By Dr Dons Eze
Two groups of people are currently undermining the education of our children, jeopardizing their future, and holding everybody to ransom. These are the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASSU, and their allied groups.
These two groups do not want our schools to reopen, and they do not want the progress of our children, forget about their pretensions, or their sheninigans.
The Federal Government sees the education sector as a liability, as a burden. Sometimes, they consider the money being spent on education as a waste, as something not beneficial. Why will they be wasting scarce resources building schools, equipping them, paying huge salaries and allowances to both teaching and non-teaching staff, for a sector that does not yield them immediate returns, immediate gains? That is the crux of the matter.
For long, the federal government has been toying over what to do with the workers in the universities and the polytechnics who always have been disturbing them with wage increases, as well as what to do with thousands of youths who yearly graduate from these institutions, who hang around their necks asking them to provide them with jobs that are not there. Then, Coronavirus came, and they heaved a sigh of relief.
As for the university and polytechnic workers, their penchant for agitation for salary and wage increases and for declaring trade disputes, is legendary. They have succeeded in removing themselves from the civil service salary scheme, yet, they are not satisfied. No year passes without these molders of human mind going on strike.
Sometimes, the universities and the polytechnics would close for up to one academic year, over one demand or the other, and these people would not be disturbed, they would not be worried over the fate of the children entrusted into their care. As a matter of fact, ASUU was on strike when Coronavirus came, and everybody started scampering for safety!
For the past six months, our educational institutions, have been under lock and key, because of Coronavirus, nicknamed COVID-19. Coronavirus is a global disease that has infected millions of people all over the world, and which so far, has resulted to thousands of deaths.
This necessitated the federal government to impose general lockdown in the country. Government offices, markets, places of religious worship, schools, etc. were accordingly closed, and people told to remain in doors, to avoid the spread of the pandemic.
Everybody was in support of these measures, including the closure of the educational institutions. We would not want our children to contract the disease. We would want to keep them safe, to secure their lives. It is only a living person that will go to school, to develop his or her intellect.
With time, however, pressures by individuals and organizations, forced the federal government to begin gradual lifting of the lockdown. It started with the partial reopening of government offices, markets, places of religious worship, inter-state travels, and then domestic flights.
By September 5, international air travels will commence. Then, the circle would have been completed, except the educational institutions, which are still under lock and key.
When we try to mount pressures on government to reopen these schools, both the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will say no, that it is not yet safe to reopen schools, that they would not want the health of our children to be put to risk.
"The federal government wouldn't mind if schools would remain closed for one year, provided the health of our children are secured", so said the Minister of Education. And ASUU concurred. "There should be no reopening of schools for now", the union stated. But who are these people trying to deceive? Why do they cry more than the bereaved?
Many parents of these children will go to markets and other crowded places, like burials, weddings, etc. They will come back home, but will not infect their children with Coronavirus. They will also attend Churches and Mosques with their children, yet these children will not contract Coronavirus there. The children themselves will go out in the fields, to play football and other games with their mates, yet they will not catch Coronavirus.
Then, when it comes to the reopening of schools, the government and ASUU will remember that there is Coronavirus, and that the health of our children should not be put to risk! Beautiful platitudes.
We want both the federal government and all workers in the education industry to stop playing hanky panky, to stop deceiving people by toying with the future of our children. Taking all necessary precautionary measures against contracting Coronavirus, just as other sectors are doing, we want the government to immediately reopen all schools in the country, so that our children can return to classes.
These children are tired. They have enough stayed at home. They have wasted enough. Their brains are now virtually empty. Some of them are even following bad gangs, which will be very bad and dangerous for the country.