“School Na Scam”: Why University Students Must Return To Campus

Education, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, is the “action or process of teaching someone, especially in a school, college or university,” where learners gather knowledge, understanding, and skill. This same knowledge, experience, and skill also formed the substance of education in Nigeria in the traditional (pre-western) sense. The society, from an early stage of its evolution, realized the vital role of imparting knowledge of established traditional moral values and norms, which has ensured its survival, growth, and progress on the upcoming generations. It was for this reason that the erstwhile ‘informal’ mode of education involved chiefly the acquisition of survival skills and those of social cohabitation. It also emphasizes the importance of becoming and growing—the process of striving to attain goodliness and living in harmony—essential to contributing to the betterment of society.

Hence, from an early stage in the individual’s development, he/she is tutored on how to become a productive and responsible member of society through familial indoctrinations, peer group societies, and guild associations. This way, from their teen years, individuals become incorporated into the community, developing a sense of place and directing their energies towards establishing themselves in their chosen occupation, and performing functions critical for the society’s advancement. Indeed, this will inform the old Yoruba poem composed by J. F. Odunjo while deploying the literal tool of a pun: “Ise loogunise/murasiise ore mi/iselaafi di eni giga,” translated: “Work is the antidote to poverty/work hard my friend/it is the key to greatness.” Thus, with this, following the well-tutored home training from birth till teenage years, in the absence of formal education, youths are enrolled in an apprenticeship school where they learn the advanced skills needed to earn them a living. By so doing, it is pertinent that moral upbringing is not enough, but life skills to keep them engaged and yield returns are as well a part of their education. This prevents them from being idle and becoming a nuisance to society, instead, they become valuable assets that stimulate the growth of their communities. This practicalizes yet another famous adage in Nigeria with the Yoruba version being: “Owoti o badileniesu ma n be lowe,” translated as: “an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.”

However, in twenty-first-century Nigeria, education(this very critical instrument for social cohesion and engineering) has been reduced to an afterthought. In a time when all around the world the pursuit of knowledge is hailed as a basis for the success of thriving societies and as a determinant of survival in this future of “knowledge economy,” Nigeria is engrossed in recurring debates as to whether it should invest in developing its educational infrastructure and capacity or empty the treasury on loan repayment and maintaining an expensive political culture. If that were not enough, some Nigerian leaders are more committed to fluke infrastructural development where they can award contracts, get kickbacks or siphon funds—resulting in what Nigerians popularly refer to as audio projects.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that academic union strikes that shut down the nation’s (public) tertiary institutions for long periods have become the RéspondezS’ilVous Plait (R.S.V.P.) or the rappel menaçant (a threatening reminder) to get governments to respond to calls to honour agreements previously reached between the parties. This raises questions like: does the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) realize the extent of damages their bickering and the accompanying striking actions wreak on the educational system in Nigeria vis-á-vis its contribution in national development? Do they appreciate that, in their unyielding heavyweight brawls, it is the students whose interests they allege to defend that suffer the pains of the stampede? Are they fully aware of the consequences of their actions on the student psyche; that it sums up to the most effective crash course in student’s disillusionment on the dividends of education? More personally, would they be okay if their own children were to be recipients of the kind of epileptic education they are meting out to other people’s children under their care? If they do, these incidences of recurring strikes say otherwise.

It is said, whenever two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers. ASUU, in an attempt to force the government’s hand, halts academic activities, an action that puts the lives of students on hold. These striking incidences in Nigeria are so common that almost every Nigerian student at that level of education must have experienced it at least once. So much that, when those who eventually graduate reminisce about their school experience, they trade stories referencing them as battle scars. Unfortunately, however, these traumatising episodes leave emotional/psychological scars, too, with debilitating impacts on student motivation, performance, and limiting their chances at gainful employment or future academic engagements in well-defined academic environments.


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