•Reveals Nigeria loses N28.65bn to education tourism
Kuni Tyessi in Abuja and Uche Nnaike in Lagos
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu yesterday maintained that the offer made to the university lecturers under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that are presently on strike was sustainable.
He said the offer was reached considering available resources, even as he maintained that the government’s position on ‘no work, no pay’ stands.
The minister who spoke yesterday during an interview on Channels Television, said the offer made by the present administration could not be compared with that of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan when the sum of N1.3 trillion was promised the union and to be paid in the spread of six years.
He said the Jonathan’s administration agreement was not feasible and could not be realisable due to resources that were not available.
In reaction to the sum of N28.65 billion that the country had lost to education tourism from 1998- 2018, due to the incessant industrial action and how it continues to put pressure on the forex market, the minister said going out of the country for studies was not a bad idea after all.
“It is not bad to go out and study. I still remember when the Chinese government wanted to neutralise persons from other countries and 100,000 Nigerian students were sent out, and there was also another batch of 100,000 that were sent there.
“This was done twice. Nigerian universities should try to attract students and this will attract education tourism. So, it’s not a bad thing.”
Speaking further, the minister said public universities would not be privatised but would be encouraged to source for funding, adding that “We have to look for ways to fund the education system with the help of the private sector. Funding is the biggest problem. When you talk of funding, you must also talk of corruption which is endemic.”
He said the decision reached on the issue of “no work, no pay,” which had also been in contention between the government and the union, Adamu stated that the decision was not punitive. He, however, said it was unlikely that the government would rescind its decision, noting that “greatness is made with sacrifices. No sacrifice, no price.”
On President Muhammadu Buhari’s perceived body language of nonchalance to the situation, the minister said “I don’t allow body language to make me reach a conclusion. No government in recent past has made access to higher education like the Buhari’s administration.
“Despite the offer, the union is yet to call off the strike. The solution towards ending the strike which the Buhari- led administration is putting out is sustainable. It’s a one-off thing and not like that of the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The money was just not there and I don’t think they had the mind to do so.
“We are trying to resolve issues before the next government comes in. Once ASUU takes the offer, then the strike will be over.
“The federal government has made their offer and it is what government can take. Since we started the negotiation, the offer has been there. Most people make the mistake of thinking that it’s when strike is on that negotiation takes place. There’s a committee in that since I became minister.”
He added: “I empathise with the students and their parents in which I am one. Time has been lost and it’s very unfortunate for a teacher to say that time lost will not be revisited and covered in syllabus.
“If the federal government was a person, it has made enough sacrifices that it can make. Time has been lost and that’s sad.
“The level of education in Nigeria at the moment is not a failure, but can be better. I am very proud of the private universities and what they are doing, but they are only 2 percent of the Nigerian population.”
Adamu assured Nigerians that he would do his best to end the strike.
“Fellow Nigerians, I sit here promising you that I will do the best I can to see that the ASUU strike is called off, and even without making this pledge to you, my intention is immediately after this interview, I am going to meet the president of ASUU and it is not going to be a social visit. It is just in continuation of what we have been doing before.
“I do not have the words to tell the nation the weight I feel of this strike on my shoulders and I will do the best I can to end it. The agreement we reached or the position that I offered is something government can pay if they say they will agree,” he said.
He dismissed claims that parents send their children to study in other African universities because of the instability of Nigeria’s educational system, saying that the internationalisation of schools means people can study anywhere.