Inadequate funding, unionism grossly affecting varsities’ running – Ali

The Pro-Chancellor, Osun State University, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, SAN, has identified underfunding and unionism as parts of the challenges confronting the smooth running of the universities in Nigeria.

He lamented that the annual budgetary allocation for education was grossly in adequate, stating that the development is affecting the country’s educational system negatively.

Ali, who delivered the 36th convocation lecture of the University of Ilorin, Kwara state last week, also condemned the frequent strikes by unions in the federal and state-government universities, adding that the development had done untold harm to the university system.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, whose lecture was titled: ‘Tertiary Education and future of Nigeria’, said: “One of the greatest challenges that faces the Nigerian universities is that of underfunding. Finance is so crucial to any organisation as it continues to dominate discussions on the state of university education in Nigeria.

“The establishment and the running of tertiary institutions is capital intensive. It is, therefore, not for fun that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) prescribed 26% of national budget for the Educational Sector. A cursory analysis of the 2021 budget shows that out of N13.08 trillion budgeted for the year, N742.5 billion was allocated to education, which is just 5.6 per cent.

“In the breakdown, N579.7 billion is for personnel cost, N35.4 billion for overhead cost, while N127. 3 billion is dedicated to capital expenditure. Mind you, the above figure is for the whole of the education sector from Primary to the Universities. I am aware that, as we speak, many Federal Universities cannot employ critical work force, even in areas of dire need, especially in the academic.

“The true essence of unionism is primarily to foster harmony between the management and labour so that industrial peace, efficiency and productivity are achieved. There has, however, been a great deviation from the true aim of unionism by the University unions.

” People are now part of unions, not to foster any smooth running of the university, but for self-aggrandizement. The incessant strikes by both staff and students have become the order of the day. The point must be made, that trade unions are important, as they serve as effective liaisons between management and the groups they represent.

” However, the point must also be made, that the frequent use of disruptive strike actions as a means of protest or conflict resolution in federal and state-government universities, which has become the stock-in-trade of the unions, has done untold harm to the Nigerian University System”.

Ali, however, advocated the inclusion of labour and wages in the concurrent legislative list, and recommed that universities should be allowed to negotiate with workers on what it could afford to pay.

“…Issues like labour and wages should be in the concurrent legislative list. Universities should be left to decide and negotiate with the workers on what it can afford to pay. Each university should be given powers to determine remuneration packages and review the terms and conditions of service of its staff by themselves.

“The blanket application of the payment structure has woefully failed and this is expectedly so because the states and regions have different level of funding and therefore have varying capacities to meet up with the structure imposed on them. As earlier stated, the Universities should be allowed to generate funds internally for recurrent expenditure, the government can then intervene by way of the provision of infrastructure by way of grant”, he said.

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