicum of truth in the president’s statement—you get educated for the sake of education—it is rather baffling and unsettling that this statement was made by a man who has kept the doors of our universities’ classrooms locked for more than four months. It is certainly a self-gratifying statement to make in that his administration has shown itself to have zero regard for the striking lecturers who have not been paid for months and students whose days are frittering away.
It is particularly interesting that the president knows that technology has revolutionized the way we learn and do things and it has cut down the number of available jobs; however, what is utterly distasteful, is his failure to fund and equip public university education with facilities and tools that will gear the students to self-employment. Instead, the government has embarked on building more universities when the existing universities are still grossly underfunded.
The last time I checked, the whole education sector gets less than 6% of the entire budget. A country and a man that care about his young people getting educated for the sake of education and self-employment must know that education should be highly prioritized. Otherwise, the education sector will continue to function at a minimal level, which is a menace to the country’s social and economic development. The out-of-school children and half-baked graduates Nigeria produces every quarter transcends into high unemployment rates, which is a ripple effect of the decay in the sector.
In other climes and countries, there is an enabling environment, welcoming infrastructure and 21st-century facilities where students can learn to actualise their dreams and drive themselves into self-sustenance. In Nigeria, this is not the case; what we have is a stifling environment devoid of these facilities where students learn so brutally from disheartened lecturers, as evident in their sweats in stuffy classrooms.
A number of students have even lost hope in the government to provide jobs for them. What appears paramount to them is getting educated for the sake of education, as the president has said, and moving ahead with what remains after their degrees and education. They know that they cannot continue to depend on the government for jobs that the president has outright told them are no longer there.
What, then, is the hope of millions of these young people who desire the barest minimum—being in school—from the government and are unable to get educated for the sake of education because the universities have been closed for months and their president, Buhari, still appeared in public to address them without addressing the demands of the striking lecturers. How does this man want the students to get educated for the sake of education when our public universities are still closed?
What is even more worrisome is that some of these out-of-school university students who have busied themselves with one business or the other are unable to get fundings from the government to drive their businesses to a Promised Land. In a country where citizens and young people are begging for their rights to live because of the insecurities that have permeated everywhere, is the government even creating an enabling environment for young people’s businesses to germinate let alone thrive?
It is funny, in the way sad things are funny, that young people are begging the government for their rights to public education and to go back to school and learn, but the president is telling them to get educated for the sake of education when public universities are still closed.
Ikuerowo writes from the University of Ibadan