Can we ever stop this brain drain?

By Olutayo IRANTIOLA

There has always been the clamour to reduce brain drain in Nigeria. Every generation of leader keep yelling the youngster should not always seek the Golden Fleece on other continents but this is not likely to stop as the struggle of the past is still a recurring decimal in the history of our dear nation.

According to the website of the union, The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) grew out of the Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT). The NAUT was formed in 1965, covering academic staff in the University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ife and University of Lagos. The NAUTs orientation was mainly for improvement in the condition of service, the socio-economic and politic

By 1978, the group metamorphosed into ASUU, the period of the beginning of the decline in the oil boom, when the country faced the consequences of the failure by its rulers to use the oil wealth to generate production and a social welfare system. Military dictatorship had eroded deeply the basic freedoms in the society. Academic freedom and university autonomy were casualties of military dictatorship. The funding of education, and so of universities, became poorer. The factors required a changed orientation of the union of academics, from 1980.

ASUUs orientation became radical, more concerned with broad national issues, and stood firmly against oppressive, undemocratic policies of the country all for the well-being of the country. From the 1980s, there have been series of agitation that made the association become a formidable pressure group to the government. From the solidarity strike in 1985 with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), the story has not changed as strike remains the only way of calling the government’s attention. However, every strike comes with a cost to everyone within the ecosystem, the workforce; the students; the Ministries amongst others.

In 1988, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) had a very debilitating effect on the academia and this led to another strike action. The year, 1992, can be tagged as the Year of Exodus, the situation of academic staff on the university campuses had become more intolerable. The drive to leave the universities for foreign countries and the private sector had become, for many, the solution to the decay in the universities and the demoralization of university teachers. Eventually, there was massive depletion of the intelligentsia in the Nigerian Universities.

However, strike actions have not come to an end in Nigeria; in fact, it seems like each generation of ASUU executives and members have more wars to fight with the government for the sake of the current and prospective students.

With a quick look at the 2020-2021, ASUU Strike, it would be said that we are gradually approaching another massive Exodus from the academic community. One thing that I would unequivocally state is that the academia is usually willing to retain the eggheads from time to time but their lots leads them to more greener pastures.

With some of my young friends who have given themselves to the rigorous training of the Nigerian academic environment- where is the is no electricity supply; unavailability of equipment and chemicals to carry out research; ill stocked or out-dated books in the library. They have all the academic degrees but they cannot take care of their immediate families; this excludes the teeming dependencies across all family divide.

These eggheads who were part of the training of their co-students and even the next generation of students are in top demands by multinationals and other extremely buoyant organisations. Those who opt out of the offer of Research Assistants take up this offer and they are leaving the life they dreamt of. Howbeit, the ones who burnt all the late midnight oil, would almost be begging for daily bread.

Similarly, the race for grant is largely not for research but to put food on the table. This has also adverse effect on the quality of research from our country and also from the usefulness of the research to the public and private sector. There are many images of long-essays and thesis’ that has been burnt off because nobody cares about it.

Looking at the quality of published books by some academia, one is forced to ask, if they do not see the books written by their contemporaries overseas judging from the content, packaging, size and also the print. It is a common sight to see books of Nigerian academia less than 300 pages because the book will provide the required funds for their wards’ education. The things that happen around here can be said over and over. Will of these methods sustain a cerebral person seeing his colleagues thriving in other areas of human endeavours?

Some years ago, I met a Scientist who has a Ph.D in Biochemistry but he works at as a Creative Director in an agency. This is largely because the University cannot pay him what he currently earns even if he becomes a Professor. These and many more are the struggles of a young man who looks academia in Nigeria.

With the just ended ASUU strike and the competition of the private universities which has outnumbered government institutions in Nigeria. The massive brain drain of the country just got rejuvenated. Young lecturers who cannot afford to experience the pang of hunger again would either move out of the country or engage in other forms of money making venture to keep their hearts and souls together.

Despite the calling off the strike, the ravaging COVID-19 is making it impossible for physical classes to hold; so many universities are struggling on how to organise e-classes. As I mentioned in an earlier article, e-learning has been thrust upon us by COVID-19. Are Nigerian Federal and State Universities capable of having classes, conducting tests and eventually having examinations online? This calls for a rethink of the system!

In some institutions of learning, Professorship is now based on the vacant Professorial seats in the department; this means that one cannot diligently walk his way up to the top within few years of completing his Ph.D. Interestingly, the increase in the age of makes it tantamount to “waiting for Godot” for one to attain one’s lofty dreams.

In 2021, we should have left the era of a PhD holder chauffeuring people around so as to fend for himself or going to the farm so that the produce can be consumed by his family. In as much as we all desire a great life, we need to ensure that our academia are not suffering, if we so desire a great nation that we can all call our own. The efforts put into earning these degrees such be justified in earnings and the quality of life that these people live!

Enough of impoverishing the intelligentsia in our country and enough of losing them to other Universities across the globe! If passion can make one this studious, they must be able to take good care of themselves and their families from it!

Olutayo IRANTIOLA is a Public Relations Consultant and Literary Enthusiast based in Lagos Nigeria. He blogs at www.peodavies.com

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