A POSITION PAPER ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS (NANS), EBONYI STATE AXIS, AFFIRMING HER POSITION ON THE COVID-19-INDUCED CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS IN NIGERIA AND THE PROLONGED ASUU STRIKE.
OVERARCHING POINT: THE NON REOPENING OF NIGERIAN SCHOOLS, A MANIFESTATION OF GROSS IRRESPONSIBILITY ON THE PART OF OUR LEADERS.
This piece is the translation of the depressed voices of the generality of Nigerian students stepped down by Ebonyi State students, who have for over seven (7) months now been displaced from their classrooms due to the outbreak of the pandemic. While other nations stood in support of their people, Nigeria has made it a feast of excuses, and in all these the students’ community has suffered it the most.
This piece does not seek to discredit the conscientious efforts of the president and his team, who have taken commendable steps to fight this scourge but to bring to their notice that there are certain areas they have not gotten it right, especially as it concerns the non-resumption of our schools. The government has shown in their actions that education is not one of their priorities and being stakeholders in the Nigerian project, we see this as our responsibility to posterity to speak up.
We are aware of the deadly nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is transmitted more in crowded places, we are aware of the WHO guidelines and the measures that need to be put in place to make the resumption of schools feasible but what we don’t why the government seems not to be in any hurry to put those measures in place when many other African countries(mention some of those countries and emphasis that Nigeria is better than them in all indices and standards) have done so and opened their schools. What we don’t understand is why the government is not worried that by this coldness on their part we are about to lose a generation.
Furthermore, we are aware that our learning centres are centres of civilization, dominated by a large number of people of high intelligence and the home of research and innovation, so we don’t see why our higher institutions should be closed in this period of a national emergency whose solution is supposed to be birthed by them. Once we silence the expert we empower the charlatans.
The purpose of education is for a society to train those who will help it solve its problems. In a time of great troubles, the actions of a people show where it expects salvation from: the markets are open, the churches are open, the mosques are open, everything else is opened but our schools are closed. We cannot hold out peace anymore, our collective silence is an indictment.
We are not downplaying the possibility of spread of this pandemic should our schools be opened, but like all institutions in the world, modalities should be put in place to forestall such a spread, the alternative is to pause our lives forever and there is no one who is sane that will be pleased with that alternative, let alone the Nigerian students.
We are equally conscious of the tireless efforts of the presidential taskforce: the vanguard of the fight against this scourge and the unflinching efforts of the Governors of Nigerian states, it’s hard to resist the urge not to mention the efforts of the ebullient Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Engr. Chief. Dr. David Nweze Umahi, FNSE, FNATE, who launched the most effective, responsive and proactive measures against the Pandemic.
But we are worried. We are worried about the damning social evils which have taken advantage of the idleness of Nigerian students, evils like prostitution, rape and sexual immoralities and even robbery, resulting in the death of our students.
We are worried that if not curtailed on time, it would mature to full insecurity in places that have been relatively peaceful. Our students may degenerate into destructive elements, threatening national peace. Given their energy, time and youthful exuberance, their continued stay at home is a recipe for disaster that may be worse than the pandemic that had precipitated it.
We are also worried about the depressing consequences which the unending nature of the lockdown of schools has brought. It’s like putting our future on lockdown, our hopes and aspirations on lockdown and the worse thing to lose is hope.
Cheered by the decisions of the government, especially their decision to open religious activities, political activities and economic activities, except educational activities,
We have therefore resolved to:
- Question the rationale behind the unending closure of our schools if political activities (rallies, electioneering and Elections), religious and economic activities which engage more crowd than our schools can be granted resumption, except that the non-reopening of schools indicates a lukewarmness towards the future of our students or worse still, a conspiracy to rob them their future.
- Affirm the readiness of Nigerian students and educational institutions to launch Covid-19 protocols compliant strategies and guidelines that would ensure the safety of the Students and teachers on resumption. To substantiate this point, most of our Institutions have already constituted Covid-19 committees made up of lecturers and students’ leaders to ensure strict compliance with the Covid-19 protocols on resumption.
- Attack the logic which has been used to keep our schools under a lock which says the safety of Nigerian students is of greater importance than our studies. If we take this at face value, it implies that the safety of the worshipers in our religious houses or traders in our markets and all those institutions that have been opened are not as important as the activities they are involved in if not, the government would not have allowed them to open. The excuse is funny because our government believes that market women are more likely to obey simple instructions (Covid-19 protocols) than students of higher institutions. The government is simply refusing to face its responsibility of providing an enabling environment for the safe resumption of schools. The university unions have always accused the government of looking for any excuse to close our higher institutions permanently and it’s like there are being proven right.
- Draw the attention of the Federal Government to the crumbling educational sector, which the hard blow of the pandemic has finally brought to its knees.
It’s uncomfortable to do this but must condemn the half-hearted attention lent to the education sector among its sister sectors. If Nigeria had a formidable education sector, then Nigerian students would have had fewer academic bruises to cure than what’s currently laying ahead.
- Condemn in strongest terms the prolonged subsisting ASUU STRIKE Which Nigerian Students have longed faced before the intrusion of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The nature of the strike is such that it would surface again if the ban on academic activities is lifted.
We, therefore, call for resumption of negotiation between the Federal Government and ASUU. You are essentially negotiating our destinies, what is on the table is our future and we demand that both parties approach this with the sense of responsibility and urgency that it deserves and not see it as a power play.
- Confess our impatience with the non-resumption of our schools and to state the likelihood of the demonstrations and other actions and gestures which may naturally flow from the exhaustion of our patients over this gross injustice levelled against the Nigerian students.
- State that Education is a right and not a privilege and the government must not only understand this but be seen to act like they understand this.
To wrap up our position, we wish to advert the mind of the Federal Government to the consequential role played by Education if properly cared for in the making of our National policy and in executing Nation building programs.
The Education sector has the uncommon nature that gives it the capacity of offering inestimable contribution to the advancement of any Nation especially in problem solving, not least the present COVID -19 pandemic ravaging the monuments of Nations. A highlight of this postulation is the unbeatable contribution which Researchers in the Ivory Towers would have made in the global fight against the pandemic if Universities were sufficiently funded.
Disappointingly, the poor attention lent to the Education sector particularly the University Community has also robbed her of international prestige. The last time the world made her best school recount, none of our Nigerian Universities made it in the ranking of the best one thousand Universities (1,000) in the World, a reality that is not injurious to the reputation of our dear Country but also casts doubt on the training, competence and professionalism of our Students.
We call for Assessment Projects in our Universities. As it stands, our Universities could boast of improved infrastructural looks because of TETFund. We lend our voice to ASUU’s demand on Revitalization, Visitation, renegotiation and Proliferation/Funding of State Universities in Nigeria. This class of Nigerian Universities also participate in the building of a Nigerian Child and should be given a National attention. We demand that the Federal Government Constitutes a visitation Panel as requested by ASUU to weigh the State of affairs in Universities.
Nigerian Leaders must be compelled by extant laws to share in the plight of the people by enrolling their wards in Nigerian Schools/ Universities, we are not constrained to give numerical counts of these cheats, but because this is the first time we are making this loud cry. If our Leaders are ruled against sending their Children abroad for same studies that could be done in Nigeria, then they would be forced to divert more attention and resources to the development of our Schools.
We believe that the pinches of a faulty shoe is best felt by the person wearing it. Our leaders are nonchalant of the slacked capacity of our Universities because they do not have their children here. We request that the House of Representatives initiates bills that will meet this end with immediate effects.
We demand that the Country’s budget slot for Education be raised close to 26% United Nations’ Standard for developing Countries. If this is done, it will go along way to hoist the crumbling height of our Education system particularly our Universities and other higher Institutions in the Country. We frown at the complained poor Financial strength of the Country by our Leaders and insist that the Education sector being a strategic sector of the Country deserves a good attention.
We consolidate our position and demands on the responsive competence of the President of the the Federal Republic Nigeria, His Excellency, President Mohammadu Buhari (GCFR), in view of his pedigree and testimonial deeds to the development of the Country. We are also encouraged by the assurances of his Administration, his promises of Change and the level of his accomplishments so far.
Thank you all for your time and for listening!
Of the Greatest Nigerian Students!
Comr. Sen. Nwuruku Olisa Alfred, CNS, SANS.
Director of Special Duties, NANS Zone B (South-South & South-East)
Ebonyi State NANS Representative.
Comr. Oko Ewa Chukwumaijem
NANS JCC, Ebonyi State Axis.
Comr. Igwe Basil Chidimma
SUG President FCAI/Chairman
Council of SUG Presidents, Ebonyi State
Comr. Chima Smart Okoro
SUG President AIFPU/Secretary
Council of SUG Presidents, Ebonyi State
Comr. Ekoyo Kingsley Chinedu
SUG President EBSCOEI/P.R.O
Council of SUG Presidents, Ebonyi State
Comr. Abanni Samson
SUG President EBSU
Comr. Okorie Obinna Ugo
Ag. SUG President AE-FUNAI.
Comr. Mrs. Ikenna Rita Kelechukwu
SUG President, EBSCOHTECH, Ngbo
Vice Chairman, Council of SUG Presidents