by Clem Khena Ogbena
Besides, the government has released N100 billion to cater for the infrastructural needs of the public universities, and yet ASUU has not considered it necessary to return to classrooms, at least, in the interest of the students. Instead, they have co-opted other interest groups into the struggle.
The legitimacy of whatever industrial action considered by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, must be within the bound of reasonability, sensibility, human conscience and decorum if a worthwhile struggle is truly or genuinely meant. For the third month running or thereabout, ASUU has embarked on an industrial action to drive home its demand for some allowances. You may call it earned allowances, expectedly accruing to its members and not even an issue bordering on salary.
Its grounds for the on-going strike might be tenable, given the infrastructural decay and overcrowded-single lecture-classroom scene, among others in Nigeria’s public universities. Consequent upon this, the universities have become unattractive and unconducive for learning, a situation private universities in the country have smartly exploited to their own advantage, and thus having a field day, even though they are never better off, in terms of qualitative staffing and academic content delivery. ASUU, therefore, has the right to express its grievances in whatever way and dimension possible, allowed by the law of the land, but with listening ears and seeing eyes to appreciate other variables necessary for a re-think and caution.
About 10 years ago, the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, dissociated itself from ASUU, and ever since, the university has been alone, without leaning on any trade union for support in fighting a cause it genuinely believes in. This attitude or posturing is, of course, paying off for both the students and staff of UniIlorin today, as they have been enjoying uninterrupted, smooth academic calendar. When fresh men and women enter the university, they certainly know when they are graduating. Law and order pervade the institution, such that the entire atmosphere is orderly and peaceful, which is a prerequisite for good learning.
A cliche familiar with some critics of the nation’s higher education system is that the academic standard in Nigerian universities is gradually falling, but the same cannot be said of UniIlorin. The university has been waxing stronger and stronger. The institution has become the envy of those who appreciate high quality education and has been adjudged the best university in the country today and one of the best in sub-saharan Africa, as a result of which the institution has attracted the highest number of foreign students currently studying on its campus, with soaring reputation for academic distinction.
UniIlorin may have risen to its current enviable height from its ashes, almost an intractable challenge then, which stemmed from the disagreement between the institution’s authority and its lecturers, some of whom were sacked. The booted lecturers were denied the prompt solidarity they badly needed from their fellow academic staff in other universities, who rather chose to stay aloaf and watch from the sidelines; and so, they left their colleagues in the lurch. Realising their loneliness in the struggle, the sacked lecturers carried their own cross through the long and narrow gate of legal process until they finally reached the end of the tunnel, where the desired light of hope and assurance beamed on their faces. They got justice at last! Coming out of this bitter experience, UniIlorin has remained resolute to keep ASUU at arms length.
Lecturers from other universities or the then ASUU failed to solidarise with their UniIlorin counterparts, because there were no selfish political benefits for them to harvest from the crisis. Today’s striking ASUU has not shifted ground, in spite of all entreaties, dialogues, moral suasions from well meaning Nigerians, corporate organisations, top government functionaries, parents or guardians, law makers and so on, not even after the Federal Government has shifted its own position and yielded under pressure to dole out N30 billion for the striking lecturers.
Besides, the government has released N100 billion to cater for the infrastructural needs of the public universities, and yet ASUU has not considered it necessary to return to classrooms, at least, in the interest of the students. Instead, they have co-opted other interest groups into the struggle. The reality of the matter for now is that if the government meets ASUU’s demand 100 percent, other critical sectors may collapse, because they also need to be taken care of as well. A peep into other areas like, security, transport, power, agriculture, road construction and a lot more, will give you an idea of the huge sums of money the government has expended on these sectors, and it’s a continuous process to also keep them alive.
ASUU’s recalcitrant stance does not hurt the affluent in the society in any way, not even those in the policy-making positions in the education sector, who can afford to send their children and wards abroad or to local private institutions for higher education. So, the on-going war by ASUU is essentially against the interest of the poor and the less privileged, whose children and wards are currently studying in the affected universities.
The strike, no doubt, has assumed pure political dimension, with intent and purpose to cast aspersion on the current government, which is accused of reneging on the agreement it signed with ASUU in 2009. The more reason ASUU should tread softly and be considerate is that the present administration did not sign the agreement, but merely inherited it. It’s just one strike carried too far, at the expense of the students who are already tired of staying at home.
Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.
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