16 Jul 2013

ON A GOVERNMENT'S NEGLIGENCE AND EMPTY LECTURE ROOMS

By Ezim Osai, 9JEducation
Tuesday, July 16 2013


On the 3rd of July, 2013, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike thereby shutting down most federal and state owned institutions, sending thousands of students home and leaving some stranded.

As a student in a federal institution is almost always a yearly affair and one that most of us are used to [ASUU Strike] so much that pictures and tweets say “Thunder and ASUU, who strike pass?” On the 4th of December, 2011, a strike also began lasting until the 4th of February 2012, delaying some freshers from entering into school (Me inclusive) and some finalists from convocating as well as setting back the academic calendar several months. Certainly, strike is not a friend of students and most of us are bitter about it and we tend to blame lecturers and lay curses on them but in truth if anyone should be cursed, it should be our government and not our lecturers who are only fighting for their rights in the way they know how to.

In 2009, the Federal Government entered a voluntary agreement with ASUU and the following items were agreed upon:

I.  Funding requirements for Revitalization of the Nigerian Universities
ii. Federal Government Assistance to State Universities
iii.Establishment of NUPEMCO
iv. Progressive increase in Annual Budgetary Allocation to Education to 26% between 2009 and 2020
v.  Earned Allowances
vi. Amendment of the Pension/Retirement Age of Academics on the Professorial cadre from 65 to 70 years
vii. Reinstatement of prematurely dissolved Governing Councils
viii. Transfer of Federal Government Landed Property to Universities
ix. Setting up of Research Development Council and Provision of Research Equipment to laboratories and classrooms in our universities.

When the union went back to the lecture theaters in 2012, two of the agreements had been met which were the amendment of the retirement age and the reinstatement of governing councils. As at 2013, these are still the only two agreements which have been met.
In a press statement, the Chairman of ASUU talked about a series of issues they wanted the Federal Government to tackle which include the re-engagement of 49 academics of the University of Ilorin who were unjustly sacked for participation in the nationwide strike in 2001. Although the Supreme Court re-validated their right to unionize, the authorities of Unilorin denied them their entitlements such as promotions, allowances and sabbatical leave.
Also in the press statement, he talked about ‘The Crisis as RSUST’ (Rivers State University of Science and Technology) where the university is governed poorly by a lordly Vice-Chancellor and Governing Council who abuse university statutes and perpetuate ‘mind-boggling illegalities’. Where unqualified lecturers teach Post-Graduate lectures and the members of the union [ASUU] continually harassed.

                                          ASUU President gives reasons for strike action

These are just two of the issues he [Nafir F. Isa, ASUU Chairman] discussed in the press statement but I think they are enough to shed some light on the situation faced by the union.
I also heard a rumor floating around that the FG had approved salary increments to university staff (with corresponding increment in tax as well) but the government had not started to pay this new salary but had started to deduct the new tax. Although I cannot say much about the validity of that rumor, it would not be pretty if it was true.
As much as I hate the strike and the fact that I am not in school receiving my lectures and doing positive stuff, I am in full support of the ASUU Strike. It is not only insulting and annoying that a government of a nation would voluntarily enter an agreement and then refuse to honor it, it is downright wrong and irresponsible.

If we are to put ourselves in the shoes of ASUU, I believe we [students] would do something very similar to what ASUU are already doing; we would probably go on riots and protests. In lieu of the above mentioned, I would like to speak my mind on the way forward as the strike does not benefit anybody and it really does not affect the FG much who probably send their children to foreign schools.
I think the way forward to end this logjam of FG and ASUU is simple and complex at the same time; If ASUU continues to strike, we students suffer and the FG is not really affected like I earlier said, but if we students join our efforts with that of ASUU and show solidarity for the men and women who teach us to make us better people, the men and women who have our interests at heart even if we may not see it, these men and women who do not forget their comrades when down but support them and help prevent injustice; I think we students should take to the streets in peaceful and non-violent demonstrations showing placards and shirts and demanding that the FG honor their agreement. If we cannot take to the streets, we should bombard social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Myspace) and whatever social media site making our grievances known because the truth is, if ALL the demands of ASUU are not met, we would probably go on another strike next year, the year after that, the year after that and probably every year until we graduate (a year after our mates in private institutions in all probability).

I understand that not everybody can take to the streets or demonstrate, but at least, most of us are conversant with the web, let us use what we have at our disposal to make sure the FG does what is right and just. Education is one of the most important sectors of the economy and we cannot have sound education if our lecturers are lecturing and calculating tax-cuts and hoping they would not be sacked for unionizing. We feel the same hurt when our mates are made to face Disciplinary Councils for acting in our own interest or protecting our rights. A university or tertiary institution is not made up of students only or lecturers only but of the two, combined with the non-academic staff and the buildings which we live in. Are we not tired of lecturers victimizing us and making us bleed? Let us show them that despite all these things they do, we still love them [some of them at least] and their problems also affect us very directly.
As many lecturers and teachers would say, “I have gotten my degree and I gain nothing by teaching you or not. At the end of the month, I will still collect my salary”, this is mostly true and it would be wise of us to know that it is and act accordingly. The longer the strike stretches out, the longer we stay at home and the more time we have to stay in school. And while are colleagues in private institutions are donning their convocation gowns, we would just be changing our PMs and statuses to ‘Finalist things’; I support the ASUU strike and I hope this article can help in changing things even if is just a little bit.
From Asaba, I wish you all a goodnight and I hope the strike is called off soon.




Ezim Osai is a 200L Physics major at the University of Ibadan. A Taoist and a Christian, he loves Cooking, Travelling, Reading, Writing, and loves to absorb nature.


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