(The Economist looking worried and sad)

Brilliant Citizen: My Economist, why do you have such a gloomy face? Is the world coming to an end?

Economist: Our Universities are still on strike!

Brilliant Citizen: Is that what is bothering you? Is there a year the Nigerian Federal and State Universities do not go on strike? It is a normal thing now!

Economist: It should not be the case. Many students are held back due to the consistent strikes. Four-year courses now take as long as five to six years depending on the number of strikes.

Brilliant Citizen: Hmmm.. I think we have factored it into our educational system. That is why many of us are not worried. “Last last”, they will graduate from school!

Economist: It should not be normal. The impact of consistent strikes goes beyond the students. It affects families, communities and the nation at large.

Brilliant Citizen: How do you mean? It is only the students it affects. Some are even happy as it happens just before their exams so they can flex a little.

Economist: I doubt many students are happy. Then, as students, we would like a week or two to study more before exams but the strikes last for months with no known end date. Many cannot access internship opportunities as they cannot plan their year. Most schools will rush the students once the strike is over, so the quality of teaching is reduced.

Brilliant Citizen: Well, you are correct. But how does it affect the society at large?

Economist: For families, many have planned their lives around one or two children sponsoring the others. They spend all their money to send one child to school. Hoping, he/she will graduate and send the others to school. The strike impacts the period and many younger ones are at home, waiting for “brother” to finish school, so he can pay their school fees.

Brilliant Citizen: Wow, I did not think about it that way.

Economist: Also, with many youths not engaged in the schools, they are bored and turn to harmful habits — drugs, betting, and some robbery — simply to pass away time. This could lead to increased insecurity within communities.

Brilliant Citizen: I now see your point. This strike impacts us more than we understand. Does it impact the economy though?

Economist: It certainly does, with a large youth population, the expectation is the youth are educated and, in few years, contribute to the productive activities of the country. The more people are educated, the greater their chances of earning more, contributing to production and reducing poverty. Also, there is brain drain as many youths give up on the country, leaving for other countries.

Brilliant Citizen: You mean they “japa”?

Economist: Yes, they travel to continue their education, well for those that can afford to.

Brilliant Citizen: So, what really is the request of the University staff and why is government unable to meet it. After all, we say education is the bed rock of national development. Should it not be prioritized?

Economist: Some of their requests include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, promotion arrears, academic allowances. Generally, it is for better service condition and welfare.

Brilliant Citizen: I see and why is it taking the government so long to come to an agreement with them?

Economist: It appears our limited resources are spread too thin and government cannot meet all their demands at the moment.

Brilliant Citizen: At the moment? Have they not been on strike for weeks now and there have been various series of strikes in the past years. I do not think we are serious about education in this country. I laugh at my country.

Economist: You have a point, but perhaps government should not be solely funding the public universities?

Brilliant Citizen: Ha, you want to kill the common Nigerian. He will not be able to afford it if government stops funding universities. Do you know how much the private universities charge?

Economist: Let us not forget that education does not start from the Universities. The foundation of education is the early childhood & primary education. Afterwards, it is secondary. Can government focus more on ensuring Nigerians are getting quality education at the foundation level?

Brilliant Citizen: In our country, getting the foundation education is not enough. Even graduates are looking for jobs. So, you now want them to stop at secondary education.

Economist: I am not saying citizens should not go to Universities. I am suggesting the burden should not lie strictly on the government. We need to create alternative funding sources. Like in many developed countries, students can access loans. The Private sector can provide more scholarships and grants at this level.

Brilliant Citizen: I hear you, just note that you said developed countries. Remember, we are not yet developed. We are still developing, it’s been a long developing time. I hope we get there soon.

Economist: We will get there. You and I need to continue to play our part.

Brilliant Citizen: (Laughing out) I could have predicted you will say that! Let me go and earn more so I can fund my future children’s education.

Economist: (Laughs) Go and work. For our present students, they need to source for other learning alternatives, perhaps online. Hopefully, the Universities will open soon.

Brilliant Citizen: “Hopefully o”. (Walks away)

Special thanks to Wale Olusi and Abraham Afariogun for their contribution to this article.

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