The ASUU strike and future of education

Nigeria has seen it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly, more in the education sector. A time there was when our graduates from the university were ranked high, mostly above those of our peers and
comparable to those from universities ranked top in the world.

Students came from countries across the African continent and beyond to receive education here. Then it was so good and sweet. We were then a proud nation. Then things began to go bad. Lecturers began to abandon classrooms for banks and companies, during financial booms, and government offices, during the oil boom.

Corruption became the rule, wealth became god, and honour became scarce. A certificate was needed at all costs for the
holder to fit into society and obtain class and wealth. Students and their parents bribed teachers to obtain good grades because the class or degree mattered. In the end, the holders lost the ability to
demonstrate the value of their certificates. Things really began to go bad for the system as society was losing confidence in the products of the system.

We are now faced with an ugly situation where parents of limited means starve themselves to send their children abroad for basic and university education. This class of parents include even the university lecturers and their relatives. Now there is so much disregard for what our universities produce. Content creators make
mockery of our graduates in NYSC camps, asking them silly questions as to the meaning the titles of the certificates they obtained such as B.Ed, B.Sc, etc, and including the meaning of time, like what
“Fifteen past six means.”

Sadly, all those asked do not know the
answers. This ugly situation is brought about by many factors, major
among them, the incessant ASUU strikes.
ASUU strikes have changed so much of the education system, including the life and behaviour of students and their parents. The strikes do not only delay when students graduate but also when they join the employment market, when they marry and many more. Of course, they tell so much about the quality of the graduates, above all. The students lose quality contact hours and much value.

Many questions come to mind regarding the situation. Do we want to reverse this descent before we reach the bottom? Already, many hold the opinion that our graduates are not employable. Do we possess the ability to return to the good old days? The environment is still there, and the economy is no longer able to absorb the lecturers desirous of leaving the universities, thus limiting the exodus. Is it
time to embark on such an exercise? It’s already too expensive to send students abroad to study and countries are locking other citizens out, especially Nigerians. See events in UAE and USA. We simply have no
other choice.

Funding, pay rise, software for salary payment, payment of earned academic allowances, checkmating proliferation of public universities were issues raised by ASUU which formed the basis for the strike.
Addressing all these, to me, will not return the lost glory to the standard of education. Nonetheless, solving them is critical to the
success on the journey to revive our education system.

The approach to solving ASUU demands has many dimensions, some of them
painful. However, they may not be so different from the ASUU prescription. The difference, though, will majorly be in approach.

ASUU believes that the solutions lie with the government, alone, but I believe otherwise. The solutions are both within the confines of individual universities and with the government. However, I see them
more within the confines of individual universities.

Although university education in public schools is free, students are charged for everything, from registration to examinations, laboratories, chemicals lab use, computer lab, internet data; name it.
So, funding is already there. What is needed is determining the right mix and discipline. Even capital projects can be embarked upon.

For example, new hostels can be built and managed from payments received
for hostel accommodation. Where monies collected for specific purposes go now, only the visitation panels can tell us, another issue under the ASUU list. So, while the government enhances and pays salaries and earned allowances using any software of its choice, the collections
from the students will meet special needs and should be so dedicated to that purpose.

Thus, while no full autonomy can be achieved anywhere, relative autonomy that can guarantee independence with
accountability for the success of the university system can be achieved.
With the foregoing, three other things are necessary to achieve the desired outcome: absence of strikes; harmonised school calendar, discipline and selfless service will see us through.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called off its eight-month-old strike of almost a full academic session. What is worrisome, however, is that, while on the strike, all the member universities were in unison and united, so also when the suspension was agreed upon. However, the resumption is left at the mercy of individual member institutions. For example, while ASUU expected return to full academic activities by the October 14, 2022, ABU has chosen to keep students, still, away from their classes until next year.

One would have thought that sound arrangements would be put in place to ensure that academic activities resume in unison in all the member institutions with proper milestones to ensure that the nation’s academic calendar is not made elastic with different institutions
modeling its own. It is hoped that now that ASUU is back to full academic activities, it will remain on active service for certainty to return in the minds of students, parents, and all other stakeholders.

To avoid the confusion outlined above, the leadership of ASUU should step into damage control mode to ensure that all member institutions fall into an acceptable academic calendar, even if hitherto, the
institutions had uneven edges.

The situation now should create an opportunity to streamline academic
programmes across the nation. This will create more confidence in the system and competition among the universities. This will, also, help the JAMB admission process and reduce the backlog often created by many universities, including in the deployment of corps members to the
dismay of prospective students, graduates, and their parents.

Getting the buy-in of the lecturers for the needed discipline and selfless service delivery that will change the narrative of the education system is the most challenging task. The stories about lecturers fulfilling their emotions regarding their financial, sexual lust and social infractions abound. It will require every stakeholder in the education system to key in and demand uprightness from the guilty lecturers.

The academic staff needs to understand that their ability to impact the students positively as regards their character,
skill, and capacity is as important as the publication needed for their promotions.
It should now be a good moment for the government and the universities, along with the unions, to get together for a new
partnership and friendship such that strikes are locked out of our university system and the school calendar is respected and lecturers take their responsibilities with honour for the sake of education in the country that has suffered a huge setback overtime.

I strongly believe that we can get something positive out of the lost
time the strike action has occasioned. This, however, cannot happen
without deliberate efforts to make the right outcome possible.

Saeed Is the former Accountant General, Kaduna State, Pioneer Executive
Secretary of NEITI, PDP Campaign Director in Kaduna state, and a
former member of ASUU.
Pls sir resend this picture for me
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