Education and health as economic imperatives (2)
Since 2009, ASUU has moved away from staff welfare issues to focus on funding public universities to provide quality research and teaching. The ranking in Webometric is not based on the physical structures of the universities, but on the research results which they believe can be improved by improving the physical structure. Even in Africa, Nigerian universities are not ranked in the top 100, but if you go to South Africa, which dominates the rankings, you will see the staff structure dominated by Nigerians expelled due to poor academic environment. We attended a conference in an African country and found on the list of academic staff at professorial level, 41 out of 56 Nigerians in various fields. One of them told me that they had migrated from Nigerian universities and most had obtained citizenship!
The loss of quality education at public primary and secondary levels has been small due to the fact that there is no one to fight for improved facilities in schools at this level. The Nigerian Teachers Union was very vibrant in the past and this has supported the quality of facilities and teaching at both levels. But that was when union members had their children in public primary and secondary schools. Nowadays, the children of the current leaders are in private schools, so these leaders care less about what happens where they work and earn their living. For now, the children of union leaders in higher education institutions are in public higher education institutions and they have to fight for the soul of the institutions.
The actions of the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande when he was Governor of Lagos State between October 1979 and December 1983 are instructive in this case. What did Jakande do? By the time Jakande took office from the military government, Lagos State was running three shifts a day in its primary and secondary schools. Each group of students spent less than four hours at school each day. This three hour period included assembly and a break for eating. What would a child have learned in three hours? The quality was very low and the teachers were confused and frustrated. Jakande changed all that in a year. He built, on any available land, many of the makeshift schools that were needed at the time to accommodate not only the field students, but those who would come under the government’s free education. The three-team system was later changed to one-team starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 2:00 p.m. These have to do with infrastructure.
On the human resources side, there has been a massive recruitment of teachers and the training of potential teachers in teacher training colleges and pedagogical colleges. The number of children attending public primary and secondary schools has increased with the movement of parents from other states in the federation to Lagos to benefit from the rapid development taking place in the state. More important is the official policy he eventually introduced. He ordered all his commissioners to move their children to public schools so that everyone could be interested in the schools. Recently, one of the federal lawmakers tried to resuscitate the idea but failed, perhaps because his colleagues failed to grasp the essence of his submission. However, democratic frameworks of the magnitude we practice may not allow the idea to succeed at the federal level.
Jakande’s action has significantly improved the quality of education in public schools in Lagos State, as evidenced by the results of WASCE that followed. The products of this education system are already making waves in Lagos and many other states in Nigeria today. The qualitative momentum was maintained for some time but is hardly so today because the children of most teachers are in private schools and those of civil servants are abroad. When my secondary school recently celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, the alumni association had to renovate and equip the laboratory, among other facility improvements. It is these alumni associations that have helped public secondary schools and one can imagine schools that do not have such associations.
The presence of vibrant unions at the level of higher education institutions often obliges the government to pay some attention to them. When ASUU found that the student population was getting so huge that many of them were receiving lectures through the windows and the labs were in shambles, it had to abandon staff welfare for the provision of classrooms. , amphitheatres, laboratories, etc. for a quality teaching and research environment. . Research makes teaching at a university special, promotes the university in world rankings, and provides the researcher with opportunities for promotion, recognition, and job satisfaction. Therefore, advocating for infrastructure development to promote teaching and research would indirectly improve staff well-being. The government, whether federal or state, did not seem interested in improving the infrastructure of existing universities; rather, they started creating more universities of different types for political reasons. As soon as the government that created these institutions is removed from office, the successors will stop funding and become orphaned, with the management focusing on business ventures and tuition fees to sustain its existence.
What we have in all public educational institutions from primary, secondary to tertiary where most Nigerian students are found is poor quality education and ultimately poor quality production. Here are the health issues. The quality of health workers as a product of the poor education system is invariably low. These two sub-sectors deserve more allocations of funds from the federal and state budget as was the case under the Unity Party of Nigeria which ruled five states in Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. The party had four cardinal programs, namely free education at all levels, free medical care for all, integrated rural development and full employment. It was the party that initiated state universities and the payment of scholarships to students at institutions of higher learning in lieu of scholarships. The country did not have so much money at that time, but the management of funds was essential and corruption was also at a lower level.
Countries that take education and health seriously dominate the world. This can be verified against literacy levels and life expectancy in developed countries. The World Population Review explained that developed countries have an adult literacy level of at least 96% while developing countries manage an average literacy rate of 65%. China, with a population of around 1.4 billion, has a literacy level of 96.8% in 2018, implying that over 1.2 billion Chinese are literate, while Nigeria , with only 200 million inhabitants, was 62% in the same year and the highest ever was 70% in 2006. At the time of the Chinese revolution in 1949, the literacy rate was 20% and rose to 65.5% in 1982. China was the poorest of its neighbors, Taiwan and South Korea, in 1949 with a per capita income of 49.7 yuan, today it is the richest and the second economy of the world after the United States, which should cede this position to China after 2030. It is thanks to a quality education system which has grown by more than 10% per year for the first four decades. after his revolution.
The World Population Review explained that “poverty and illiteracy tend to go hand in hand. Education is often less available in poverty-stricken areas. Moreover, even when education is available, a struggling family may need their children to work and earn money instead of going to school. Most of the least literate countries… also include most of the world’s poorest countries. Nigeria was recently, in 2019, declared the poor capital of the world. In terms of life expectancy, statista.com reports that “Nigeria’s life expectancy at birth is among the lowest in Africa as well as the world”. This describes the state of health facilities and the quality of health in the country. While quality health care promotes productivity, which is low in this country, education promotes innovations, inventions, job creation, birth control, and sustained economic growth. So, the combination of the two is, without a doubt, what we need for development. A situation in which universities are collapsing today and health services are at a standstill tomorrow portends economic backwardness, rather than looking for oil thieves as a diversion, when the thieves are known and part of the government circle.
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