ASUU strike has always being a nightmare to students and prospective students of Higher Institution of learning, parents and other concerned stakeholders in the education sector. Sadly, the Academic Staff Union of Universities is at it again. Although the warning strike has been called off, there is no guarantee that these abrupt disruptions of the academic calendar of Nigerian Public universities by lecturers would not repeat itself. The educational sector of any country is the spine of the country. This is because this sector breeds the young people that guarantee the future of the country. However the stakeholders in this sector are important, for they are the midwives that see to the delivery of the nation’s future.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian Higher institutions of learning, especially public institutions – the ward for the delivery of Nigeria’s future, have become a shadow of itself. These institutions have lost its values, and as a matter of fact breed mediocre, half-baked graduate, graduate that cannot reproduce or apply what they have been taught in these institutions. This reality affirms the crude truth in the statement of the Former Vice President of the country Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, when he said: “there is no student in Public Universities that can speak English in an error-free manner like the head boy of my secondary school.”
While we cannot blame a produce for being substandard, it is important to point at those responsible for the forging of these young people, right from the enclave of the different universities authority, the government, down to the teaching and non-teaching staff of these institutions, and also the dilapidated university environment.
However, there is no doubt that the bulk of the blame goes to the workers of these institutions, especially the teaching staff. There is a lot to talk about when pointing to the shortcoming of these privileged Nigerians, who are responsible for the future of the nation. It is disheartening that ASUU has continually held the nation to ransom for the past 20 years by their almost frivolous strike action against the government, which to a very large extent is motivated by their selfish interests. The union might present itself as a vanguard for the advocacy of quality education in Nigeria, however, Nigerians know better, their actions are usually counterproductive. The students of these institutions are always the grasses that suffer when these two elephants fight-ASUU and the federal government.
While it is not wrong for a trade union to demand a better working condition for their members, ASUU demands do not portray the members of the Union as patriotic. For years they have grounded the educational system for demands that the government giving the present economic reality cannot afford to see to. While, I am not trying to defend and overlook the failures of the government towards the educational system, I’m basically saying that this union of erudite fellows should be able to adopt a better means of getting the attention of the government, since the same approach –strike actions have not yielded any positive result. I am sorry to say at this point, that the Academic Staff Union of University is portraying itself as a spoilt child that must be bridled.
It suffices to say that most of the demands of ASUU are legitimate, especially the demands for the Government to intervene in the failing educational system, mostly in the area of increased budgetary allocation to the sector and the demands for the revitalization of Nigerian Universities. Nevertheless, the impact of the faculties of the Nigerian institutions have not being felt in the in the nation’s developmental campaign. There is no gainsaying that highflying nations have their scholars as their wings. Developed nations have their academic sector to thank. Nigeria is presently grappling with a great magnitude of the economic crisis but unfortunately, our academicians have not been able to give us a blueprint as to how the country could circumvent this problem. Numerous investments have gone into research centres, in various universities, but these facilities have nothing to show. The human research of university has failed to localise solutions needed to solve Nigeria’s problems.
Universities in most developed countries are known to be self-sustaining, although, they receive grant from the government of their country, these institutions employ innovative ways to ensure money flows into their purses. As a matter of fact, Harvard’s annual budget is more than the entire budget of most countries. With their result-base approach to research, institutions like Harvard have sold project and researchers to the world. Unlike most lecturers in Nigeria, especially lazy professors, who don’t have a single thesis to their name throughout the year, lecturers in these highflying institution are dedicated to justifying the money they earn, they don’t just sit in a cozy office, parading their titles like an award and given out old notes to students from their outdated research work.
Prof Attahiru Jega, the Former Independent National Electoral Commission made reference to this during the event of the Nigerian Higher Education Summit held recently. He criticised university for engaging in business ventures that were not appropriate for the higher institution. He his word, Nigerian Universities “are in such a dire situation where they have to be doing things like producing and selling sachet water…, frankly, it is not the business of university”. While he berated the government for failing in it responsibility of funding the system, university workers should accept the fact that they have failed the Nigerian society. I’m certain that the government have invested fund on different researchers in different universities, but no obvious results can be pointed to, except research work that adds no value to the Nigerian environment.
I am of the opinion that the government of Nigeria has always taken the members of ASUU seriously, they have more privileges than any other public servants. As far as I know, their pay is the fattest. In fact, unlike any other sector, the government increased the retirement age of lecturers from age 65 to age 70, despite all this they have failed to acknowledge and justified the government little action. They have not lived up to the expectation of producing future leaders that would initiate ideas that are capable of transforming the country. All they have succeeded in producing is themselves- sachet water graduate, graduates that cannot think outside the box.
Nigerian scholars are quick to point to the government of being corrupt and guilty of mismanagement, it is obvious that the administration of the Nigerian University are also guilty of corruption, they have also not dealt with cases of student molestation by their members, all this atrocity still continue with impunity, and they point to the government as the corrupt one?
It is important for the university administration to emulate threads that are capable of transforming the system, ironically, most of our so-called professors have had the privilege of studying abroad, they understand how the system work- which of course they abide by, still they don’t duplicate what they have seen over there. The University of Ilorin have abstained from venturing into endless strike action by ASUU for some years now, and the institution is still surviving, I think other universities should emulate this rather than disrupting and decapitating the system with industrial actions that would breed no result.
The Nigerian Government might have failed in her responsibility to the Educational sector, but to monopolise the blaming of the failing system to the government only is uncalled for. ASUU needs to be considerate, patriotic and responsible for once, the union needs to put the students of Nigerian Public Institutions of learning in mind, ASUU needs to be in the vanguard of the change Nigerian need.
First Published: Naij.com