Between ASUU and FG!

I hav eseen pictures of students taking lectures in an over crowded theater, with some of the students sitting on prayer mats or bare floor. We attended lectures in a similar situation at the popular New Lecture Theater (NLT) of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University about 22 years ago. I wonder if the situation still prevails in Nigerian universities given the intervention of CBN, NEEDS, TETFUND, etc.

These pictures were shared online to expose the federal government’s failure to address the crisis in the education sector, justifying that the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is to save Nigeria’s education from collapse. And, they are doing it to “help” the students.

But strike itself is a problem, and a problem cannot solve a problem. As a successful student, I spent seven years in a university for a four-year degree programme. My brother who is in level two will also spend seven years if he graduates successfully without a carry over. And, my son who passed JAMB this year will have to wait for one year to be admitted to the university, because there is a batch of Jambites ahead of him, who are to be admitted before him.

I am one of many failed by ASUU, both as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, and now as a father. I want ASUU and their hailers to ponder on this! Are they really helping matters? How could you say that you are doing it for parents and students while they are the major victims economically, morally, socially and educationally?

I am a sympathiser of ASUU on the issue of poor salary. But ASUU is overloading the government, becoming too rigid and stern if not being so dictatoral on their demands. ASUU is hiding its contribution to the collapse of education, while blaming the government alone, without considering other sectors.

The first responsibility of government is protection of life and property of its people, which the current government is battling with. Enabling good environment for business is one of the other responsibilities. Education is also a right!

Before government grants permission for any institution to start or introduce a new department, certain requirements must be met through its regulatory bodies like the National Universities Commission, NUC. The NUC sets standards for all universities which are usually compromised by members of ASUU at various levels. These bodies including the related professional bodies grant license, and accreditation for the programmes or courses to operate, which are subject to renewal.

The requirements are based on human resources, student ratio in relation to number of lecturers and spaces including classes, library, laboratories, equipment, offices, etc. The busy time in universities is when it is time for inspection/accreditation by the NUC or professional bodies. Instead of allowing due process for necessary corrections, suggestions, improvements or cancellation of the programmes, these bodies are usually misinformed by swapping departmental resources by managements and, of course, members of ASUU.

So, it is on record that everything is alright and the Nigerian universities have the requisite standards and facilities to operate. What has ASUU done to stop corrupt practices in universities? Are they helping the government to ensure everything is alright or manipulating accreditation? Are they helping matters regarding immorality?

Another claim and excuses by ASUU and its hailers is the claim on retraining and publications. There may be some exceptions, but I know that most training are covered by PTDF, TETFUND, NEEDS and other interventions. Knowingly or unknowingly ASUU has become a sister to an opposition party of the serving government in their struggles. This is glaring on its position of suspending any negotiation with the current government which claimed to have approved all the demands of ASUU except the non-payment of salaries for the six-month of the strike because of no work no pay policy.

It is baffling for ASUU to claim that lecturing is not their only work. I think strike is strike, and even if teaching is not the only work of lecturers, it is the major one. The federal government is correct, ASUU cannot claim salary for work not done. If they are paid, then government is encouraging ASUU to strike again and again. Government is also correct by dragging ASUU to the industrial court.

The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, is also correct for being stern on this issue. This is the only way to stop the unnecessary strikes by labour unions. Strike is disturbing! It affects almost everything and everyone including the lecturers. In fact, it is a wicked idea. Although there is a significant improvement in our higher institutions by the federal government, there is a drastic set back as a result of ASUU strikes.

However, the federal government may as a way of compromise, palliatives, incentives or mercy pay ASUU as well as the doctors union with strong agreement/undertaking that henceforth they will not demand for payment during strike. No work no pay policy should prevail to prevent the unnecessary strikes.

I hope this will be the last ASUU strike in Nigeria.

Zakariya Baba Hardawa,
[email protected]