For sometime now the education sector has suffered or experienced series of industrials crises that has paralysed academic activities across the country. The most painful part of the story is that whenever there is industrial misunderstanding between Government and Teachers or lecturers the causalities are the pupils, and students. It is very painful and heart breaking that after 60 days both the federal government that is represented by the Executive arm and the Academic Staff Union of Universities are yet to have an understanding that will lead to the end of the strike. What is now going on between both parties is war in the Media, which literally is war of Words on the pages of Newspapers, Radio ad Television. And I want to say that with this kind of situation where instead of having face to face dialogue both parties now settle there scores on the media am afraid to say this strike embarked upon by the lecturers will linger for a very long time.
All over the world peace can only be achieved whenever there is conflict after a face to face interaction, it is only after the interaction between aggrieved parties which is usually mediated by a third parties that the outcome is relayed to the press. And usually during such meetings there is usually concessions, each party must be willing to shift grounds not by sticking to their guns.
The advice that I will give to both parties, ASUU and the Federal Executive Council is to stop the war of words in the media and go back to the Roundtable with the interest of Nigerians. And to achieve this the representative of the Federal Executive Council which is the Minister of Education should not feel that if he agrees on behalf of the government to give ASUU what they want he is a weak minister, neither should the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua feel that he cannot stop so low to negotiate with ASUU. Because if he do say he will be seen as a weak man in handling critical issues, what any body should consider is National interest, the moment the interest of an individual supersedes that of an organization, society, a people or a state, that interest becomes a selfish one. So there should be an end to the Media propaganda and let both parties go to the table. For instance what will it take to engage the striking lecturers before even approving 40% salary increase, nothing of course.
However what happened was that without any negotiation a minister just gathered one or two press people and made a statement that council has approved this or that, which is a violation of the principle of collective bargaining.
Even the sudden announcement without any move to discuss or have further talks, by Deacon Gamaliel Onosode that the Federal Executive Council is backing out of every talk with ASUU until they call of strike is unfair.
If they for the sake of Nigerian Students who have stayed at home for over 60 days engage the lecturers in further negotiations, and the lecturers refuse to call of the strike then every body will hold the lecturers responsible for the shutting down of our universities.
But this was not the case infact the vice-president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was having talks with the lecturers before Gamalie Onosode dropped the bombshell that no further talks which is like adding salt to an injury.
This industrial dispute has lingered for tool long, and is not doing any good , every day thousands of students across the country sit very close to their radio sets, purse through on daily basis to see if both parties will agree so that there will be an end to the strike. Unfortunately what they will be getting is pass conferences where one party will say they will never agree there is a popular adage which says that Never be Wicked or do any evil to a child or a youth. Because the child or youth we see today will become the next governor, the next president, father, manager or anything tomorrow. One message or food for thought for our leaders today is they should ponder, what will they be remembered for tomorrow. Will they be remembered as wasters of the youth or builders of the youth which is the next generation.
In conclusion, all the industrial unions in the Educational sector are doing a great job, because all the strikes they embark on are definitely meant for the revival of our citadel of learning. However I will like to add that apart from making their demands a lone on the executive arm, they should also do more by making most of their views known to the National Assembly, and see how the legislators can help to improve the condition of Education in the country. A good example is the issue of funding. The Federal Executive Council under Yar’Adua has no such powers to increase funding like that without the National Assembly. The power to Appropriate is with the National Assembly (the legislature) so ASUU from time to time should visit committee members. Its is only they who can call Yar’Adua and Sam Egwu or any other minister to order, if they are failing to give attention to education. The same call goes to NUT and other unions, they are stakeholders the word Education cannot exist without them, they also should parley not only with the Executive but also the legislature. In addition for the sake of peace, Government at all levels must handle Education with care because it is the oil of any society. They should engage all unions whether NUT, ASUU and others on the round table with all sincerity before making provocative statements on Radio, TV, and Newspapers. The attitude of telling lecturers and teachers to go to hell, while children or students suffer should be discarded.
And also ASSU and other unions whether at the University, Polytechnic, or secondary level should be willing to make concessions where necessary for the stake of Education so that there will be an end to all industrial disharmony currently going on.
Ipalibo T. Asemebo
Port Harcourt, Rivers State.