Education in Nigeria is in a sorry state. This makes foreign education appealing to many parents and their children. Though only a few can afford the expense without pain, many go through Hell to get themselves or their families educated abroad where they become second citizens. This is, to many Nigerians, better than schooling in Nigerian universities which are laden with multifaceted problems.
Problems are part of human existence and no society, including those we like to refer to as saner climes, is free from problem(s). But while problems are meant to be solved, those affecting Nigerian universities—and its education sector generally—are meant, or seem, to be sustained till eternity. This gloomy thought, so indelibly embedded on the minds of many Nigerians, explains the exodus to foreign countries for education.
I find it shocking or rather fantastic to know that Nigerians schooling abroad to earn one degree or the other are more than those admitted in our epileptic universities. This is the reality. Disputing it does not change it. According to the President of the Association of Nigerian Students in Europe (ANSE), Bashiru Saidu Muhammad, there are over 3 million Nigerians studying in European countries. We can safely say those studying in Asia are also in the region of million. This implies that the annual financial flight from Nigeria to fund schooling abroad is staggering. This is in spite of our dysfunctional and disarticulated economy which is perennially nose-diving.
Successive governments in Nigeria habitually keep the universities under lock and key by depriving them the necessary facilities and funds to make an edge. Not only that, university staff are paid incommensurate salaries which perpetually keep them at poverty line. Thus, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and her sister unions, for decades, have embarked on strike to air their grievances and drive home their demands.
However, in the wisdom of Nigerian ‘all wise’ Government, the university staff would have to be denied their salaries for demanding what is apparently meant to benefit all and sundry. This longstanding muscle flexing between the Federal Government and ASUU has had damaging repercussions on Nigerian students. Failure to get issues resolved on time makes many students lose interest in schooling in Nigeria.
Even when universities staff are not on strike, Nigerian students do face many challenges in the process of learning which are unbecoming. Some university teachers have cast themselves in the image of gods who should be worshipped by students. Their arrogance towards students knows no limit. Students are treated like primitive slaves who must always be submissive and dare say no.
These lecturers don’t attend classes except when they choose to. Truancy among them is very common and no one could call them to order due to proximate lawlessness. They fail and pass students at will; not based on performance. One would prefer Hell to being under them for supervision. You hardly find them in their offices and it is a taboo to mail them, phone them or complain about them. Yet when they pretend to have your time they demand from you to play along with them. Some shamelessly request money or give you option to pay in kind especially if you are female students.
They dislike brilliant and diligent students but admire the lazy and unserious ones who could be easily used as pimps or harass sexually. In addition, this latter category of students are easily extorted; making friends with them is lucrative to the lecturers. They hate reading and research, and thus, could not impart any meaningful knowledge; yet, they are more desirous to demand salary increment than those who actually deserve it.
Students risk failure for asking them questions in the class. They don’t know and cannot even pretend to know. Their ultimate goal is never to impart knowledge nor push its frontier backward. What appears to be their ultimate goal is to be paid for work they do not do at the end of every month.
However, there are exceptional academics in Nigerian universities who are epitome of integrity. They remain the only hope for students who yearn for excellence and bemoan the decadence in the system. Stopping lecturers’ salaries, considering this sterling category, is painful and condemnable and paints government in bad image.
Therefore, incessant ASUU’s strikes due to government irresponsiveness to modest demands for basics, moral decadence in the ivory towers, and rascality which makes some lecturers consider themselves gods, all account for reasons why Nigerian students are displeased with Nigerian universities and opt for foreign degrees. Admittedly, they are doing well in many of these foreign universities; but this is not always the case. The recent sad news about Nigerian students in Northern Cyprus who suffer depression due to inhumane treatment from the country’s authority should discomfort Nigerian Government. This, according to report, gives rise to the high rate of suicide among them.
Unfortunately, some of these foreign universities lack facilities and are poorly rated even lower than those at home. But desperation to escape Nigeria and the sorry state of its universities blind many foreign admission seeking Nigerians from seeing the difference between black and white. They have no university preference provided it is foreign. Early this year, a 19-year-old Nigerian student died a day after arriving Ukraine due to faulty heater in his designated room. Inability of the personnel on duty, to whom he lodged his complaint, to understand English cost him his life.
Besides, there are regular news of Nigerian students on scholarship being stranded in foreign countries. Is it not ironical that a government who needs billions of naira to fix its own universities pays billions of naira to sponsor students abroad? These students live in a pitiable condition each time government shirks its responsibility to pay their tuition fee and stipends.
Many Nigerians are denied the comfort of schooling in Nigeria. Yet, while they study in foreign countries, some have nothing to write home about. The recent incident in Northern Cyprus is a classic case of woes faced by these students from denial to suicide. Or in other words, they escaped from frying pan only to land in fire. It is high time the Nigerian Government came out clean. If it intends to kill public universities completely, let it kill them once and for all to ensure that the private ones which are owned by its cronies thrive. Its body language is understood. If the plan is to commercialize them, it can legislate on that and make it a public policy. Enough of these woes. May we get it right.