The political candidates in the forthcoming elections have been promising to (re)build the country and create prosperity for all. Yet, such promises can only be realized when the people who are supposed to make it happen feel they are part of the process – the Nigerian student.
Students are like unfinished products in the production line of a factory. A car manufacturer will usually go to great lengths to ensure that the product his company is offering to the world meets the highest standards of quality; that manufacturer wants to be confident of what will become the final product, and proudly invite members of the public to use the car and assure them of the safety they will enjoy riding in such cars. Therefore, in the process of production, the manufacturer employs only the best hands to give the best attention to the cars in the production line. If we compare the state of affairs of the Nigerian student to the car in the production line, we will find out that the student is in danger of coming out as a defective product, with potential to cause harm to society.
The Nigerian student has not been in a greater state of despondency and despair like they have been in the last two years. In 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that came in order to contain the spread of the virus, schools in Nigeria (especially public schools where most students are found) struggled to integrate technology into their learning, and seamlessly continue learning virtually. Factors such as low broadband penetration, affordability of internet facilities and gadgets for virtual learning such as laptops and smart phones/tablets ensured that while very few privileged others (those in very expensive private schools) continued learning in the lockdown, most of those in various primary, secondary and tertiary institutions had their learning truncated. To worsen their case, the public universities lecturers embarked on a strike that lasted throughout the lockdown and restriction periods, putting a death nail on the prospects of university students continuing in their education in the period of the pandemic.
These challenges have widened the gap between the privileged students and the less privileged. These gaps are not just seen in the better future prospects that the privileged have over the less privileged, but in the confidence that should come with being treated with dignity that the less privileged have.
The political candidates in the forthcoming elections have been promising to (re)build the country and create prosperity for all. Yet, such promises can only be realized when the people who are supposed to make it happen feel they are part of the process – the Nigerian student. The recent long strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has dented the confidence that the Nigerian student has in himself or herself. Education is expected to give a person self-worth and dignity, however for the Nigerian student, the period from 2020 with COVID-19, and the strike period of 2022, has been nightmarish. A nation cannot grow, and reach its developmental projections without the confidence of its youth. This confidence is lacking at the moment.
The #japa trend should not ordinarily be trending in the largest economy on any continent, but it is trending in Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy) because it is a country that creates wealth out of rent and not value. Attending a tertiary institution should have been an avenue to help a country create value through people, yet it is not so in Nigeria where an average student watches as criminals get rewarded by the state, while the same state makes it difficult for them to find their footing and purpose in life. This level of despair will not grow the country, but rather chase the promising ones out.
The political contestants would have lied if they think they can rebuild this country by airing the Nigerian student. Ignoring them would amount to driving them deeper into the hands of hopelessness, the type that finds favourable offers from crime and other anti-social vices. Ignoring the Nigerian student is the same as saying they do not matter. Nations are built in the heads of its citizens, before bricks and mortars are put in place, and not the other way around. The nation has witnessed a lot by way of kidnappings, terrorism, theft of national treasury, and so on. Sadly, while these are going on, the political leaders of the country are busy building roads and flyovers. While these physical infrastructures are great, they do not come close to paying due attention to the nation’s real assets – its human capital.