Addressing Varsities’ Non-Academic Staff’ Grievances

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For about three months, non-academic activities have remained paralysed in public universities in Nigeria due to the industrial action embarked upon by the three non-academic staff unions in the universities since December 4, 2017.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Association of Technologists (NAAT) directed members of the unions to down tools, citing the Federal Government’s inability to resolve issues surrounding their earned allowances.
While the unions allege that the federal authorities violated agreements reached with them, they also accused the Federal Government of lopsided and unfair allocation of funds meant for the universities in favour of their sister union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
According to the non-academic staff unions, of the N23 billion released by the Federal Government, ASUU alone cornered N18 billion, leaving just N5 billion to the rest of the unions in the federal and State universities.
When confronted with the issue, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, only said that the Federal Government was sourcing for funds and waiting for presidential response to address all the issues raised by the unions.
The Tide thinks that the Federal Government has not acted in good faith by not attending to this issue with the seriousness it deserves. We recall that a meeting summoned by the National Assembly to find lasting solution to the problem could not hold because of the non-attendance of the minister.
We urge the Federal Government to, without further delay, take urgent steps to address the demands of the striking workers in order to save the country more embarrassment and ensure a proper and conducive learning environment for our children in tertiary institutions.
Even though academic activities have not been disrupted by the strike, it is only a matter of time before the entire system grinds to a halt as other duties and functions outside the purview of the academic staff are currently left undone. Already, such programmes and activities as Post UTME, Senate meetings and even semester examinations are being affected by the absence of the non-academic staff at their duty posts.
It is sad that government at all levels in our country has not shown enough commitment to the development of the education sector. Apart from consistent miserable budgetary provision which contributes to the poor standard of the nation’s education, disruptions in the academic calendar of the universities have not only battered our image in the international community but have also driven many of our young people to go to school outside the country. Of course, this does not only amount to capital flight but also the importation of unwholesome foreign cultures and influences.
While we think that the Federal Government needs to evolve a holistic solution in addressing the myriad of issues plaguing the education sector in the country, we also advise the government to resist the temptation of adopting measures that seem to create divisions, instead of fostering cohesion, amongst its employees.
Giving ASUU preferential treatment over and above other unions in the same system is divisive and therefore, should not have been the way to go. Yet, this is the same method usually adopted by the government in addressing issues in the medical sector between doctors and other health workers.
On its part, ASUU, in our view, should have considered the needs of their sister unions in their negotiations and eventual disbursement of the released funds from the Federal Government in the spirit of live-and let- live. Of course, the university system cannot run with the academic staff alone and that is why the interests of all stakeholders must be taken care at all times.
Finally, while we urge more synergy and solidarity among the staff unions in the universities, we also implore the Federal Government to quickly provide the funds necessary to resolve this crisis and avoid more disruptions in the academic calendar of the nation’s universities.