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EDUCATION

Ending 2018 With Strikes In Tertiary Institutions ank As Alternative Source Of Funding Sector

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Barely two weeks to the close of 2018, one thing which defined the year as we enter 2019, as far as parents, students and educationists are concerned, is the strike by staff of the tertiary institutions.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities-ASUU-, their Polytechnics counterparts and indeed, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities-SSANU- are on strike.

Just this week, SSANU declared three days warning strike following alleged disobedience by the federal government, of a court judgment to reinstate some sacked lecturers and, the government’s failure to keep to agreements reached with the union.

Unfortunately, the strike by the staff of public tertiary institutions formed part of the defining moments of the last quarter of 2018, as far as activities in the education sector are concerned.

“We thought it was a week thing,” Emmanuel Ebere, a 400 level Civil Engineering student in the University of Maiduguri said while speaking on the ongoing ASUU strike.

Ebere, like many other students, had longed for an end to the strike.

“When we heard about the strike, we thought it was just a one-week warning strike then we will return, study fast and start our exams. But we now know how serious it is.

“Now with the strike still lingering and the election coming up next

year, our school calendar must have been disrupted,” he said.

Ebere is not the only student worried about the effect of the strike action on the students and their academic performance.

For Elisha Kadi, an English student of the University of Jos, the strike action has no doubt affected the school calendar.

“We resumed and we were trying to catch up on what we have lost during the crises when the strike action started. It hasn’t been a good year for us,” he said.

Another student, Yusuf Ahmed of Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), stated that they were in the process of taking their second semester examination when the strike started and disrupted the examination.

Reflectively, the ASUU gave the nation a rude shock when it announced nationwide industrial action on November 5, 2018, due to the inability of the federal government to respond to its demands.

Briefing journalists after their National Executive Council meeting held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, the National President of the ASUU, Prof. Biodun  Ogunyemi  had accused the government of not implementing the Memorandum of Action (MOA) signed with the union.

Ogunyemi stated that all entreaties made to the government to honour the agreement with the Union fell on deaf ears and they had no other alternative but to begin the strike action.

“Having waited patiently for action and meaningful negotiation with reasonable men using the principle of collective bargaining that ASUU at its NEC meeting of 3rd and 4th November 2018 at the FUTA, resolved to resume the nationwide strike action it suspended in September 2017 with immediate effect.

“This strike will be total, comprehensive and indefinite. Our members shall withdraw their services until government fully implements all outstanding issues as contained in the MOA of 2017, and concludes the renegotiation of the 2009 agreements.

He added that the Union had been subjected to 20 years of continued re-colonisation under alleged democracy in which all the ruling class have been regrouping among themselves in their various factions they called political parties.

ASUU president also accused the federal government of not heeding to the Union’s demand because children of the top politicians and rich men in the society patronize private universities in the country and schools outside the country.

Strike actions not only disrupt the academic calendar, but also is unhealthy for the future of the students in the country. According to Mrs Ede Edem, a mother of two undergraduates, strikes dwindle the academic performances of students as they contend to meet up with their studies after the learning process have been suspended for a long period.

“When my children are home, they hardly pick their books to read. So some students sometimes forget the knowledge acquired during the learning period. They just have to start all over again,” she said.

She lamented that strike actions also disrupt the plans a parent has for his or her children as they stay way beyond the required time for their programme in school.

“It is unfortunate that some students have spent over five to six years for a course that is supposed to last four years as a result of frequent strikes. Whenever ASUU goes on strike, it is the children of the poor that suffer it. Most children of the rich do not school in our universities. They school abroad,” she said.

Another parent, Victor Iyachi stated that the strike action was a catalyst for half-baked graduates being churned out in the nation’s various institutions, “and we wonder why we have unqualified graduates. When the strike is called off, it is all about crash programme. Everything is being rushed so that they will not be behind with the school calendar”.

He expressed worry that the period of strike has a way of leading some of the undergraduates into some social vices they will regret later in their lives.

“The other day, I read in the news that an undergraduate was caught for robbery. I am not saying that when in school, some of them don’t embark in this act, I am just saying that it will increase the number as it is said that the lazy man is the devil’s workshop,” he said.

As if the groaning of the students of the universities were not enough, the members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) also embarked on their strike action.

According to the general secretary of the Union, Mr Anderson Ezeibe, the indefinite strike action, which started on December 12, 2018, was due to the fact that the federal government had failed to fulfill its agreement with the union following many meetings.

He explained that the Union during its strike November last year, after series of meetings held between the union’s leadership and the federal government had suspended their strike action, adding that government has done nothing to buy their trust.

“It is the resolution of the last meeting we held. We are going on strike for the same old issue, which is the violation of agreement.

We went on strike November last year. We suspended that strike after we signed a Memorandum of Settlement and Action with the government. The issue is that of the things we signed, a lot of them have timeline for implementation.

“As we speak, none of the items, eight of them, have been implemented. Our allowances are withheld. In Abia State Polytechnic, they are being owed for eleven months. So how do you continue to work under this condition?” he queried.

Ezeibe stated that the strike action was based on their conviction and the issue they have on ground and not in any way aimed at joining striking ASUU.

“We are going on strike based on our own conviction, based on our own issue. We think that we have given the government enough time to act.

“We met with the government in October and they appealed for time, and we gave them till the end of November and by the end of November, nothing has happened,” he said.

Series of meetings held by the representatives of the federal government and the leadership of the ASUU have not yielded any fruit.

The last meeting, which was held on December 17, 2018, saw ASUU stage a walk out.

The meeting, which was about the seventh with the federal government, was expected to resolve the issue of the strike action, which the Union had started since November 5, 2018.

The ASUU President declined comments on the reason why they walked out of a meeting that lasted two hours.

However, the minister of Labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige

maintained that negotiations are still ongoing and that the federal

government will try and meet up with ASUU’s demands before Christmas so as to allow affected University students return to school in January.

The Nigerian students in the polytechnics had expressed hope that the federal government will extend that same enthusiasm in negotiating with their striking lecturers.

“Students in public universities have stayed at home for over 40 days now. We don’t want that to be our lot. We pray that ASUP and the federal government resolve their differences soon,” Obino Victor, a student of Computer Science in Oko Polytechnic, Anambra State, lamented.

To resolve the issue of the Universities lecturers, the Conference of Alumni Associations of Nigerian Universities (CAANU) has called on the federal government to prevail on the Wale Babalakin-led Committee to complete its assignments.

In a press statement released by the National Chairman of the CAANU, Prof. Ahmed Tijjani Mora, it stated that the rules of engagement in the negotiation between ASUU and the federal government has been violated as the Wale Babalakin Committee was yet to complete and submit its report to the government, eighteen months after it started work.

“The case of the ongoing Strike by ASUU, we gathered, has to do with poor funding of universities in the country and failure on the side of the government to honour the MoU signed between the Union and the federal government in 2017.

“The appeal by CAANU is for the federal government to issue a deadline for the Wale Babalakin Committee to complete its assignments and for the federal government to sincerely consider whatever findings the committee may come up with for immediate implementation,” it said.

The association also suggested that the federal government present an appropriation bill to the National Assembly to take care of the needs of the University system in the country, with a prompt passage of such bill when presented to prevent the incessant break down of the academic activities in the country.

For the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), government should honour the various agreements made by the various academic Unions so forestall any further strike actions.

“Our government should always try to honour whatever agreement reached with the academic unions. Most strikes should have been averted if necessary steps were taken to build a good relationship between both parties.

“If we really want the nation’s education sector to develop, strike actions should be averted,” the president of NANS, Comrade Danielson Bamidele stated during their protest recently to prevail on the government to end the strike action by the ASUU.

But that is easier said than done as the government has always

complained that the agreement reached by the union was made when the economy was quite buoyant.

The minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu recently while speaking on the ASUU strike action stated that government has not been able to meet up with the demands of the union due to weak financial base of the government.

“The issues necessitating this strike dates back to 2009 when the then government of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua signed an agreement with the ASUU on funding of the federal universities in the country.

The agreement provided for funding of universities to the tune of N1.3trn over a period of six years. It is instructive to know

that Nigeria was experiencing the oil boom at the time. It was therefore expected that government would be able to meet the terms of agreement.

“However, international oil prices crashed in subsequent years thereby, throwing the country into economic hardship. At the inception of this administration the country’s economic fortunes worsened, nose diving into recession, with dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education,” he said.

It is important, however that education in the country should be properly and adequately funded to encourage effective research and to avoid brain drain. Proper funding and equipment of Nigerian universities will go a long way to stop further strike action.

The ASUU president while speaking on funding of education was of the opinion that investing on the nation’s universities will not only stop the frequent strikes but is an avenue to for the tertiary institutions to become money spinners for the nation.

There is therefore, an urgent need for a re-evaluation of the

education sector.

As the nation watches, it hopes that the government will act fast to reduce the incessant strike actions in order to reduce the negative effect frequent strikes have on student and the entire academic community.

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