The Federal Government says it in talks with relevant authorities over plans by the United States government’s plan to strip Nigerian and other international college students of their US visas and deport them if their courses go entirely online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move will affect thousands of Nigerians who constitute one-third of African students who travelled to the US to attend universities or participate in training programmes, as well as non-academic or vocational studies.
The Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Education, Bem Ben Goong, who disclosed this in a telephone interview with The Guardian in Abuja, said the federal government is trying to verify the authenticity of the policy before responding to it as a country.
According to him, “If the report about the US is true, I think there would be very little any government can do about it.
He said: “We are in touch with the United States authorities to get the validity of that information. On social media today, anything can happen. I would also like you to bear in mind that if that policy is true, it does not only affect Nigerian students, it will affect every student studying in the US.
“That Nigerian student will come home is not a big deal, the big deal is if they will be able to study successfully and get their results and the certificates they need to get? If the answer is yes, there not much anyone can do about it. We will verify that and put up our appropriate response.
Gong added that if the policy is successfully implemented by the Donald Trump administration, it could spell doom for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), as the Federal Government may decide to adopt a fully online policy thereby engaging lecturers only on part-time basis.
“If the policy is true, it means that the world is changing and ASUU may go extant. In the US, I know for a fact that 80 per cent of the lecturers are part-time lecturers. If the Nigerian government decides to tell ASUU that it cannot bear their bill anymore and that it was going to put them on part-time and they can only be teaching based on their workload, these are some of the things that ASUU needs to consider.
“The FG invested over N1.3 trillion in infrastructure last year and if you go to any of our universities today, the infrastructural development is pronounced.”
He explained that 70 percent of lecturers in the Nigerian university system might lose their jobs if the government decides to adopt fully online-based teaching and learning.
“When I saw that report about the US, what came to my mind was that ASUU is in trouble because if the US implements that and it is successful, it then means that you can do most courses online. It means that 70 percent of lecturers will lose their jobs.
“ASUU needs to understand that they have competitors and their competitor is the evolving technologies that can knock them off. If ASUU continues to be archaic in their thinking, orientation and actions, their days may be numbered.”