31st August, 2017
ASUU STRIKE: TIME TO REVISIT THE EDUCATION SECTOR
The Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) started its strike action two weeks ago. About 80% of Nigerian universities have since suspended academic activities.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is greatly disturbed by this unhealthy development in the education sector.
Strikes have negative impacts on students, their lecturers as well as the institutions. Unscheduled breaks in academic programmes cause disruptions in academic calendars and these have devastating effects on so many other activities relating to the education of the youth. Most importantly, constant strikes impact negatively on the quality of education thereby diminishing the value of degrees awarded by Nigerian universities.
Students who were compelled to go home during strikes in tertiary institutions become liabilities at home and nuisance in society as a result of unguided idle life to which they are suddenly exposed. No serious country engages in such sheer waste of the most productive years of its young generation. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
MURIC recalls that a similar strike by ASUU which commenced in July 2013 was called off after five long months. Although former President Goodluck Jonathan held a 13-hour meeting with the leadership of ASUU before that strike was suspended, Jonathan’s administration failed to fully implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed at the end of the meeting. This is why the crisis spilled into the current dispensation.
MURIC hangs the blame for this strike squarely on the necks of Nigeria’s political leaders and the Federal Government (FG). Why does government always wait until workers go on full strike before showing interest? What did they do when ASUU embarked on one week warning strike in November 2016? What was their reaction to ASUU’s letters, press statements and communiqués?
As for the political class, they are yet to get their bearing. They pay more attention to their personal gains to the detriment of the education of our youth. They forget that no nation can rise if the youth are not properly educated and technologically oriented.
That is why senators and members of the House of Representatives allocate all the milk and honey in the land to themselves. A former minister of education once lamented how Nigeria’s lawmakers forced him to give them a huge amount of money before the education budget of that year was approved. Nigeria’s political elite are adept at gambling with the future of the youths.
The Nigerian political class can afford to care less about the education sector because their children are in safe and comfortable environments overseas. Those whose children are not schooling abroad put their children in private universities. That is why they are prepared to ignore public tertiary institutions.
Nigerians must have seen pictures of leading political figures as they appear with those of their children on the pages of newspapers or on television screens announcing the graduation of their children from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, London School of Economics and other high ranking universities in the world. But they forget that those foreign countries spent huge amounts of money on their own education sector. What legacy are our leaders leaving behind in the Nigerian education sector?
How many of our leaders send their children to Nigerian universities? How can they be bothered whether ASUU downs tools or not? Unfortunately for this capitalist comprador bourgeoisie class the same children of the poor whose education system they ignored until it collapsed are the ones who gun down children of their oppressors when the latter return from abroad driving sleek cars.
The Federal Government (FG) too has not been fair enough to ASUU if in 2017 we are still talking about FG/ASUU agreement of 2009. FG is also fully aware that the total debt arising from the 2013 agreement up till now is N850 billion. Yet the same FG allocated a paltry N369 billion to the Ministry of Education. It is clear that FG never intended to keep its words with ASUU this year. That is bad faith and FG should own up. Neither can FG save its face by passing the buck because government is a continuum.
MURIC calls on the political class to face reality by joining hands with the federal and state governments to improve the education sector. Nigeria’s political elite should desist from sending their children to foreign institutions. We charge FG in particular to make the education sector its priority. FG should declare an emergency in tertiary institutions to save the sector from total collapse.
Although our hope for an early resolution of the current crisis was raised when we heard of a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 28th August, 2017, the decision of ASUU to back out of the meeting dashed this hope. We enjoin ASUU to remain amenable to dialogue.
To cap the edifice, we appeal to FG to meet the demands of striking members of ASUU so that our young ones may return to school. This strike should not be unnecessarily elongated. We invite the National Assembly to make such laws that will forbid anyone whose children are schooling abroad from taking public office. We believe that they will all show enough interest in the education sector at home if their own biological sons and daughters are in those institutions. Even the authorities of Nigerian universities will tighten their seat belts once they know that the children of the president, governors and ministers are in their campuses.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)