Nigerians are beginning to get worried that strikes are becoming the most noticeable event in the calendar of Nigerian universities. Strikes, under normal situations, serve as a potent weapon of negotiation. Sadly,it is gradually being bastardised due to abuse by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Available record indicates that Nigerian universities have spent a cumulative period of three years on ASUU-induced strikes since 1999.
On August 17 last year, ASUU went on an indefinite strike over unresolved and contentious issues with the federal government. The strike was called off in September.
After about one year and a month, precisely last Sunday, the union declared another indefinite strike after a meeting of its National Executive Council held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. It cited federal government’s failure to meet its demands as reason for the ongoing industrial action.
As it stands, there seems to be no end in sight to the abuse of what ordinarily would have been an effective weapon to effectively rein in an obdurate employer. In the present circumstance, the federal government has said it does not have the financial power to meet ASUU’s demands. Citing the crash in the price of oil globally, the government argues that the economic fortunes of the country has been adversely affected. The federal government asserts that when the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua entered into the agreement with the lecturers’ union, the economy was virile enough to bear the burden, but not anymore.
As a newspaper, we appeal to the federal government to attend to the issues raised by ASUU so as to save tertiary institutions from academic hitches. Government’s refusal to meet the union’s demands since 1999 has always been the major reason ASUU embarks on strike virtually every year. The union and the federal government are always at loggerheads over issues of better working conditions for its members and funding of the Nigerian universities among other demands, a situation that is made worse by the easy recourse to strike.
And anytime the two parties go for a meeting to settle their rift, it habitually ends with the government, in a frenzied haste to reopen the schools, giving the union promises that have always been kept more in the breach.
One of the standards for assessing the universities anywhere in the world is the presence of foreign students in its universities. And that is because universities, by their very nature, are international communities. But because the calendar of universities in Nigeria is always distorted by strikes, foreign students are discouraged from patronising Nigerian public universities.
Apart from suspending academic activities and disrupting the academic calendar, ASUU strikes are often blamed for corruption, increase in crimes in the society, degrading of Nigeria’s academic profile, loss of jobs, inactive economic activities, delay in registration of graduate students with NYSC and laziness on the part of students.
It is worrisome that during these strikes human resources in the university system relapse into inactivity. What this entails is that intellectual activity in the Ivory Towers lose every level of value and ethos with its attendant consequences on society. The students are forced to go on a break and the impact is that the society fails to benefit from the trainers, the human resources and brains which are the students.
Each time academic process gets interrupted by strike, all ongoing researches are delayed while some are abandoned. Students keep their books in shelves and by the time the industrial action is called off, both students and lecturers are cerebrally feeble if not lethargic. In the end, the students graduate with mere certificates instead of knowledge that could impact on the economy.
Besides, the impacts of strike on the society are many. It affects the family, the nation’s image, the government and the quality of education of the citizens. The family, as a basic unit of every society, represents and reflects the image of everything that happens in the society. Every family unit longs to see their offspring get educated, succeed and assist the family, but ASUU strike prolongs these dreams. Strikes send the students on unsolicited vacation and some of them use these breaks to engage in certain unhealthy and somewhat undesirable activities that jeopardise their future wellbeing.
The national image is also smeared by these strikes, as they display poverty of leadership. As the federal government gets locked up in unending negotiations with the body that trains and qualifies its literate work force, it casts a spell of underdevelopment on the nation.
To curb these incessant strikes, we urge the government to start thinking of reviewing the education budget. A close look at the distribution of government budgetary allocation to education as a percentage of total budget shows a level of inconsistency. Instead of maintaining an increasing proportion of the yearly budget, it has been largely fluctuating. Actually, the proportion of the education budget has remained abysmally below. From this perspective, it is our view that the education sector should be placed under emergency so that all stakeholders will have the opportunity of making inputs that will bring about the desired changes.
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