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When Two Elephant Fight, The Grass Suffers

By Sandra Ijeoma Okoye

There is no denying the fact that the proverb that says, “When two elephants fight the grass suffers” is at the moment finding expression in the feud between the federal government and the Academic Staff of Union of Universities (ASUU), particularly as the academic union have for three-month been engrossed with a strike action, and has recently announced the extension of the prolonged strike by an additional three months. Given the situation, it is explanatory enough for any discerning mind to understand that it has become a fight between two elephants, which in this context are the FG and ASUU, and on the other hand the students who are collectively the grass that is suffering when analyzed from this proverbial perspective.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is not an exaggeration to say that the somewhat abuse of the right to protest as a fundamental human right as presently been exhibited by lecturers affiliated to ASUU obviously lay credence to the fact that tertiary education has truly lost its glory in Nigeria. Worse still, it has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Nigerians who are intellectually inclined.

To understand why the standard and quality of university education is fast falling, it would be expedient to take a retrospective look on the state of university education in the country as it is no more an exaggeration to say that university education has lost its glory in today’s Nigeria as a result of the interplay of many factors such incessant lecturer’s strikes, student’s involvement in clandestine activities and their seeming lack of research culture coupled with their collective docile disposition to imparting knowledge to the young ones in all its ramifications.

Repetitively put, if there is any sector of the economy where the idiomatic expression that says, “When Two Elephant Fight, The Grass Suffers” is finding expression, it is unarguably the education sector, particular at its sub-sector domiciled in universities which lecturers and the federal through its agents have turned to war-zones.

A friend of mine simply sees the penchant of lecturers embarking on strike at the slightest provocation as retrogressive, noting that it is making the young ones to, in most cases, add extra years to the duration of completing their degrees.  Thus, it is not rare to see graduates that spent either 5 or 6 years to complete a degree that was meant to be completed at the duration of 4 years.

At this juncture, it is expedient to say that there is need to re-evaluate some of the he depressing effects strike actions has in the Nigerian students.

In fact, with the ongoing strike, students across various institutions of higher learning in Nigeria are at the moment suffering just as the proverb says. Unfortunately, the strike action was triggered by resolvable disagreement between the government and the unions of various institutions, arising from non-implementation or partial implementation of former agreements reached. The disagreement or lack of understanding between government and academic community resulted in the ongoing stalemate that has no doubt messed up academic calendars of virtually all the universities.

There is no denying the fact that the prevailing strike has dwindled the academic performances of most students that have been at home since February, 2022 when the strike action commenced.  The foregoing view cannot be easily pooh-poohed as learning has been suspended for a long period. Even the knowledge acquired during the learning period might have even been forgotten by some students. Worse still, it cannot be out of place to say that some of the students may be compelled to begin to show more interest in the degrees they seek to obtain than going back to school as those in their final year at the time the strike commenced are already in a state of frustration.

Also, as most protracted strikes, such as this, compel students to idle away at home, it cannot be denied that there is a gripping tendency for undergraduates to go into some social vices like prostitution, full scale “Yahoo-yahoo”, kidnapping among other trending crimes across the country. After all, it is said that “An idle mind is the devils workshop.”

Given the foregoing analytical views, there is need for a re-evaluation of education across government-owned universities across Nigeria. Factors that often lead to strike in our institutions should be addressed. There is no doubt that the infrastructures in most of our schools are as old as the years of the schools. This is unacceptable.

A conducive learning atmosphere is a sine-qua-non for quality education. In addition, education should be properly and adequately funded to encourage effective research and to avoid brain drain. Proper funding and equipment of Nigerian universities will go a long way to stop further strike action.

Meanwhile, government should always try to honor whatever agreement reached with the academic communities. There is no denying the fact that this strike action embarked upon by lecturers affiliated to ASUU can be averted if necessary steps are taken to build a good relationship between both parties. It is worth emphasizing that any government with a poor education system is heading towards a black future.

At the same time, it will be auspicious for ASUU to device other means other than strike to resolve aggrieved issues. Strike action should be the last resort. This is because of the negative effect frequent strikes have on students and the entire academic community is counterproductive and damaging.

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