Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Nigerian Faculty Members Threaten Strike Over Government Support for Higher Education

 

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wednesday, July 26, 2000

 

By BURTON BOLLAG

 

Faculty members in Nigeria are threatening to strike to counter what they see as World Bank-sponsored moves by the government to reduce support for higher education. But government officials say that their plans have been misunderstood and that they are trying to bolster higher education.

 

On Friday, Tunde Adeniran, the federal minister of education, outlined the government's plans to the heads of most of the country's 41 public universities. If adopted by the legislature, the controversial package would end highly centralized state control and give institutions a large degree of autonomy.

 

Critics, including the Academic Staff Union, are afraid the move is simply a cover to allow the state to reduce its financial support for higher education.

 

The minister, however, pledged that state support would increase. Responding to another major concern, he said the government would not introduce tuition payments for students until the economy and living standards improved and a student-loan system was put in place.

 

Faculty leaders boycotted the meeting, and Uye Ekpen Ogbeide, an official of the union, said the group was prepared to resist any moves by the government to "commercialize" the universities.

 

William Saint, the World Bank's principal education specialist for Africa, said of the autonomy proposal, "If carried though, I think it will be very significant." He added that the university system was outmoded and badly lacking in financial support, and "has been in crisis for over a decade."

 

Mr. Saint is in Nigeria to discuss possible World Bank assistance in higher-education reform. He said that -- contrary to an opinion commonly held by academics in Nigeria -- the bank was not involved in formulating the government's autonomy proposal.

 

Copyright 2000 by The Chronicle of Higher Education