The Federal Ministry of Education, through the National University Commission (NUC), has given the directive that universities, polytechnics and colleges of education should pause academic activities between February 22, 2023 and March 14, 2023 to enable students particularly to participate in the coming elections. Many students have complained that they registered for their Permanent Voter’s Card at their home resident and not at their hostel. If academic activities are allowed to continue, a significant percentage of eligible students will be disenfranchised.
This is why the NUC has announced the directive. Students can now travel home to vote at their respective polling booths without any effect on their academics. However, a number of teachers and students of universities have different thoughts and views on this directive. Chamberlain Egbulefu, Associate Professor at Benson Idahosa University (Benin) said that the closure of higher institutions at this point is a step in the right direction. He said it will not only enable students to participate in the elections but also ensure that families are together. Nobody is certain of the outcome of the elections and parents will also be able to monitor the activities of their children during this period.
3 weeks seems like a very long time for closure and delays in education.
A student of University of Benin, Vincent Uche, said that shutdown is pointless. He said the three-week closure may lead to an extension of the semester by three weeks. He stated that it will affect students’ education because nobody knows if the examinations at the school will be shifted. (Some schools, such as University of Lagos, have shifted undergraduate examinations by three weeks to accommodate the three-week break. Vincent says three weeks seem like a very long time to just let go. “Had it been it is one week, some days before the elections and some days after the elections, that would have made more sense,” he said.
However, Dr. Dennis Enegesele, a lecturer, said the directive has both positive and negative impact on education. On the positive side, the Federal Government wants to avoid the use of tertiary students by politicians to disrupt the election process. It will also help some students and staff to travel to their respective places where they have registered to vote. On the negative side, the order will disrupt the tertiary academic calendar, as most lecturers will need to cover up for the lost weeks. Besides, some lecturers and students would rather prefer travelling to be with their families instead of staying back in school to cast their vote.
ASUP President cites security concerns and an Akokite says not a priority.
Still, Anderson Ezeibe, the President of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), said that the three-week break might be based on security concerns. He stated that he is not privy to any intel that is available to government officials and that made them make the decision. “If such intel is reliable and verifiable, then one can say that it is a proper step for the institutions to be shut down in view of the volatility of the season and the vulnerable position of the students,” he said.
Notwithstanding, one of the students of University of Lagos (who are popularly known as Akokites), Folarin Adesina, said that the closure is not a priority for students. He wondered why students would be sent home because of elections. He said, “We want to graduate and leave the campus. I and many others have over stayed. The directive should have been optional.” Also, ASUU Lagos Zone Coordinator, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, said that the Federal Government’s action is extremely lawless and a violation of the powers of the university senate. He said it shows the low priority of the government for education, given that the universities are still struggling to recover from the last eight and a half month’s strike.
A welcome development as well as an aberration, says different students.
Additionally, Eze Nwonu, a student at Ebonyi State University (Abakaliki), said that the directive is a welcome directive. He said students need to be at home during the elections to be able to vote like other Nigerians. He then urged the NUC to direct schools to extend the current academic calendar to compensate for the period that students will miss during the holidays. However, Hyacinth Odogwu, also a student, said that the directive is an aberration to the education sector.