ASUU Strike: End of the dark ages?
Another ASUU strike has ended and the students are excited as they resume from another forced holiday. I remember when I was in University we used to joke that apart from the regular holidays scheduled by the school, there was also the annual ASUU strike. We would factor in the period of strike as part of the time we used to rest and prepare for exams. In my five and a half years in University, I don’t think we were ever ‘disappointed’. There was a strike every year and if I remember correctly one of them lasted close to a year. That is why it is quite ridiculous that we are still having similar scenarios till today. Why has it been so difficult for the university dons and the Government to come to a permanent agreement once and for all and stop wasting the time of our young undergraduates?
A quick look at each of ASUU’s demands shows that both sides really needed to sort out issues once and for all.
The demand for retirement age to be increased to 70 was the most ridiculous of all. I think each case has to be looked at individually. God knows Nigerians respect our elders but we might be creating a situation where some semi senile egg heads refuse to leave the system because the law allows them to stay on. It is true that many perhaps even the majority of our lecturers still have a lot to offer at that age but I don’t think it makes sense that they should be forced on the University in this way. I was surprised that this was one of the first demands acceded to by the Senate.
The demand that 26% of the budget be given to education makes more sense. I believe it was one of UNESCO’S standards to show that a country is giving necessary emphasis to educating its youth. Still, it can be argued that such standards cannot be applied to all countries equally. I remember attending a conference on education in Lagos state and we had the opportunity to exchange ideas with some of Governor Fasholas’ commissioners. A lecturer from LASU brought up the issue of 26% of the country’s budget being spent on education and one of the commissioners explained that in a country that lacked so much infrastructure it wont make much sense dedicating such a large part of the budget to education when the graduates of our institutions were not guaranteed jobs after leaving school. However, so far, President Jonathan has shown a lot of determination to improve this sector and I think that to an extent it is getting the attention it deserves. But there is need for better focus. Building many more universities when the ones on ground are declining does not make much sense to me.
The transfer of FG properties to universities is more of an internal issue and I don’t see why there should be any problem in reaching an amicable solution.
The promotion of research and development units is very important. This is an area where universities in developed countries stand head and shoulders over their counterparts in Nigeria. It is not surprising that our universities do very poorly in the universal rankings. The world owes most of its progress to the research done in universities and other academic institutions. If our universities are not well funded to do research they will always take a backseat when compared to others. And it’s not about intelligence. I know for a fact that when many of our lecturers go to standard universities where they are provided with all they need to do proper research, they tend to excel.
With regard to backdating payment of allowances, I think this is the aspect that the FG is finding very difficult to implement because of the finances involved. I was therefore very happy to hear the finance minister say that they have sought alternative sources of finance to help them implement this agreement once and for all. According to her, the FG will also use non budgetary sources of funds like the NNPC, the TET and so on.
All in all, this whole ASUU strike drama is becoming ridiculous. I really hope that the right steps have been taking to find a permanent solution. Let’s hope that we will not have cause to plan for annual ASUU strikes any longer.