By Gabriel Dike
For the all-important, education sector, 2017 was without doubt a year filled with activities, achievements and challenges. But you would be right and quick to conclude that it was a long season of protests if you have the records and facts.
In 2017, the Federal and State Governments promised to give a new lease of life to the sector through robust policies and adequate funding. But what did Nigerians get in return: broken promises, low returns and harvest of strikes.
But the sector had started on a bright note with some state governors signing into law the 2017 appropriation bill passed by their state assemblies, all making appreciable provisions for the sector.
At the federal level, it was a different ball game as the president and federal lawmakers engaged in counter accusation on certain provisions of the budget, so, its passage took longer than necessary.
Like previous allocations to the education sector, in 2017, it was far less than 26 per cent UNESCO benchmark and the impact of the meagre allocation was felt. Again the syndrome of churning out good educational policies and poor implementation was experienced. The result is the current reflection of poor state of the sector in the year under review. Many stakeholders called for the declaration of state of emergency and an education summit to address the rot and challenges confronting the sector.
Low budget allocation
The Buhari administration allocated N398.01b to the education sector in 2017out of the total annual budget of N7.298tr. Many state governments were not left out of the shortfall as they also allocated small amount to the sector.
Stakeholders said the action of governments was an indication that the federal and state governments paid less attention to the sector.
The Buhari administration came up with a roadmap on its education policy thrust. As usual, the document is gathering dust at the Federal Ministry of Education. Also, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the ministry to convoke an education summit to address the rot in the system, the year ended without the promise fulfilled.
UNIMAID bombing/lecturers kidnap
On January 16, 2017, many were feared dead as bomb explosions hit the University of Maiduguri in the morning. The first incident occurred at the mosque of the university during the Fajir prayer at about 6.30am. Police Commissioner, Damian Chukwu mobilised bomb squad to the scene. A professor and two others were killed in the blast, while 13 persons were taken to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital for treatment. On Tuesday, July 25, three UNIMAID lecturers and three NNPC staffers were abducted by Boko Haram. The three staffers were kidnapped during ambush of oil exploration workers in the Lake Chad Basin by the terrorist group.
Varsity unions strikes
The year started on a bad note for the sector as the academic and non-teaching staff in the Nigerian university system in January commenced an indefinite strike over outstanding demands and non-implementation of agreement signed between the unions and the government. Polytechnic lecturers also downed tools for same reasons. The past year can be described as a season for harvest of strikes as it witnessed more strikes than previous years. As at the time of this report, the nation’s universities had been paralysed by a strike of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) in protest against the sharing formula of N23b released by the federal government for earned allowances to all categories of staff in the universities.
The federal government through the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved the establishment of 12 more universities – state and private. The action elicited mixed reactions as some stakeholders backed the establishment of more universities to cater for numerous candidates seeking admission. Others said it was not necessary, particularly the states that have the presence of federal university and also states establishing additional universities when the existing ones are underfunded.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) described the establishment of new state universities by the Ogun and Oyo state governments as bad politics when the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso are struggling for survival with mounting arrears of salaries, allowances and other staff entitlements.
Kogi sacks 120 ASUU members
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State in 2017 ordered the sack of over 120 lecturers of Kogi State University, Ayingba (KSUA) for their refusal to resume work. ASUU rejected the action and wondered why the governor would witch hunt the affected members for embarking on strike to protest the arrears of salaries owed them.
Students union proscription
Management of some tertiary institutions such as the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, University of Benin (UNIBEN), Auchi Polytechnic, University of Lagos and others proscribed the activities of their students unions. The decision to ban students union on their campuses was based on opposition to increment in fees, crisis rocking the executives and attempt by the management to hijack elections of the students. The decision of the management was challenged by the students’ executives leading to a major face off and the proscription of their activities.
ASUP strike cripples exams, lectures
An indefinite strike by polytechnic lecturers nationwide in November 2017 disrupted on-going examinations, marking of scripts and lectures in several institutions. The National Executive Council (NEC) of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), had directed its 55 chapters in federal and state polytechnics to down tools beginning Monday, November 13, if the federal government fails to meet the union’s demands.
The nation’s first higher institution, Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) witnessed three incidents that shook its foundation. In 2017, three senior lecturers of the institution were denied promotion by the external assessor because they plagiarized in the papers presented and the management attempted to sweep it under the carpet. The new governing council resurrected the case and the staff involved soon queried.
On the certificate fraud, Seun Adebayo, a registry staff allegedly sold HND certificate to a serving federal lawmaker from Kogi State. He was arrested, detained and released. As he was released from detention, YABATECH management issued him query and later sacked him. Seun has since disappeared but some staff wants the governing council to investigate the certificate scam.
Appointment of a new Rector is generating ripples over attempt by some management staff to circumvent the outcome. At the end of the two-day selection exercise, Mr. Obafemi Owoseni Omokungbe, came first with 89.7 per cent, Mr. Aledare Kayode, placed second with 76.5 per cent and Mr. Omobayo Raheem, came third with 59.7 per cent. Going by traditional in tertiary institutions, the presidency is expected to pick the candidate who came first in the interview.
Governor El-Rufai sacks 21,000 teachers in Kaduna
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, directed the sack of over 21,000 teachers who failed the competency test but the Nigeria Union of Teachers and Nigeria Labour Congress challenged his plans describing it as unacceptable. Despite the opposition, El-Rufai went ahead to invite applications for new teachers and the screening and test were conducted recently amid protest from NUT and other stakeholders.
LASU sacks 17
The Governing Council of the Lagos State University (LASU) on September 7 ordered the sack of 15 academic, two non-teaching staff and two demoted alleged for misconduct. Among those sacked include Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)-LASU branch chairman, Dr. Isaac Oyewunmi and his deputy, Dr. Adebowale Adeyemi-Suenu. ASUU rejected the sack and alleged that the decision did not follow due process and was manipulated for political reasons as members of the governing council did not see copy of the report or was it discussed at the council meeting before the decision was taken. Earlier, the council also dismissed 13 staffers over WAEC result falsification and theft.
Many tertiary institutions experienced students’ unrest leading to disruption of academic activities and destruction of property. In December 2017, students of MAPOLY and UNIBEN protested against increment in fees. MAPOLY protest turned violent and about 20 students were arrest by the police.
WAEC exam fraud summit
The five-member countries of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) took a major step to tackle the menace of examination malpractice with two-day International Summit on Examination Malpractice in Lagos to draw the attention of government, schools, parents and stakeholders to the alarming increase in incidence of exam fraud. The Registrar of WAEC, Dr. Uyi Uwadiae, painted a worrisome picture of the dimension examination malpractice has assumed in the country with candidates and agents desperate to perpetuate the act. He revealed that examination fraudsters now carry guns and chemical to examination centres to either kill or maim invigilators or supervisors who attempt to stop them from cheating.
The council in 2017 introduced new West African Senior School Examination Certificate (WASSCE) for private candidates starting in 2018. It also recorded an improved performance in the May/June 2017 WASSCE as about 923,486 candidates out of 1,559,162 who sat for the exam recorded five credit passes, including in English and Maths.
The education sector also witnessed several landmark events which either affected the sector positively or negatively. For instance, some Unity Schools teachers owed salaries and allowances went on strike and again crisis rocked admission into some 104 Federal Government Colleges, Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello proscribed all staff unions in tertiary institutions in the state stating the state government was fed up with their activities. The union faulted his action and asked the governor to pay lecturers outstanding salaries ranging from five to eleven months as well as backlog of allowances. Education Writers Association of Nigeria held its 2nd annual lecture and the focus was on basic education. The federal government began probe of 12 new universities. The Joint admissions and Matriculation Board sanctioned 22 CBT operators for malpractice and returned N8.5 billion to government treasury.